Impressive Ivanisevic makes winning return

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The Independent Online

Goran Ivanisevic turned back the clock here yesterday to advance to the second round of the Nasdaq Open with only his second ATP Tour win since January 2002.

Goran Ivanisevic turned back the clock here yesterday to advance to the second round of the Nasdaq Open with only his second ATP Tour win since January 2002. The 2001 Wimbledon champion, whose goal is to take another bow at the All England Club in June, took advantage of a wild card to defeat France's Nicolas Escudé 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, securing the final set tie-break 9-7.

Ivanisevic, 32, who has had shoulder, elbow and knee problems since his Wimbledon triumph, used his mighty serve, crisp volleys and flat groundstrokes to overcome Escudé in blustery conditions.

It was a day of comebacks. Earlier, the Williams sisters made the short drive from their home in Palm Beach Gardens to announce that they are fit and eager to compete in a tournament together for the first time since Serena defeated Venus in the Wimbledon women's singles final eight months ago.

This was encouraging news for the event, which is marking its 20th edition, having first appeared in 1985 as the Lipton Championships. The charisma of the Williams sisters, even if their initial steps are tentative, will help make up for the disappointment of losing the two Belgian players who head the women's world rankings, Justine Henin-Hardenne, who is having a rest, and the injured Kim Clijsters.

The men's draw looks as impressive as ever, although Roger Federer, the Swiss Wimbledon champion and world No 1, was feeling unwell when he arrived from California on Tuesday evening after defeating Britain's Tim Henman in the final at Indian Wells on Sunday.

With seeded players given a bye in the first round, Federer has time to recover before his opening match. He is in Henman's quarter of the draw ­ not that the British No 1 is taking too much notice of that yet. Henman's second-round opponent is Jurgen Melzer, an Austrian left-hander, who yesterday defeated the Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 6-4. Jarkko Nieminen, of Finland, and Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian former Wimbledon champion, may be lining up against him before Federer.

Serena Williams was the centre of attention off the court as she spoke of being both excited and slightly nervous about returning to the WTA Tour for the first time since Wimbledon. An operation to her left knee last August kept the former world No 1 out of competition longer than anticipated. "I've had many set-backs," she said. "Too many ­ I've lost count. But I'm here now and I'm trying to stay positive."

Asked if the thought had ever crossed her mind that her career might be over, she said: "Never. And I've definitely missed the competition and being around tennis."

Serena has cultivated interests away from tennis, including dress designing and acting in films and on television. "I try to put use to all my time," Serena said. "But I don't have any acting gigs right now. I'm working hard on my tennis."

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