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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Men's Look Forward: Week of May 26
Posted on 5/25/2003 at 1:36 PM

Men's Look Forward: Roland Garros

Were we sent back to school and assigned an essay, "How X Will Perform at Roland Garros," our title would probably be something like "Why He Can't Do It." A lot of players have reasons why they might be able to win: Lleyton Hewitt because he's #1 in the world, Andre Agassi because he's done it before, Juan Carlos Ferrero because everyone knows he's the best clay player in the world, Carlos Moya because he's close behind Ferrero and he's done it before, etc.

But then reality sets in. Hewitt may be #1 in the world, but he's never won a red clay title, tends to look relatively futile on the stuff, and has a nasty draw: Nikolay Davydenko in the second round, Tommy Robredo in the third, Gustavo Kuerten in the Round of Sixteen. It's sort of the tennis equivalent of the baseball joke: "I'll be home soon, ma, they're throwing curveballs."

Agassi has had better clay results, including a win and two finals here. But he, like Hewitt, is a natural hardcourter, and he's old enough that winning seven five-set matches on clay is a pretty big hurdle, and he has a pregnant wife to worry about, and while his draw isn't as bad as Hewitt's, he does have to deal with Marcelo Rios in the second round and Alex Corettja in the fourth and Guillermo Coria in the quarterfinal. (Hewitt would trade any day, though.)

Ferrero has an easier draw still; unless Magnus Norman can somehow rediscover his form of three years ago, he shouldn't be tested until the fourth round at the earliest. But he seems to be turning physically fragile, and his head might prove a problem in the final.

And so it goes. This is one of those years when there is no clear favorite; the best bet is "field." The "usual suspects" are Kuerten, Ferrero, and Corretja -- but Corretja is in terrible form, Kuerten hardly better, and Ferrero is Ferrero. So we'll try a slightly different sort of preview this time: We're just going to march down the draw, looking at interesting players (seeds or not) and talking about what they face.

Lleyton Hewitt.
Executive Summary: He isn't actually bad on clay -- witness his Davis Cup win over Gustavo Kuerten. But he isn't his consistent self on clay. Why he might win: Because he's the #1 player, both in the rankings and in mental toughness. Why he won't: He's never won a red clay tournament; it's his worst surface. He played only one of the clay Masters, so his preparation is deficient. And he played World Team Cup and Hamburg, so he's tired. How's his draw? Terrible. Clearly the worst of the top seeds. Brian Vahaly in the first round probably doesn't have the weapons to hurt him, but then it's Nikolay Davydenko, then Tommy Robredo, then Gustavo Kuerten or Gaston Gaudio, then David Nalbandian or Albert Costa or Agustin Calleri, then Juan Carlos Ferrero. Bjorn Borg might not win against that draw.

Nikolay Davydenko
Executive Summary: Solid young Russian, with two titles already this year and a final at St. Poelten. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Although he's rising fast, he's not ready to win a Slam. Also, while he's been solid on clay this year, it isn't his native surface. And he grumbled at St. Poelten about a foot injury. How's his draw? Pretty crummy. Greg Rusedski in the first round isn't too much of a problem, but then he faces Hewitt, and if he wins that, he inherits Hewitt's crummy draw.

Greg Rusedski
Executive Summary: Big serve, decent net game, not much off the ground -- a recipe for trouble on clay. He's probably here just to hit some balls before the grass season. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Hates clay, and has been accused of skipping Roland Garros in the past. And he's just back from a long injury. How's his draw? Equivalent to Davydenko's, whom he faces in the first round.

Tommy Robredo
Executive Summary: Solid young clay player, still improving. Why he might win: Seems to have the tools. Why he won't: Doesn't have the experience or the results to date. How's his draw? Not bad to begin with. Opens against a qualifier, then a clay-hater (Mirnyi or Bjorkman). Then he faces Hewitt, whereupon things get tough.

