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Spadea's knockin' on the door

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It was only a few years ago when Vincent Spadea set the record for tennis futility. But the Chicago native has since recovered and is currently in the midst of a fine season on the ATP tour.

The 28-year-old Spadea is best known for losing an unfathomable 21 consecutive matches from late 1999 to mid 2000, a most brutal stretch that finally came to an end when the American upended British crowd favorite Greg Rusedski in a marathon five-set opening-round match at Wimbledon. He promptly, however, followed that memorable victory by dropping three straight and 11 of his next 12 encounters en route to a horrific 3-28 season. Spadea lost his first 17 matches in 2000. Ouch!

"I lost the edge, slid downhill," Spadea said. "I lost the passion to win."

I'd say so.

Vincent Spadea
Vincent Spadea is best known for losing an unfathomable 21 consecutive matches from late 1999 to mid 2000.
But that was then and this is now, as the (dare I say it) resurgent Spadea is already 17-9 this year, including trips to semifinals in Memphis and a pair of big Masters Series events in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo.

Just last week he surprised by advancing to the final four on the red clay in Monaco, only to lose to eventual champion Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Spadea also gave way to the eventual champions in both Memphis (fellow American Taylor Dent) and Indian Wells (world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt), so he has nothing to be ashamed of.

The 6-foot, 170-pounder got off to a subpar 2-3 start this year, but has since posted a head-turning 15-6 mark, including a trip to the quarters in San Jose, where the incomparable Andre Agassi would go on to title. Just as a side note, Spadea is 2-3 lifetime against Agassi, including wins in their last two meetings, back in '99, and he also beat the legendary Pete Sampras the last time the two squared off, also back in '99, so there's obviously some big-time talent there.

Spadea was ranked as high as 19th in the world in 1999 before free-falling to No. 229 by the end of the nightmarish 2000 campaign. He jumped back into the top 100 last season, and is currently 31st in the world rankings and a remarkable 10th in the popular Champions Race, which sends the world's top-eight players to the prestigious season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which will be staged in Houston this November.

"My comeback is different from the likes of Agassi, (Jennifer) Capriati, Thomas Muster," he said. "Those guys were inspirational, but they had a different entourage, they had contacts. My comeback came from ground-level."

The hot-tempered Spadea is still seeking that elusive first-ever singles title on the circuit, but he just might be closing in on it, despite going just 1-4 against top-10 competition this year. He beat world No. 10 Thai Paradorn Srichaphan in March in his first-rounder at Indian Wells, where he'd gone 4-0 before succumbing to the reigning Wimbledon champion Hewitt in the semis.

The veteran American has reached two career finals, but none since his quality '99 season.

The son of a former opera-singing father (Vincent Sr.) who also serves as his coach, Spadea will look to improve upon his Grand Slam performances at next month's French Open. The Boca Raton resident was dismissed by world No. 9 Czech Jiri Novak in the first round of the Australian Open back in January, this after going 4-3 in three of last year's four Slams. He's 27-29 overall at the four majors.

Despite turning pro 10 years ago, Spadea has managed to earn a paltry $2.655 million (paltry, of course, if you've been on the lucrative ATP tour for 10 years). That figures out to an average of $265,500 per year, a number he's already eclipsed this season with $283,499 in earnings with nearly seven months of tennis to go. Cha-ching!

Spadea currently ranks fifth among American players, and only two of his compatriots (Agassi and Andy Roddick) precede him in the Champions Race.

"I feel fitter than I have for a long time," he said. "I've worked hard on that. My game has got a lot better and I'm more concentrated."

I think it's safe to say that Vince is back to the form that landed him in the top 20 four years ago.

Scott Riley
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