Tennis Week -Oct 26, 2005 – Last month, Vince Spadea boldly guaranteed he will crack the top 10 and reach his highest career ranking in the coming year. Today, the 66th-ranked Spadea commenced his climb back up the rankings with one of his biggest wins of the season. Spadea defeated fourth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic, 7-6, 7-5, to advance to the second round of the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon.
Drained by his grueling duel with second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s Madrid final in which the top-seeded Spaniard rallied from a two-set deficit to earn a 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) triumph that spanned three hours, 51 minutes, Ljubicic was understandably weary playing his 16th match in the last 22 days.
The 11th-ranked Croatian, who captured consecutive championships in Metz and Vienna prior to reaching the Madrid final, had won 16 of his last 17 matches (including two Davis Cup singles victories in Croatia’s semifinal conquest of Russia) but encountered a stubborn Spadea who stood up to Ljubicic’s power-based baseline game and put returns back in play.
“I haven’t had enough time to recover from my week in Madrid. I lacked energy,” Ljubicic said. “I gave everything I had but it was not enough. I was not very optimistic after the draw here. I knew that Spadea was one of the few players on the circuit capable of returning my serves well. He confirmed it today.”
Since falling to Greg Rusedski in the Newport final in July, Spadea stumbled to 3-9 record and exited in the opening round in six of his last nine tournaments. But the strong-willed Spadea took the court carrying the confidence of a man who had won two of his three career meetings with Ljubicic, including a 6-4, 7-6 victory in the 2004 Lyon round of 16 en route to the tournament semifinals. Ljubicic’s lethal one-handed backhand is his best ground stroke, but Spadea used his two-handed backhand to repeatedly repel Ljubicic in the cross court backhand exchanges.
The 31-year-old Spadea will face French wild card Michael Llodra for a place in the quarterfinals. Llodra was a 7-6, 6-3 victor over Xavier Malisse. Spadea has won two of three matches with Llodra, but the left-handed Llodra won their last meeting in the 2004 Adelaide quarterfinals.
Spadea, top-seeded Andy Roddick and eighth-seeded Robby Ginepri are the lone Americans left in the Lyon draw.
In other opening-round results: France’s Fabrice Santoro defeated American Taylor Dent, 6-3, 7-5.
Spadea, who recently completed a book with Tennis Week contributing writer Dan Markowitz that is a behind-the-scenes look at life on the ATP Tour, told Tennis Week last month he will reach his highest career ranking in 2006.
“Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and I’m quite ready and excited about this new challenge,” said Spadea, who has resumed working with sport psychologist Dr. John Murray in an effort to aid his comeback. “I will return to my highest ranking ever. I guarantee it!”
Related Story: Spadea Issues Top 10 Guarantee
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.