TENNIS: Successive titles for Ivanisevic

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The Independent Online
Goran Ivanisevic is back on track, having put the disappointment of a third-round defeat at last month's Australian Open behind him by winning two consecutive ATP Tour titles for the first time in his career.

The fourth seed's against Alberto Costa in the Dubai Open last night was only the second the big-serving Croat has won on a medium-paced hard court. It followed a victory on an indoor carpet tailored to his style in Zagreb a fortnight earlier.

Ivanisevic's new coach, Vedran Martic, like Bob Brett before him, has encouraged him to be more aggressive on hard courts. There could be no complaints here as Ivanisevic went through his five matches without dropping a set.

The unseeded Costa, defeated 6-4, 6-3 in 59 minutes, admittedly makes most of his points on slow clay courts. The Spaniard had the distinction of ending Thomas Muster's unbeaten run of 24 clay-court finals to win his first ATP Tour title in Kitzbuhel last year. But he fared slightly better here than the defending champion, Wayne Ferreira, who was swept out of the quarter-finals in 42 minutes on Saturday.

Ivanisevic, who helped the tournament catch up after a day and a half of rain by winning his semi-final against Germany's David Prinosil in 79 minutes - having had a break of only 90 minutes after the Ferreira match - was just as eager in the final.

Costa won only six points off Ivanisevic's serve in the opening set - half of them donated by his opponent's double-faults. Ivanisevic was even more miserly in the second set, conceding only four points on his serve, one of them a gift.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, ranked No 23 in the world, attempted to vary his top-spin drives from the baseline by luring Ivanisevic with drop shots. Unfortunately, not all of them reached the net. One such risk, in the seventh game, gave Ivanisevic the break in the opening set.

Three forehand errors in the third game of the second set compounded Costa's problems, and a double-fault followed by a netted forehand completed his disappointment. He still left with a cheque for $84,000 (pounds 56,000), while Ivanisevicadded $142,000 to his fortune.

A year ago, Ivanisevic lost in the first round against Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi, and shortly afterwards the Croat underwent knee surgery. He did not win a title until the Grand Slam Cup in Munich in December - a victory worth $1.625m

He hired Martic after the coach helped him reach the final in Sydney last month, and the partnership appears to have regained momentum after the blip in Melbourne, where Ivanisevic lost to Italy's Renzo Furlan.

Brett guided Ivanisevic to two Wimbledon finals, in 1992 and 1994, and the Croat believes that the All England Club's lawns still provide him with his best chance of a Grand Slam title.

Asked if he had learned from those defeats, in five sets to Andre Agassi and in straight sets against Pete Sampras, he said: "I learned and I didn't learn. The first time was a very big experience for me, and I made a couple of mistakes. The second time, Sampras served good and I had to stay back. If I play another final I will play differently. I will take more risks.''

Is it possible that his renewed confidence could help him join the scrap to be the top man in the game? "My goal is to win a Grand Slam," he said. "No 1 is just another planet.'' Nobody has doubted that he has the rockets.