Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Upstart Kiefer keeps winning


Unseeded surprise

By Alex Blumer
Enquirer contributor

MASON - Nicolas Kiefer is unseeded, but he has been as hot as anyone on the ATP Tour this summer.

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Just ask Joachim Johansson, a 6-3, 7-6 (2) loser in Tuesday's first-round match at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

Johansson already had beaten Kiefer twice this year, including in the final in Memphis.

But the 31st-ranked Swede was up against a far more confident version of Kiefer this time around.

"I'm a totally different player than five, six months ago," said Kiefer, whose ranking has risen to 18th. "At that stage, I was just playing and thinking too much."

Kiefer's past three weeks: the finals in Los Angeles and Indianapolis, and the semifinals last week in Toronto.

Kiefer's run has been good enough to place him third in the U.S. Open Series standings. He also improved to 27-11 on hard courts this season.

Even Kiefer has been rather surprised by his recent success.

"I had no expectations. When I came to L.A., I didn't practice for two weeks, and I played a final there," Kiefer said.

"I think I'm playing good tennis right now, but there's always room to improve."

The 27-year-old German will face a familiar opponent in today's second round: second-seeded Andy Roddick.

Roddick has ousted Kiefer from the last two tournaments.

"I think last week I played a good match (a 7-5, 6-3 loss in the Toronto semis)," Kiefer said.

"I took many good things from it, and some things I can improve."




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