Looking for lift-off

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 October, 1997, 12:00am

LAST year's finalist, Vince Spadea, is hoping this week's Marlboro Championships can provide him with the same launching pad which propelled Australia's Patrick Rafter to tennis stardom.

American Spadea was beaten by Rafter in last year's final, then watched the Australian go on to have his best year on the circuit, winning the US Open and soaring to number three in the world.

Spadea is hoping success at Victoria Park will resurrect his career, which stalled this year because of injury.

'I reached the final last year playing some of my best tennis,' said Spadea. 'I beat [Jonas] Bjorkman in the semi-finals and narrowly lost to Rafter in the final.

'Look where they are now [Bjorkman is 13th in the world]; and it all started for them here in Hong Kong. I'm back at my best after four months of injury and I can go one better at the tournament this year.' Spadea meets Spain's Albert Costa and Australian Scott Draper in his preliminary-group matches.

He has also teamed up with Chile's Marcelo Rios for the doubles, and their first match is against Draper and Boris Becker.

Spadea, 23, hit a career-high position of 54 in the ATP world rankings last year, but his injury problems saw him drop to his current 91st place.