Gaston Gaudio
Executive Summary: Good clay player probably close to the height of his powers. Why he might win: He can beat anyone on his best days. Why he won't: Chances of seven straight good days aren't great. Rarely threatens the truly elite clay players. How's his draw? Fair, but awfully French: First Paul-Henri Mathieu (who, however, still hasn't found his game), then Olivier Mutis or Jerome Golmard. The crowd will not be his friend. After that, he's up against Gustavo Kuerten -- though Kuerten isn't playing his best clay game right now.

Paul-Henri Mathieu
Executive Summary: Good young player who, however, is out of form and seems to prefer indoors. Why he might win: He won't, this time. Why he won't: He is still struggling after his long injury.How's his draw? Bad. Gaudio, Golmard, Kuerten.

Hicham Arazi
Executive Summary: Likes clay, and showing signs of life after a dreadful year, but still one of the lowest-ranked players in the draw. Why he might win: Has a terrific assortment of shots. Why he won't: In a long career, he's never even threatened to win a Slam, and he's still not back up to his best. How's his draw? A nice opener, against Sluiter, which should let him defend the points he earned against Roger Federer last year. But then Kuerten, Gaudio, Hewitt.

Gustavo Kuerten
Executive Summary: The best active clay player, but still struggling after injury. Why he might win: He's Gustavo Kuerten. Why he won't: He's the 2003 Gustavo Kuerten who still hasn't won a clay title and who doesn't seem to have much fire in his belly (he's hoping to be in the year-end Top Ten). How's his draw? Not too bad early on; he starts against Marc Rosset, then probably Arazi. But Gaudio could well be too much for him.

Albert Costa
Executive Summary: Last year's winner who hasn't been able to get anything started this year. Why he might win: He did last year. Why he won't: In the year since Roland Garros 2002, he's done nothing. Even on clay. How's his draw? Easy in the first two rounds: A qualifier, then Arthurs or Stepanek. But then he faces Calleri, then Nalbandian. He'll need some luck just to make the semifinal.

Nicolas Lapentti
Executive Summary: Good all-around player who likes clay, but currently missing in action in terms of results. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: He's in dreadful form right now. How's his draw? It depends on how Richard Gasquet is playing. But even if he beats Gasquet, he'll have to deal with Agustin Calleri in the second round.

Agustin Calleri
Executive Summary: Good clay player who is hotter than he's ever been in his life. Why he might win: He's been one of the four or five best clay players this year. Why he won't: He still hasn't won anything big, and he never showed this sort of form before. How's his draw? Not too bad, but possibly tiring. He opens against Franco Squillari, who is far removed from his glory days of three years ago but who can keep you out there a long time. Then comes Lapentti, then Costa, then Nalbandian. Based on recent form, Calleri could beat them all. Of course, he could come down to earth, too.

Arnaud Clement
Executive Summary: French,and very fast, but no fan of clay. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Clay record is just too weak. Has a losing record at Roland Garros. How's his draw? Tough on paper, easier in practice. Thomas Enqvist still isn't at his peak, and doesn't like clay much. Mardy Fish is improving fast, but needs clay experience. Nalbandian fades in and out. Clement might do some damage -- but he might also fall easily.

David Nalbandian
Executive Summary: Young Argentine with great tools for clay (and grass) but some consistency problems. Why he might win: Has the game, and has reached a Slam final. Why he won't: He lost said Slam final, and he often suffers strange losses. How's his draw? Nalbandian will determine his own fate in the first three rounds. Albert Montanes, his first opponent, likes clay but is sliding in the rankings. The second round is easier. Arnaud Clement in the third round isn't much of a clay threat. Against Calleri or Costa, things will get trickier.

Juan Carlos Ferrero
Executive Summary: Best clay player out there; if they hold a gun to your head and say, "Pick a winner," he's it. Why he might win: He's been the best clay player this year. Why he won't: His body is already starting to fail him, and his head is suspect. How's his draw? The only major treat before the round of sixteen is Magnus Norman, and Norman isn't yet back in form. Mantilla or Grosjean in the fourth round will be trickier, but he really ought to make at least the semifinal.

