NASDAQ promises plenty of intrigue
March 18 2003
By MICHELLE KAUFMAN
THE MIAMI HERALD
Just like college basketball fans, who pored over the NCAA tournament bracket Sunday night searching for potentially juicy matchups, tennis fans at the NASDAQ-100 Open ran their fingers down the main draw when the bracket was released on a soggy and stormy Monday afternoon.
Here are a few potential matchups that jumped out:
Andre Agassi vs. Michael Chang. Jennifer Capriati vs. Anna Kournikova. Lleyton Hewitt vs. James Blake. Monica Seles vs. Lindsay Davenport. Gustavo Kuerten vs. Fernando Gonz?lez. Agassi vs. Kuerten.
And, if all goes as the Williams sisters like, No. 1 Serena would play No. 2 Venus in the final. Serena's side of the draw includes Kim Clijsters, Daniela Hantuchova and Davenport. Venus would have to get past Justine Henin-Hardenne, Capriati and Amelie Mauresmo.
In the men's bracket, Hewitt has to get past Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moya and Andy Roddick. Agassi's potential roadblocks include Roger Federer, Marat Safin, Jiri Novak and Kuerten.
If Kuerten, a Brazilian, winds up playing Gonz?lez, a Chilean, in the third round, bring your dancing shoes. Fans of both players are known to spice up the atmosphere.
A bit of advice for fans who wind up with tickets to the first-round match between American up-and-comer Taylor Dent and Dutchman Richard Krajicek: Wear a helmet.
Dent-Krajicek is an early chance to see two of the game's hardest hitters. Dent's 140 mph serves are among the fastest on tour, and 6-5 Krajicek is no wimp, either.
On the other half of the men's bracket, the most appetizing early match is a possible second-round meeting between defending champion and No. 2 seed Agassi and wild card Chang, who is on his farewell tour and retiring after the U.S. Open.
Chang, 31, plays Nicolas Kiefer of Germany in the first round either Wednesday or Thursday, and the winner plays Agassi on Friday or Saturday.
If Agassi survives the second and third rounds, he could be in for a difficult -- and entertaining -- fourth-round match against Kuerten, the No. 15 seed. ''Guga'' is coming off an injury-marred season but made the finals at Indian Wells, Calif., before losing to world No. 1 Hewitt.
Speaking of Hewitt, the Australian and top seed likely would play his opening match against Vladimir Voltchkov, who plays a qualifier in the first round. The biggest stumbling block could be a fourth-round match against Blake.
Hewitt and Blake have a spirited rivalry that began when Hewitt made what many construed as racist remarks during a 2001 U.S. Open match against Blake, who is black.
The two, who have since mended fences, met again in the fourth round at NASDAQ last season and the third round of the U.S. Open. Hewitt won both times.
Roddick, the No. 6 seed and Boca Raton resident, probably will face big-serving Croatian Ivan Ljubicic in the second round. The two played at the Australian Open last year, when Roddick withdrew with a sprained ankle.
Boca Raton native Vince Spadea, making a comeback after slipping in the rankings, could have a tough second-round match against No. 5 seed Moya.
Qualifying matches continue today at the Crandon Park Tennis Center. The main draw begins Wednesday.