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TENNIS LISA DILLMAN

Attacks Unnerve Spanish Players

March 12, 2004|LISA DILLMAN

Conchita Martinez, suffering from the usual jet lag befitting her day job, was on the computer early Thursday to check on the fortunes of Real Madrid. She noticed the Spanish sports daily Marca kept referring to something that had happened in Madrid.

It did not take her long to find out what that was.

Terrorist bomb attacks on commuter trains killed nearly 200 people and injured 1,400 Thursday morning in Madrid, where her older brother Roberto and nephews live. The family of her sister-in-law resides close to the train line.

"Thank God everybody is OK, and all my friends, I've got a lot of friends there," Martinez said Thursday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

"You know exactly how it was here with New York. What do you do? You don't go to work because you are in a high building? And then they put a bomb in the train. They can do anything, if they want."

There are nearly 20 Spanish players in the men's and women's field at the Pacific Life Open. They were all scrambling in the early morning hours to check on family and friends.

"It's the worst thing you can do in the world," said Feliciano Lopez, who is from Madrid. "We can live in peace but they don't want to. Everybody is going to be nervous now and it's not going to be quiet anymore. It could happen next week in Barcelona."

Magui Serna's brother, Raul, lives in Madrid, and she briefly thought about returning home in the early, anxious moments before she found out he was OK.

Martinez held a black ribbon in her hand, and Serna already was wearing one to honor the victims. Martinez was heartened to hear that players from other nations were planning on wearing the ribbons as well.

"I guess we're allies now," Martinez said.

Double Feat

Creaky weekend warriors stumbled out of bed Monday morning, in the midst of searching for the joint assisters, and found a poster boy for the almost 40 set.

Introducing 39-year-old Rick Leach. Again.

Leach, of Laguna Beach, and Brian MacPhie won their first doubles title together, beating South Africans Jeff Coetzee and Chris Haggard, 6-3, 6-1, Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz. By becoming the oldest ATP doubles winner since 40-year-old Sherwood Stewart won in Orlando in March 1987, Leach has hit an inspirational chord.

"I get that a lot from tennis spectators that can kind of relate to me," he said on Monday. "I don't hit a hard ball, more of a finesse player. People come out to watch me because they can't believe I'm still playing. An inspiration for the old guys."

If you think you remember reading last year that Leach retired from the tour, you are correct. At this time in 2003, he was coaching his sister-in-law, Lindsay Davenport. That turned out to be a temporary assignment.

It took him time to get back to his old level. The new doubles rules and reduced fields didn't help much, forcing him play a couple of challenger-level events earlier this year. A turning point was when he and MacPhie lost in the final in February at San Jose.

"It's been a battle to get back up there," Leach said. "Even though we lost [in San Jose], I took something from that week and felt like I was playing better. I'm playing like I was a couple of years ago."

Leach and MacPhie are close to the cutoff for the doubles field at Indian Wells and will find out whether they get in today by noon. They asked for a wild card, but Leach said Thursday he didn't think they would get one.

Fears Continue

The resolution of the Greg Rusedski case -- he was cleared of a doping offense Wednesday -- has not eased the concerns of his colleagues on the tour.

"You've got guys scared to drink out of a Gatorade bottle," Andre Agassi said. "It's difficult, it costs a lot more to get your products looked at specifically. But I'm in the same position as all these guys; I'm scared to death to take anything. So I can't afford, especially at this stage in the sport, to make any mistakes accidentally."

Agassi is a member of the newly formed ATP panel to explore the supplement issue. But he does not want to be part of a public relations exercise.

"I don't want to be a part of the group that just calls out the problems," he said. "My hope would be to be a part of the group that can solve this. And I believe that it is possible to have a set-up strictly for the ATP players where all the nutrients that we need are provided, where we know there's no cross-contamination issues.

"I'm not going to jump on another merry-go-round of talking about solving problems but seeing nothing get done. This is too serious to our sport."

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