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banner Friday, 18 January, 2002, 10:31 GMT
Tournament chief defends court surface
Andy Roddick falls to Ivan Ljubicic
Andy Roddick joins the Australian Open casualty list
Australian Open chief executive Paul McNamee has defended the tournament's Rebound Ace courts after complaints from players.

American Andy Roddick suggested the stickiness of the surface could be partly to blame for a host of injuries and upsets.

Roddick twisted his ankle while trying to turn during his second round match against Ivan Ljubicic.

"Rebound Ace is pretty renowned for being a pretty sticky surface," Roddick said after the incident.

"A lot of injuries and cramping and stuff I think have been going down this week, so maybe that has something to do with it."

From 128 men, 128 women, you're going to get injuries - that happens at every hardcourt tournament
Tournament chief Paul McNamee

Mark Philippoussis also said that a quadriceps muscle injury he suffered earlier in the week had been caused by the stickiness of the courts.

"The surface is very tough on your body. Rebound Ace, it's very sticky," he said.

"Your shoes actually stick into the court that little bit longer and you feel that in your joints, your lower back and legs."

However, McNamee said that the court surface was not to blame for the high injury count at the tournament.

"We've only had one ankle (injury) at this tournament," he said.

"From 128 men, 128 women, you're going to get injuries, unfortunately. And that happens at every hardcourt tournament.

"It is going to happen early in the year, there's no doubt about that when they're coming off a break, that is a little bit of a factor," he told Melbourne daily The Age.


Ljubicic, who advanced to the third round courtesy of Roddick's injury, blamed the crop of injuries on a combination of the timing of the event and an increasing number of matches that require a deciding set.

"Look at how many players are calling trainers onto the court these days," he said.

"I think we are all fit, but when you are not competing for two months and then come back it is a different type of stress you are finding on a court."

Gustavo Kuerten
Gustavo Kuerten makes a painful exit in Melbourne

"If you see how many matches have finished in five sets this year it shows men's tennis is unbelievably competitive and that it is not unusual that so many players are having problems."

Eighth seed and twice champion Pete Sampras said the combination of upsets and injuries at the Open were "bizarre".

But Sampras and ninth seed Marat Safin both said the Open's early slot in the year was the main reason for the number of upsets.

"It's the beginning of the year, and there's not much of an off-season for guys to recover," Sampras said.

"Then to come down here in a Grand Slam atmosphere, having to practise hard and train hard, you're going to have guys that get hurt."

Safin, one of the few players without injury, agreed.

Venus Williams
Venus hobbled to victory 1n round two
"I think the main reason for the seeds (losing) is they didn't have enough time to rest or prepare," said the Russian.

Roddick's retirement was the latest in a succession of injuries suffered by leading players.

Defending champion Andre Agassi and women's fifth seed Serena Williams pulled out before the Grand Slam event began.

Former world number one Gustavo Kuerten's long-standing hip problem contributed to his first round defeat by Julien Boutter.

In the women's competition, Venus Williams has progressed into the fourth round despite tendonitis in her left knee.

Links to more Australian Open stories are at the foot of the page.


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