Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, had not won a match in seven attempts this year before he met Goran Ivanisevic, the Wimbledon champion, in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Open here last night. Mind you, this was not the Ivanisevic we know and love. It was his "Crazy Guy" alter ego on the loose.
The portents were not good. Ivanisevic curtailed the pre-match knock-up for treatment to his upper left arm, raising fears that his troublesome shoulder was about to give way again. "It was hurting, but it was not a problem," the 30-year-old Croatian said after losing 6-3, 6-4 in 72 minutes.
Ivanisevic had no problem when it came to chucking his racket towards his chair in frustration. The second throw, after hitting a ball into the crowd, having lost a 4-2 lead in the second set, resulted in his racket bouncing from his chair and landing on Kiefer's, incurred a code violation.
Speaking about his game, Ivanisevic said: "I don't have any idea what I'm doing. I'm a little bit lost on the court at the moment. I'm not playing with too much confidence. Every time I break, I am unable to hold my serve. Kiefer's struggling, too. He just put two or three balls in the court and waited for me to miss."
The organisers announced yesterday that Ivanisevic will warm up for his Wimbledon defence at a new tournament in Liverpool, a 24-man invitational event at Calderstones Park from 16-22 June.
Younes El Aynaoui, of Morocco, the winner of the first tournament of the year in Doha, Qatar, was a mixture of optimism and nervousness on returning to the courts of the Gulf. "I was nervous because I really want to do well," he said. "A few years ago I was coming to Dubai and hoping I could get through the first round. This year I'm here hoping to win the tournament."
The lanky 30-year-old from Rabat advanced to the second round with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win against Andrei Pavel, his first success in three matches against the Romanian. El Aynaoui next plays either Juan Carlos Ferrero, of Spain, the defending champion and No 1 seed, or the Czech Bohdan Ulihrach.
El Aynaoui built on his confident start to the the season by winning his singles matches against Ferrero and Alex Corretja in the Davis Cup World Group tie in Spain, only for Morocco's prospects of reaching the second round to crumble when injury caused Karim Alami to retire in the final rubber.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the second seed, had never even seen Vasilis Mazarakis, a Greek qualifier, before their first-round match. Mazarakis, No 180 in the world, made the most of the experience, particularly in the second set, until the Russian went up a gear to win, 6-4, 7-5.
Tim Henman, the British No 1, the runner-up in Rotterdam last week, is due on the Centre Court tonight for a first round match against a local wild card, Omar Bahrouzyan, a Dubai national with Iranian roots, ranked No 1,030 in the world.Reuse content