Magnus Norman
Executive Summary: A former finalist who isn't at that level any more. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: He's just too far off his best form. At best, he might scare somebody. But he claimed a back injury at Dusseldorf. How's his draw? Deadly. He opens against Nicolas Massu, then Ferrero. In other circumstances, he might do some damage.

Tim Henman
Executive Summary: Still struggling with form, and hates clay anyway. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Clay, and bad form. How's his draw? Pretty good -- so soft that he might actually win some matches. He opens against Vladimir Voltchkov, who also prefers faster surfaces. But Jose Acasuso (who opens against Todd Martin) is a tougher problem in the second round. And then Ferrero.

Felix Mantilla
Executive Summary: Solid clay veteran having a career year. Why he might win: If he's going to do it, now is the time. Why he won't: One Masters title does not a Slam winner make. How's his draw? Good until the third round, when he faces Grosjean (who is struggling). Has a good bet of facing Ferrero in the Round of Sixteen.

Sebastien Grosjean
Executive Summary: Top Frenchman, and perhaps their best all-surface player, but he's been hurt. Why he might win: He'll run all day and all night. Why he won't: He's too far out of form after his injury. How's his draw? Challenging, with Adrian Voinea in the first round, Fernando Vicente in the second, and Mantilla in the third.

Sjeng Schalken
Executive Summary: Has played his best tennis over the past year -- but not on clay. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Clay. How's his draw? Given Fabrice Santoro's deep slump, pretty good until he faces Fernando Gonzalez in the third round.

Fernando Gonzalez
Executive Summary: Hardcourt tools but with clay training. Among the hardest hitters on the ATP. Why he might win: At his best, can blow away anyone. Having gone undefeated at Dusseldorf, he may finally be back in form. Why he won't: Little experience at the top levels, and he's been constantly struggling until the last few weeks. How's his draw? Nice. Jan-Michael Gambill is no problem in the first round (not on clay). Albert Portas might test but shouldn't stop him. The third round, against Schalken, is also pretty easy. And those big Gonzalez returns could well bother Andy Roddick.

Jarkko Nieminen
Executive Summary: Good scrambler, no big weapons. Why he might win: Well -- Roland Garros is good at surprise winners. Why he won't: Just not enough big results. How's his draw? Good. On any other surface, Nicolas Escude would be a tough first round opponent, but Escude hates clay. Kenneth Carlsen also likes things faster. His third round opponent is Andy Roddick, and the surface will help there.

Andy Roddick
Executive Summary: Big serve, big forehand, crummy return, doesn't move well on clay. Why he might win: That serve can beat anyone. Why he won't: Has never won anything big, and St. Poelten may have tired him out. How's his draw? Sargis Sargsian gets to a lot of balls, but probably can't hurt him. First real threat is Nieminen in the third round. Gonzalez in the fourth could be big trouble if he's healthy.

Roger Federer
Executive Summary: Arguably the best all-around set of tools on the ATP, though he doesn't specialize in clay. Why he might win: He can beat you in all sorts of ways. Why he won't: Shot selection and motivation are considered questionable. How's his draw? Very nice: Horna, then probably Verkerk, then perhaps Spadea, then Ferreira or Schuettler. If he plays his best, he shouldn't be challenged before his quarterfinal match with Moya.

Rainer Schuettler
Executive Summary: Good mover, but no big weapon, and he's had his best results on hardcourts. Wants to be Top Ten, and has a chance here. Why he might win: He can play until everyone else is exhausted. But that means he has to exhaust them. Why he won't: Just not enough firepower; there is nothing special about his game, especially on clay. How's his draw? Nice for the first two rounds: Mamiit, then perhaps Lisnard. Wayne Ferreira is a tougher third round opponent. Then comes Federer.

Jiri Novak
Executive Summary: Good clay player who seems to have slipped a little from last year. Why he might win: Likes clay, and has a good variety of shot. Why he won't: Not many really big results in singles; has lost two Slam doubles finals. How's his draw? It doesn't get much better. A wildcard, then a qualifier or a wildcard, then James Blake or whoever beats him. Trouble waits in the fourth round in Carlos Moya.

