Youzhny bets on Australian Open

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Chennai, Jan 1 (UNI) Russian Mikhail Youzhny hopes to be in full flow at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam Event of the New Year, which will begin in the third week of January.

Youzhny said he was getting into the groove slowly and one could expect him to be in full flow at the Australian Open.

The World No 19 easily won his opener against Jiri Vanek in his first outing at the Chennai Open yesterday. But he is not particularly happy with his serve.

''I'm working hard on it. It's one area I need to improve,'' the Russian said.

Youzhny wants to be at his best in the new season.''I will try to play as best as I can. I will be happy if I can break into the top 10. But at the moment, I will take it match by match,'' he said.

He is playing in the Chennai Open for the second time. He lost to Peter Wessels in the second round in 2001.

But the Russian is a much improved player this time and commands respect from other top players.

Youzhny had played some good matches against World Number 2 Rafael Nadal. The 217-minute marathoner in the 2005 Australian Open and the pre-quarters match at last year's Wimbledon were memorable.He had beaten him once in Dubai last year.

However, Youzhny's fortunes had been fluctuating last season. He clawed back from Number 24 to Number 10 in world rankings in August.

But a slump saw him finish the year at 19.

Asked about a possible meeting with Nadal again, this time in Chennai, he said '' I enjoy playing him and I am looking forward to it.'' Asked why he opted to play in Chennai vis-a-vis Doha, he said ''just for a change. I have been practicing in Thaliand, which is very close. But I will be back here again.'' UNI VV KVV GM RKM RN2040

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