Injury may keep Ferrero from defending title

Updated: May 23, 2004, 9:39 AM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- Juan Carlos Ferrero will decide Monday whether a rib injury will prevent him from defending his French Open title.

"At this moment, I can't feel like a contender because of my physical problems," Ferrero said Sunday, the day before the Grand Slam tournament starts.

Asked what the odds are that he will play, the Spaniard said: "It's 60-40 -- 60 that I won't play, 40 that I will."

Ferrero never has fared worse than the semifinals at four French Opens, but he's seeded No. 4 after going merely 5-2 on clay this year. In 2003, he came to Roland Garros with a 21-2 mark on the surface.

But he missed a month this season with chickenpox, lost in the first round as the defending champion at Monte Carlo (his most recent tournament), then bruised his right ribs in a fall May 8 while practicing in Spain.

"I didn't feel a lot of pain right away, but it started to hurt two days later," said Ferrero, who hass been getting painkilling injections and will again Monday. He said he hurts with every stroke -- forehands, backhands, serves.

The U.S. Open runner-up is slated to face Tommy Haas of Germany in the first round.

Their half of the draw, which includes top-ranked Roger Federer and fellow major champions Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, won't play until Tuesday. So Ferrero will take to a practice court Monday to judge how he feels.

Ferrero arrived in Paris on Saturday night after attending the wedding of Crown Prince Felipe in Madrid. A one-hour practice on a Roland Garros court Sunday morning didn't go well.

"It was pretty negative. Every shot he hit, he felt pain," Ferrero's coach, Antonio Martinez, told The Associated Press.

"If he plays, and he wins in the first round, that will make him more of a favorite. His head wants to play, but his body won't let him. If he can win one match, his head can lift him."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press