Pocket Rochus

January 31, 2005

For a player believed to be the most diminutive Top 50 male in the Open Era, 5'5" Olivier Rochus has been producing Brobdingnagian results of late. After reaching the semis and final of the Adelaide and Auckland tune-ups, respectively, the 24-year-old Belgian made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open before losing a nail-biter to fourth seed Marat Safin (above), 4--6, 7--6, 7--6, 7--6.

Rochus goes entire matches without hitting an ace, but he offsets his power deficit with a beguiling combination of accurate shotmaking and blinding foot speed. He also plays a mean game of doubles--he and Xavier Malisse are the defending French Open champions.

It's tempting to wonder how Rochus would fare if tennis had weight classes--if he didn't surrender almost a foot in height and 65 pounds in heft to opponents like Safin. But Rochus, who will enter the top 40 in the next ATP rankings, doesn't give it a thought. "In tennis," he says, "the bigger player doesn't always have the advantage." --L.J.W.

COLOR PHOTORICK RYCROFT/AP (ROCHUS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)