Friday, August 09, 2002

Schuettler makes fans sit up, pay attention

Unsung German in quarters after beating Malisse

By Neil Schmidt,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Xavier Malisse in his 6-4, 6-3 loss to Ranier Schuettler.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — The Rainer Schuettlers of the tennis world may not attract attention. Until it gets late in a tournament and they're still playing.

        As Schuettler is this week. The 26-year-old German is the kind of steady, unsung player who occasionally can catch fire and make headlines.

        “Anything is possible,” he said Thursday, after beating Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-3 to reach the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters quarterfinals. “There have been players in finals of tournaments this year, including Wimbledon, you wouldn't bet before.

        “When you're in the quarters, you can beat anybody. I have a chance against anyone in the draw.”

        Particularly his opponent today, 16th seed Carlos Moya. Schuettler is 4-1 in the series, winning both their meetings this year on hard courts.

        Who is Schuettler? He's a grinder, having played professionally for seven years, and quietly has become the second-best German, behind Tommy Haas. He has improved his year-end ranking for seven consecutive years and is No. 26 in the world.

        “I always said when I was in the 40-to-45 range I wanted to be top 30, and now that I'm there, top 20 is a goal,” he said.

        Schuettler reached the round of 16 here in 1999, and his only prior trip this far in a Tennis Masters Series event was a quarterfinal showing at Indian Wells in March. He reached the round of 16 in the 2001 Australian Open.

        CHANG CHANGES: Michael Chang's stirring run ended in a 6-4, 6-3 loss Thursday to Moya, but Chang found plenty of positives in his showing.

        Having been 2-13 this year entering the tournament and ranked 111th, Chang won back-to-back matches for the first time in a year and knocked off Haas, the world's No.3 player.

        “These matches here were discovery matches for me,” Chang said. “I've been searching a long time to try to find something that can turn things around.”

        What he found, he said, is that he needs to scrap his patient style in favor of an attacking mode. Haas said he was surprised by how aggressive Chang had played.

        “That (patient play) is the way I've been playing tennis throughout my whole career,” Chang said. “Over the last four, five years, it really hasn't gotten me very far. I've been forced to play a different style, try to change things.”

        DENT DERAILED: Taylor Dent, a 21-year-old Californian, found a similar silver lining in his 6-7 (5), 6-1, 7-6 (4) loss to eighth-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero.

        “I was playing far away from my best, and I still almost managed to win against a top-10 player,” he said.

        Dent trailed 3-1 in the third set and faced a break point, but he rallied to force a tiebreaker.

        Dent has been on a hot streak, winning 12 of 15 matches before Thursday, including his first ATP Tour title last month in Newport, R.I. He has raised his ranking from No. 116 in January to a current high of No. 67.

   ATP Masters Results & Schedule


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