Hantuchova a bigger project than Kournikova
By Matthew Cronin
Can Solomon do anything with the winless Dani?
FLAMED: Can on-court life get any worse for poor Daniela Hantuchova, who was straight- setted by the hobbled Alicia Molik? Possibly, but it would take a future double-bagel defeat to another seriously slumping player (i.e. Alexandra Stevenson).
New coach Harold Solomon has a huge amount of work cut out for him. Dani hasn’t won a set this season nor scored a notable victory since last summer. On the plus side, the Slovak has spanking clean strokes that don’t need to be fiddled with much. On the precipitous down side, she is an emotional basket case and has zero confidence in her ability.
For a while there, Solomon did very well by his last beauty school project, Anna Kournikova, who under his tutelage had a very decent summer of 2002 before getting injured again. Anna then took some bad advice as to whether she should have back surgery, or merely pray for a recovery and spend her precious young 20s collecting pay checks by playing non-demanding exos. Anna has chosen the latter.
Here’s the big difference between Kournikova and Hantuchova: Anna is a much more self-confident person and while she never quite understood how to properly prepare herself for semis and finals, she did believe in her chances against the elite players. Right now, Dani doesn’t believe in herself against anyone. More than just having an experienced, intelligent coach like Harold, Dani needs to see a psychologist and needs to break away from her always-hovering mother.
Maggie Maleeva sure isn’t getting any younger and it showed in her loss to the crafty Petra Mandula … Whatever happened to Babs Schett? The Austrian blonde blaster hasn’t been able to find the court in two years now and fell to Italian Mara Santangelo.
Seb Grosjean ran circles around the soon to be obscure Jan-Michael Gambill, who is the most prominent member of the Lost Generation of American men (Gambill, Gimelstob, Goldstein, Mamiit, etc.) … Argentine Gaston Gaudio belongs in the top 20, but can’t keep his head together. Dominic Hrbaty scorched him.
FAMED: Andy Roddick, who crunched Czech Bohdan Ulihrach and now faces compatriot Taylor Dent, who survived the always-on-the-cusp-of-goodness Juan Ignacio Chela in five tough sets.
Marat Safin, who says he’s capable of grabbing the No.1 ranking and as we picked it yesterday, overcame Jarkko Nieminen in four sets. He’ll face the Michigan Wonder of the Trainer’s room, Todd Martin, who surprised us with his three-breaker win over Ivo Karlovic. Recall that Mardy Fish went down in three tiebreaks to the Croat in the first round. It’s helps to have Todd’s wisdom when the big points come along … James Blake, who beat Nico Lapentti and would do his career a world of good by reaching the second week … Guga Kuerten, who must be feeling very good about himself after sending Ivan to the Ljubicic.
Italians, who are making their mark Down Under, including old stalwarts Silvia Farina-Elia and Francesca Schiavone, as well as kids Maria Elena Camerin, Mara Santangello and Filippo Volandri.
French No.4 seed Amelie Mauresmo, who blew out the underwhelming Slovak Ludmila Cervanova 6-0, 6-2 in just 44 minutes. The 1999 finalist has dropped just three games so far this week and is so confident that she thinks this might be her best chance to win the tournament. Of course, she has to first prove to herself that she can best the big three: Justine, Kim and Venus, who all have shown themselves to be better players than Mauresmo in the past year.
Like Dani Girl, Eleni Daniilidou wasn’t playing with much confidence during the second half of last year either but has now reached the third round and is sure to be pumped up for Justine Henin-Hardenne in the round of 16. … Fabulous Fabiola Zuluaga is back. Seeded No. 32, the best player ever out of Columbia should fight her way to the quarters. You want to see a prime example of Latin American fight Gaby Sabatini-style. Go watch Fabi break a racket and the confidence of Jill Craybus.