Team USA Clinches Victory Despite Ivanisevic Win

Team USA Clinches Victory Despite Ivanisevic Win

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Team USA Clinches Victory Despite Ivanisevic Win

Sunday Finale Matches Grand Slam Winners Roddick & Ivanisevic

By STEVE DORSEY

DELRAY BEACH – Two players with local connections notched victories Saturday night to give Team USA a victory over Team International in the ATP Champions Tour Delray Beach Open.

Aaron Krickstein of nearby Boca Raton and Boca Prep graduate Andy Roddick won their evening matches in straight sets to give Team USA a 5-1 lead in the nine-match format that was implemented for the first time this year at the annual event at the Delray Beach International Tennis Center. With only three matches remaining, the Americans can’t be over-taken for the team title.

Roddick clinched the team title for the Americans with an ace on match point in his 6-3, 6-2 win against Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors in the nightcap match. Krickstein set up the title-clinching match with a 6-1, 6-1 win against Mats Wilander.

The final three matches will be played Sunday, starting at noon (EST) when Krickstein plays Pernfors. Wilander takes on Gambill in the second match and the finale will feature an intriguing showdown between Roddick and Ivanisevic. Roddick and Ivanisevic have played each other only once before, in 2001 when Ivanisevic defeated Roddick en route to winning Wimbledon.

“I don’t think I’ve been plotting my revenge for a loss 13 years ago, but I’m looking forward to it,” Roddick said of Sunday’s matchup that will conclude the three-day event. “It’ll be fun.”

[frame align=”left”]Jan-Michael_Gambill-story[/frame]Earlier Saturday, Jan-Michael Gambill, the other American, notched his second win in as many matches to remain unbeaten in the three-day tournament that precedes the ATP World Tour’s tournament that begins Monday.

Croatian Goran Ivanisevic collected the first and so far only win for Team International in Saturday’s first match when he rallied to defeat Krickstein 6-7 (5), 6-3, (10-4 tiebreaker), but the Americans swept the final three matches to claim the team title after two days of round-robin play.

“I always have tough matches with him,” Ivanisevic, who lost to Gambill on Friday, said of Krickstein, who is the director of tennis at St. Andrew’s Country Club in Boca Raton. “That’s the first time I’ve beat him on this tour.”

Windy conditions played some havoc with the afternoon matches, and Ivanisevic also said he was struggling some with his serve.

“The wind was tough and I served pretty badly,” said Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion who won 22 ATP World Tour titles. “I create fun and I had fun, but in the end it was serious. It’s nice to win, especially since we’re struggling on Team International.”

Gambill’s 6-2, 6-4 win against Pernfors in the day’s second match gave Team USA a 3-1 advantage heading into the evening matches. Gambill, however, was not as pleased with his play as he was following his win Friday night against Ivanisevic.

“I didn’t play well today,” said Gambill, who is making his Champions Tour debut here this weekend. “I didn’t serve as well. I think (Friday) was a little bit of a fluke. (Pernfors) played smart. He hits the ball high a lot and he’s tough to play. I’m a little tired, but I think I’ll play better tomorrow.”

Krickstein looked sharp in his match against Wilander despite having played an afternoon match, too.

[frame align=”left”]stefan_story[/frame]“This is the first time I’ve played a match on hard courts since last year at this event,” said Krickstein, who at 46 still weighs 163 pounds, the same as when he played on the World Tour. “Mats wasn’t completely on his game tonight. I think he got a little tired.”

The qualifying matches for the ATP World Tour tournament began Saturday with a handful of internationally ranked junior players looking to sneak their way into the main draw that has Tommy Haas as the No. 1 seed.

One of the highlights of the first round included World No. 2 ranked junior Stefan Kozlov, who lives less than an hour away from here in Pembroke Pines. Kozlov was granted a wild card into the draw after he captured one of the “Survivor” pre-qualifying tournaments hosted in November by the Delray Beach Swim and Tennis Club. Kozlov, who recently turned 16, has been in scintillating form, coming off excellent finals showings at the Australian Open junior tournament as well as the prestigious Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships. However, Sekou Bangoura cut Kozlov’s stay here short, winning a three-setter 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Bangoura next faces fellow American Wayne Odesnik for a spot in the qualifying finals.

Daniel Kerznerman, 17, another USTA nationally ranked player from New York, defeated Ukrainian Viralii Shcherba 6-1, 7-6 (5). He will face German veteran and 8th seed Bjorn Phau in the second round.

Another teenager, Delray Beach resident Jakub Wojcik, also was making his professional debut but lost to Ecuador’s Sebastian Rivera 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil handled Tomasz Bednarek of Poland in straight sets 6-1, 6-1, and Ivan Endera of Ecuador ousted Columbian Alvaro Ochoa  6-3, 6-0 in the other qualifying matches Saturday. A full slate of qualifying matches are scheduled for Sunday on the back courts.

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