Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Following some lengthy layoffs, no less than three stars returned to tennis courts around the world this week, including former Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic.
Ivanisevic was joined on the comeback trail by former top-five star Tommy Haas and veteran Frenchwoman Sandrine Testud.
The 32-year-old Ivanisevic made a dramatic return in Milan on Tuesday as the big-serving lefty outlasted veteran Czech Bohdan Ulihrach in a three-set thriller, 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), sending down 25 aces in the process.
The eccentric Croat hadn't played on the circuit in eight months while recovering from a host of injuries, specifically shoulder, elbow and knee ailments.
The surprise 2001 Wimbledon winner and three-time runner-up at the All England Club felt good following his bout with Ulihrach and was quite pleased with his game.
Ivanisevic hasn't titled since his stunning Wimbledon run in 2001.
"I have to say I'm surprised with the quality of tennis I played today (Tuesday)," he said. "I didn't expect it. I know I've been practicing and working hard, but I didn't know I was going to play this way."
Unfortunately for Ivanisevic, he lost a three-set heartbreaker to third-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo in the second round in Milan on Thursday, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4).
The 6-foot-4 Split native owns 22 titles on the ATP, but none since his remarkable run as a wild card at Wimbledon in '01, when he shocked heavily- favored Aussie Patrick Rafter in a "People's Monday" final at SW19. Ivanisevic was also entered as a wild card in Milan.
Back in the day (the '90s), "Ivo" was no stranger to the men's top 10, posting finishes in there on six occasions, including a trio of top-five placements from 1992-96. For nine straight years (1990-98), the European slugger finished among the top 20. He gave way to Andre Agassi in the 1992 Wimby final and surrendered to the great Pete Sampras in a pair of AEC title matches in 1994 and '98 before his unlikely triumph there three years ago.
I'm guessing he didn't return this year just for the money, as he's already pocketed nearly $20 million, just in prize cash.
In San Jose, the two-time Aussie Open semifinalist Haas broke out his racquet for the first time in 16 months, only to come up a 6-4, 6-2 first-round loser against seeded American Vinny Spadea at the Siebel Open.
The 25-year-old German, who hadn't played on tour since late October 2002, underwent right shoulder surgery in December of that year and had additional surgery on the joint in July of last season.
The 6-foot-2 Hamburg native/Bradenton, Florida resident enters this 2004 campaign seeking his sixth career title, and his first since securing the prestigious Rome Masters in '02. He finished in the top 10 in 2001 (8th) and was ranked 11th in the world when he succumbed to the shoulder problem two years ago. The immensely-talented star once possessed top-five tools, but only time will tell if he can make it all the way back.
Haas missed all of 2003 while recovering from shoulder surgeries.
The women's game welcomed back a now-31-year-old Testud on Wednesday, but her return match was a brief one, as she retired in the first set against Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova due to a left abdominal strain. Hantuchova was leading 5-3 at the time, as Testud was playing in front of a home crowd at the Open Gaz de France event in Paris.
Testud (TESS-too) took the 2003 season off after giving birth to her daughter, Isabella, on February 19 of last year. The Lyon native, who is married to her coach Vittorio Magnelli, hadn't performed on the women's tour since Wimbledon 2002, some 20 months ago.
The former U.S. (1997) and Aussie Open (1998) quarterfinalist has tallied seven titles on the WTA Tour, including three of the singles variety. Her last singles championship came three years ago in Hawaii, the week of the horrific September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
The capable Testud has finished in the top 20 five times (1997-2001) and pocketed roughly $3.7 million in career prize money. That sure beats workin' for a living.
Speaking of hiatuses, Canadian-born Englishman Greg Rusedski was in his native Montreal this week for an eight-hour hearing regarding a possible suspension following a positive drug test. The 1997 U.S. Open finalist faces a two-year ban from tennis if an independent anti-doping panel decides he knowingly used the banned substance nandrolone, which he contends may have come from supplements supplied to him by ATP trainers.
Rusedski, who tested positive for the drug at an Indianapolis tournament last July, said his test result was similar to those of seven other players who tested positive for nandrolone, but escaped penalty.
If suspended, the 30-year-old Rusedski could appeal to an arbitration panel.