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Topspin: Left-handers must be wary of Canas and Lopez on turf.

Byline: James Pyman

WHAT do Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Maradona, Marilyn Monroe and Kermit the Frog all have in common?

No it's not that they all had ambitions to rule the world, although I'm convinced world domination was on that camp green puppet's agenda, but in fact they were or are left-handed.

It's estimated that one in ten people are left-handed but I was astonished while researching the material for this week's column at just how many influential people throughout history are lefties.

Albert Einstein, Jimi Hendrix and Michelangelo are just few others and if you are left-handed and want to find out who else shares this physiological trait with you then visit www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk.

Interestingly, we don't just have a dominant hand but also an ear, eye and, as all footballers know, a foot.

In fact it's believed that players whose eyes, hands and feet are all leftdominant have better handeye-coordination which is seen as a contributing factor in why so many famous tennis players are or have been left-handed.

Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Jimmy Conners, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, Goran Ivanisevic, Thomas Muster and Martina Navratilova are among the legendary lefties.

Newly crowned French Open champion Rafael Nadal plays left-handed although apparently he writes with his right-hand and this is described as being cross-lateral. Cricketer David Gower is another example of a cross-lateral sportsman.

Players are presented with a different set of challenges when facing lefties compared to right-handed rivals. For example a righthander returns a serve directed to their right-hand side with a forehand while a left-hander returns the same serve with a backhand.

Therefore some players are going to prefer facing lefties more than others. So today we look at the records of the current top 100 against left-handers. The table shows players' career records against lefthanders on all the major surfaces while for comparative reasons their overall strike rate (SR) against right-handers is also listed.

Firstly let's concentrate on those who have been appreciably more successful against left-handers than right by comparing the players' SRs against both type of opponent.

Philipp Kohlschreiber has won 35 per cent superior strike rate against lefties, but it would be unwise to get too carried away by the German's performance as he has played just five matches against left-handed rivals.

Of much greater interest are Feliciano Lopez (23 per cent superior), David Ferrer (20.8), Karol Beck (15.8), Guillermo Canas (14.8) and Xavier Malisse (14.8), who have contested enough matches against lefties to suggest they possess games that are more effective against this type of opponent.

With the grass-court season boiling up to a climax at Wimbledon in a weeks' time, Lopez and Canas are of primary interest to punters as the majority of their success against lefties has come on fast terrains.

CANAS has a 15-1 win-loss record against lefthanders in matches played on grass, carpet or outdoor hard courts, while Lopez has won seven out of eight on surfaces other than clay.

Lopez is left-handed but there doesn't appear to be a relationship between lefties performing better against players who hold the racket in the same hand.

Now let's look at who has struggled to come to terms with facing left-handers throughout their careers.

Igor Andreev (27.2 per cent inferior), Taylor Dent (-25.3), Mariano Puerta (-22) and Ivan Ljubicic (-17.3) are the high-profile players with considerably poorer records against lefties.

Ljubicic looks to be particularly vulnerable as he has lost seven of his 11starts against left-handers on his favoured hard courts.

The Croatian's dismal run against this type of adversary continued at the French Open when he lost to the left-handed Puerta in the first round while subsequently Puerta's inability to beat his fellow lefties came back to haunt him when he lost to Nadal in the final.

Andreev, Dent and Ljubicic have games that translate well to turf so it could pay to oppose this trio should they face left-handed rivals during the remainder of the grass-court season.

It's also interesting to see that Andre Agassi, Marat Safin and Carlos Moya have around a seven per cent inferior SR against lefthanders.

As these big names win such a high percentage of their matches, this is a significant difference.

On the line...

Greg Rusedski

GREGRUSEDSKI'S days of being considered as a genuine Wimbledon title contender are well and truly over, as the 1997 US Open runner-up has been in decline in recent years.

But the big-serving lefthander will be hoping to draw a fellow leftie in the first round at the All England Club in a week's time.

That's because Rusedski has an outstanding 7-1 career win-loss record against fellow lefties on grass.

Big Greg's sole turf defeat to a left-hander was against legendary Croatian Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon in 2001.

Since that loss Rusedski has triumphed over Jurgen Melzer, Hicham Arazi (twice), Jarkko Nieminen and Kenneth Carlsen and has dropped just one set during this sequence of victories.

Rusedski's biggest strength is his monster serve and therefore it could be that fellow lefties find this menacing delivery harder to return than right-handers.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 13, 2005
Words:856
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