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New Looks
L. Jon Wertheim
April 12, 2004
Won
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April 12, 2004

New Looks

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Won

The men's and women's singles titles in ho-hum fashion at last week's NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., Andy Roddick and Serena Williams. When Guillermo Coria retired in the finals, Roddick, 21, took another big-time title. And Williams, who beat Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-1 in the finals of her first tournament since last year's Wimbledon, showed no signs of rust—and if there were any rust to be seen, her attire, which included hot pants that fit her like a sausage casing, would have revealed it.

Almost overlooked was the fact that the tournament marked a cultural change in men's tennis. It's official: The image of the Spanish-speaking player as a clay-court specialist is as anachronistic as wooden rackets. On the asphalt courts at Crandon Park, seven Hispanic players made the round of 16, including teenager Rafael Nadal of Spain, who upset world No. 1 Roger Federer. This is no fluke. Last year Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero was the first man since Ivan Lendl to win 30 matches on hard courts and clay.

Departing from the old how-to manual—tethered to the backcourt, unspooling parabolic topspin shots during adagio-tempoed rallies—today's Spanish-speaking stars, who typically grow up without hard courts to play on, are adaptable. "We've been working more on attacking, getting to the net, keeping points shorter," says Coria. "If you want to be the best, you can't just be good on one [surface]."

Are those who ritually get dusted on clay taking note? It's been years since an American not named Agassi reached the second week of the French Open, and no Aussie or Englishman has won at Roland Garros since 1969. "I guess," says Roddick, "we're just still much more comfortable on faster surfaces." They are, in other words, the new surface specialists.

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