James Blake
Executive Summary: Good speed, good groundstrokes, no huge weapon, not a natural clay player. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Hasn't gone deep in Slams, and this is probably the worst possible Slam for him anyway; he still admits to having trouble moving on clay. How's his draw? Powerful. Literally. He opens against Taylor Dent, then perhaps Ivan Ljubicic. But this is a good surface for withstanding such assaults. Novak in the third round will be a bigger problem.

Juan Ignacio Chela
Executive Summary: Good clay-courter who isn't playing quite as well this year as last. Why he might win: Probably has the game, and has a nice draw. Why he won't: Seeded too low, and doesn't have the experience. How's his draw? Good. A wildcard, then a qualifier. He has to face Carlos Moya in the third round, though.

Carlos Moya
Executive Summary: Excellent clay player who finally is back in winning form. Why he might win: He's done it before. Why he won't: Mostly the fact that there are 127 other guys trying to stop him. How's his draw? Good. A qualifier (though that qualifier is Filippo Volandri, so he's no joke), then Mark Philippoussis or a qualifier, then Chela, then probably Novak. First big test might be Federer in the quarterfinal.

Guillermo Coria
Executive Summary: Hottest guy on the tour right now, and likes clay. Why he might win: He just won Hamburg, and also made the Monte Carlo final; surely that adds up to a good chance. Why he won't: Allegedly hurt himself at Hamburg. Has never gone far at a Slam. No one big weapon. Young. How's his draw? Excellent. The early rounds should be no problem. Mikhail Youzhny in the third round is a tough opponent, but clay will help. The Round of Sixteen may actually prove easier. And he's in the easier (Agassi/Moya) half of the draw.

Younes El Aynaoui
Executive Summary: Good clay game. Steadier than he used to be. Has the tools to beat anybody, but somehow doesn't seem to do it. Why he might win: He keeps scaring the pants off people. Why he won't: After scaring them, he loses. How's his draw? As good as it gets for a guy seeded #23: He's in Paradorn Srichaphan's sixteenth, which almost guarantees an unseeded opponent in the third round. Coria in the fourth is likely to prove too much, though.

Mariano Zabaleta
Executive Summary: Streaky player who likes clay and may be due for another hot streak. Why he might win: He probably can't, but he might scare somebody. Why he won't: Too few big results. How's his draw? Good. Feliciano Lopez is a tough first match, but then he's supposed to face Paradorn Srichaphan, who may be the weakest seed in the draw on clay. El Aynaoui, his third round opponent, is also fragile.

Paradorn Srichaphan
Executive Summary: Very good hardcourt player, but terrible on clay. Why he might win: He won't. Why he won't: Clay. How's his draw? Irrelevant. He's probably already looking forward to grass.

Alex Corretja
Executive Summary: In his prime, ranked up there with Ferrero and Kuerten and Moya on clay. But he's slumping. Why he might win: He's been to the final. Why he won't: He's in horrible form. And he may be too old or too nice. How's his draw? Good until the Round of Sixteen, when he faces Agassi. Though his third round opponent is Kafelnikov, who is on the comeback trail.

Julien Boutter
Executive Summary: Game doesn't seem suited for clay, but won Casablanca this year. French, and hungry. Should get very good crowd support, which might lead to some upsets. Why he might win: We wouldn't go that far. Why he won't: His strength is his serve. How's his draw? Medium: He opens against Kafelnikov, then faces Corretja in the third round. Agassi in the fourth should end things.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov
Executive Summary: Little clay luck since winning Roland Garros half a career ago, but everything seems to be working this year. Why he might win: He's done it before, and he's having perhaps his best clay season since he won the title here. Why he won't: Reality has to set in sometime -- doesn't it? How's his draw? Medium-poor. Boutter is a tough first round opponent. Saretta or Alberto Martin could cause trouble in the third. Corretja lurks in the fourth. And then Agassi.

