Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Corretja stays true to old self

Rise up ranks hasn't dimmed good-guy image

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Alex Corretja gets it.

        The world's No.8-ranked tennis player believes in giving interviews, interacting with fans, helping out sponsors and participating in Kids' Days.

        He gets media requests every day when he is home in Spain and tries to fulfill every one.

        “I respect everybody whether I am at the top of the game or not,” said Corretja, who had a first-round bye in the Great American Insurance ATP Championship and faces Michael Chang today (11 a.m., Center Court). “If I was (ranked) 200 or something, I would be the same. If they asked me to do something, I would do it. I think it's good to let the people know who you are and how you are off the court.

        “You have to realize that your job is not just on the court.”

        This has always been Corretja. When he was ranked No.86 in 1992, and when he was ranked No.3 at the end of last year.

        Corretja won the 1998 ATP Tour World Championship — a year-end tournament for the top eight players — over fellow countryman Carlos Moya and finished in the top 10 for the first time.

        He was president of the ATP Tour Players Council in 1997-98 and has often been recognized publicly and privately as one the nicest and most cooperative players on the circuit. During his reign as president, he helped instigate the creation of the Stars Program, in which players commit to four promotional activities during each tournament.

        Corretja has been a vocal advocate of having players show more responsibility toward fans and media.

        “I just like to be like this,” he said. “I don't like to be the savior of the tour. I don't believe I'm the best because I'm doing this, there are the people who if they have the same philosophy as me, they can join me. But if not, I'm not going to force them.

        “Everybody has his own personality. I'm not going to make them change.”

        This has been a tough year for the Barcelona, Spain, native. Corretja has not been healthy since March, having battled liver problems, allergies, pulled abdominal muscles and reoccurences of some of those same ailments.

        He has taken off four, five weeks at a time trying to get healthy. When he has played, he has fared well early, then tired out later in tournaments because of a lack of playing experience this year.

        Corretja said it's been a little frustrating.

        “Now I feel OK,” he said. “I'm not 100 percent to win tournaments.”


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