Sunday, August 17, 2003

Familiarity helps Australians rule

No. 7 doubles team advances to final

By Dustin Dow and Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - A little commitment to each other has gone a long way this year for Australians Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley.

The doubles team is playing in today's Western & Southern Financial Group Masters championship match, looking for their second Tennis Masters Series title of the season after winning at Rome in May. They also won at Rotterdam, reached the semifinals of the French Open and have posted a season record of 27-11.

All of that is remarkable considering the duo had a career record of 11-9 prior to this season.

"We've been playing pretty much through the whole year consistently," Hanley said. "Now we're knowing each other's game more."

Arthurs and Hanley will play the American tandem of Mike and Bob Bryan, the No. 2-ranked doubles team in the world, in today's final. The Americans beat Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Daniel Nestor of Canada 6-2, 6-3.

The Aussies share the same coach now, Brett Larkham, which enables Hanley and Arthurs to practice together and ensure they play the same tournaments. Entering different tournaments is what kept them from playing doubles more often in previous years. Realizing they could make a decent team, Hanley and Arthurs decided early this year to play as a pair.

"I was also concentrating more on singles last year than I am this year," said Arthurs, who is ranked No. 118 in singles.

Hanley opened this year by winning the Sydney doubles with Nathan Healey while Arthurs rehabbed a torn calf muscle. But Hanley's win made Arthurs and Larkham realize that this could be a formidable doubles team.

Saturday, Arthurs and Hanley atoned for a quarterfinal loss last week in Canada by defeating top-seeded Max Mirnyi and Mahesh Bhupathi 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

CHASING HISTORY: Andy Roddick hadn't won a Tennis Masters Series event before last week. Now he's on the verge of doing something that has been done just twice since the events were established in 1990: win TMS Canada and this event back to back.

Andre Agassi turned that trick in 1995. Patrick Rafter did the same in '98 and went on to win the U.S. Open that year.

SUPER SERVE: Roddick has won 46 of 47 service games this week, recording the week's fastest serve at 139 mph (twice). During the North American summer hard-court season, he has held serve in 200 of 212 games (93.4 percent).

Yet Saturday's semifinal victim, Max Mirnyi, wasn't impressed.

"It is a powerful serve, but I've played guys that have better serves," Mirnyi said. "There are guys that disguise it much better than he does. I was not really impressed that much."

WHO'S NO. 1? In the world rankings, Agassi remains No. 1. But most pundits say either No. 2 Roger Federer or No. 4 Roddick is currently the game's top player.

Federer leads the ATP Tour in wins this year with a 58-12 mark; he's 29-8 on hard courts. Roddick is second in wins at 54-13, including 33-7 on hard courts.

Mirnyi gives the edge to Federer: "He's just got a lot of variety to his game that Andy doesn't have.''

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