Marcelo Rios
Executive Summary: Good clay player, bad clay motivation; if he were going to win a Slam, he'd have done it by now. Why he might win: Had the game. Why he won't: He just took a month off to "think." He's back -- but anyone who does that is probably not too motivated. How's his draw? Tough, though it would be tougher on other surfaces: First Mario Ancic, then Agassi.

Andre Agassi
Executive Summary: Easily the best player on the ATP this year, but looking vulnerable on clay; he won Houston, but lost first round at Rome and didn't playe any other warmups. On hardcourt, his fate is usually in his hands. On clay, it may not be. Why he might win: Has one title and two finals in his history, and doesn't seem to be slowing down. Why he won't: It's still seven five-set matches. And he hasn't won a match in Europe this year. How's his draw? Better than Hewitt's, but not great. He faces Rios in the second round. Xavier Malisse may not trouble him as much in the third, but Corretja waits in the fourth, then Coria, then Moya.

The Rankings. Andre Agassi briefly regained the #1 ranking this spring -- an event significant enough that it even induced the ATP to admit the entry rankings. He might earn it again this week. Though it won't be easy. His opening loss at Rome means that Lleyton Hewitt has a very nice lead in the rankings right now. A good result for Hewitt can block Agassi; the American will have to reach at least the semifinal to move up, and that's if Hewitt loses very early.

Agassi is pretty safe at #2, though. The real tussle is for #3, because current #3 Juan Carlos Ferrero is last year's finalist, while current #4 Carlos Moya lost in the third round and #5 Roger Federer lost his opener. Any of the three could grab the #3 spot. Andy Roddick, who also lost first round last year, also has a theoretical shot -- but that won't happen. He might make #4, though. Guillermo Coria and David Nalbandian also have some chances at a Top Five spot.

Beyond that, it's hard to say; almost anyone in the Top 30 could theoretically make the Top Ten by winning here. We will, of course, keep you up to date as the tournament progresses.

Several players are likely to fall hard. Albert Costa has the most on the line, and could be out of the Top 30 if he loses in the early rounds. But at least he's playing. Last year's semifinalist Marat Safin isn't, and will end up not much above #20. Also not playing is Guillermo Canas, a quarterfinalist; he'll be around #35. Tommy Haas will be falling out of the Top 40. We'd also mention Alex Corretja, last year's semifinalist, who could end up around #30.

We note that the #1 ranking in doubles will also be on the line this week. We'll have more on that in our doubles preview later this week.

http://www.tennisnews.com
 

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thanx TC

love this one about Younes
Younes El Aynaoui
Executive Summary: Good clay game. Steadier than he used to be. Has the tools to beat anybody, but somehow doesn't seem to do it. Why he might win: He keeps scaring the pants off people. Why he won't: After scaring them, he loses.
;)
 

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Thanks TC! That was good! But I enjoyed Bob Larson's women's preview a little better than the men's preview! ;)

I think Kuerten is being over looked.

Can Ferrero handle the burden of great expections at Roland Garros? I say no. Sorry Becca! :sad:

I will be most interested to see how Roddick and Agassi progress. Will Andy make the second week? I say no. Will Andre's layoff hurt him? I say yes! :eek:

Where is Youzhny? :confused: He isn't injured again. Is he?

Why are the Russian men being outshone by the Russian women in tennis?

And I would love the see a Frenchman make a run at the title! :bounce: That would be incredible! It would bring back memories of Yannick Noah's 1983 French Open title when he upset defending champion Mats Wilander. That was amazing! Even though I was rooting for Mats. I just loved the Swedes in the 1980's! And I look kind if Swedish, too! ;) So it was easy for me to root for the Swedes. I just wish I had a VCR back then so I could have taped Noah's historic French Open win. And I thought Noah would win a few more grand slam titles in his career. But it didn't happen for various reasons.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
you're welcome. i also love his comments on Pandy, Sexy Moya, and Show-Off :)
 

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LOL at Larson. At least his sense of humor is intact, even if he keeps giving injuries to people who don't have them (Ferrero, Coria).

