Sydney Morning Herald
January 17, 2004
Argentinian David Nalbandian yesterday opened hostilities against Andre
Agassi ahead of the Commonwealth Bank International in Melbourne. The
former Wimbledon finalist launched himself into the Kooyong final
with an upset win over world No.1 Andy Roddick.
And now he has defending Australian Open champion Agassi in his
sights as he prepares to go one step further than his 2002 Wimbledon
Nalbandian was described by Roddick yesterday as “extremely deceptive”,
having crept to No.8 in the world without winning a tournament.
Nalbandian defeated the American 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4) after
holding off a Roddick fightback from the brink when he was staring
at two match points.
Roddick climbed back from 1-5 down in the last set but Nalbandian
managed to squeeze through the second tie-breaker to make the
final. The Argentinian was confident after beating the reigning US Open
champion that he was ready for next week’s first grand slam of 2004.
“Andy is No.1 and it’s not every day you can beat the No.1,” he
said. “I think it was a very tough match, very close.”
Nalbandian said he had played Agassi just once before, the American
winning a tight three-setter at the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston
last year. “It was a very close, very exciting match,” he said. “I
think Andre is playing really good [now] and it is going to be war.”
Nalbandian said he was over a wrist injury and fit to go the distance
in the fortnight after his Kooyong preparation. “It’s great, I’ve
played in two matches and six sets … it’s very good for the grand
slam, for practising, for getting better and feeling how good you
are at the moment.”
The result was a shock for Roddick, who had had little trouble with
the Argentinian the past two times they played.
“He does a lot of things that, while they’re not spectacular, they’re
just textbook – he executes well and he competes well, he plays big
points well, so he’s extremely deceptive,” Roddick said. “He’s not
eight in the world for no reason.”
Despite the loss, Roddick was happy with the workout. “It’s good to
get in the trenches, even win or lose this week – you just want to get
in there and maybe get the feeling back of competitive tennis again,”
Roddick will play Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez – ranked 34 in the world –
in the first round of the Australian Open.