Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Hrbaty downs No. 1 player - again


Federer's run ends at 23 matches

By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - When Dominik Hrbaty saw the bracket for the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, he was pleased.

It was an odd reaction, considering he was facing the hottest player on the ATP Tour in the first round, No. 1-ranked Roger Federer.

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For Hrbaty, however, it was an opportunity to play without pressure and upset a top-ranked opponent. He took advantage Tuesday, beating Federer 1-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4, and ended the Swiss' run of 23 straight match wins.

"Maybe it was for me much better than to play somebody else," Hrbaty said. "I just played much more relaxed, and I enjoyed the match. Probably if I would lose against Roger, I wouldn't be so disappointed. If I would lose against somebody else, I would be more disappointed personally. This way, I was just trying to play my game."

Although ranked No. 21 on the ATP Tour, Hrbaty is relatively unknown to the general tennis public, but not to the No. 1 players he has beaten in the last five years.

After Tuesday's match, Hrbaty had won his last four meetings against No. 1-ranked players, beginning with a 1999 upset of Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the second round of the French Open.

"I think the biggest chance to beat (No. 1s) is in the first round, because sometimes they come out too late for the tournament because they played well in the tournament beforehand," Hrbaty said. "But if they get through the first couple of rounds, they just play better and better.

"That's why for me it was probably the best chance to beat (Federer) in the first round."

Hrbaty, who played doubles with Federer during the 2000 tourney, said the onus was on Federer Tuesday to maintain his winning streak.

"Even if you lose 1 and 1, it's no shame, because he's No. 1 and is supposed to win," Hrbaty said. "These guys have big pressure playing at No. 1. Everybody wants to beat them and be his best against No. 1 in the world."

A 26-year-old from Slovakia, Hrbaty faces Jonas Bjorkman at 11 a.m. today. Hrbaty has won three tournament titles this year - all International Series hardcourt events - in Adelaide, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; and Marseille, France. Two weeks ago, he reached the quarterfinals of the RCA Championships in Indianapolis before losing to Andy Roddick.

"I don't think I am that unknown in tennis," Hrbaty said. "Maybe if somebody sees me for the first time, they don't know my name because it's so hard to say, but if you've seen me a couple times, then you know who I am."

No. 1s beware: Here comes Hrbaty

Dominik Hrbaty defeated his fourth No. 1 opponent Tuesday when he ended Roger Federer's 23-match winning streak. Here is a look at Hrbaty's 4-2 record against No. 1s.

TournamentRoundOpponent
2004 (Cincinnati)1std. Roger Federer 1-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4
2001 (Davis Cup)4th d. Marat Safin 6-3, 6-1, 6-4
2000 (Rome) 3rdd. Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-4
1999 (French Open)2ndd. Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
1998 (Wimbledon)1stl. to Pete Sampras 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
1997 (Australian Open)1stl. to Pete Sampras 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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