I also wrote up my rambles, if you care to read them.
 

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wonder if Enqvist will remain unbeaten against Frenchies since 1996, thats according to his coach.

haven't checked this out.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Tennishack:
Coria had the leg cramps and Ferrereeks did complain about something or other (his wrist? shoulder? i honestly can't remember) when he retired in Rome. so i don't think Bob is inventing in all fairness. i also share his view that Ferrereeks tends to run out of steam by this time. it's interesting to read that bec it's something i've always said but never had anyone agree with me before.

interesting rambling on your site. very well written as well. ;)
 

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TC is an adept switch hitter where covering men's and women's tennis is concerned! :D

That's a good site you have, TH! :) That's the first I've seen of it.
 

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TheBoiledEgg said:
wonder if Enqvist will remain unbeaten against Frenchies since 1996, thats according to his coach.

haven't checked this out.
indeed.he lost twice in 96 to French guys-Boetsch in Lyon and Delaitre in Basel.Since then he's got a perfect record
 

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tennischick said:
Tennishack:
Coria had the leg cramps and Ferrereeks did complain about something or other (his wrist? shoulder? i honestly can't remember) when he retired in Rome. so i don't think Bob is inventing in all fairness. i also share his view that Ferrereeks tends to run out of steam by this time. it's interesting to read that bec it's something i've always said but never had anyone agree with me before.

interesting rambling on your site. very well written as well. ;)
Thanks for the compliment on my commentary :)

We in the Ferrero "camp" tend to believe his retirement had more to do with his overplay during the season than a actual injury. Two weeks later, he should be fine. Same with Coria. Leg cramps still bothering him after a week? Okay . . .

I like Larson, much more than I like Wertheim, and I tend to believe he's fair but he can be conservative with his predictions.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
oh i agree that i don't consider either man to be "injured" and there was a subtle cheekiness to Bob's references that suggested that he didn't believe it for a moment either.

yes he is far better than Wertheim. i think it's the sense of humor above all. or maybe that's just what appeals to me far more.
 

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I give Larson the edge over Wertheim because is seems to be a more serious and experienced tennis journalist. And I don't think Larson has ever written a gossip driven book caused "Venus Envy".

But tennis fans are fortunate to have both as writers. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #14
i have a question about Rios. according to Bob:
...Good clay player, bad clay motivation; if he were going to win a Slam, he'd have done it by now. Why he might win: Had the game. Why he won't: He just took a month off to "think." He's back -- but anyone who does that is probably not too motivated.
does anyone know exactly what happened with Rios' retirement announcement? i thought he had seriously quit the game. when and how did he change his mind?
:confused:
 

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TC, I think an article was posted here which said Rios took a break from the tour. He said something that If he felt no longer attracted to the game he would retire. If somebody else has a better memory or knows more, please share.

And thanks TC for posting Bob's preview :kiss:

Now I'm off to check Hackie's. I always enjoy her pieces :)
 

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TennisHack is a woman? :confused: Well, you learn something new every day! ;)
 

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MrsTheBoiledEgg said:
Now I'm off to check Hackie's. I always enjoy her pieces :)
Me too. :) I'll be back. ;)
 

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Hehe, I tend to think my excitement gets the best of me during the clay season, but I'm glad everyone enjoys. I try to write them for the Slams and the TMS events, though I didn't make them all this year :eek:
 

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LOL at Larson. At least his sense of humor is intact, even if he keeps giving injuries to people who don't have them (Ferrero, Coria).
hehe...

Latest reports say that Ferrero's shoulder is fine and dandy. Hopefully it doesn't flare up. And yeah, it was his shoulder, same thing that was bothering him the week before in Valencia. Though I suppose people who never read that might think that it just appeared from thin air at a rather convenient time... *smirk*

Coria just had cramps, but he had a thigh problem in Barcelona that made him retire against Hrbaty. Although I happen to think that he got over it ;)
 
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