2002 – 2003, Australian Open
Australian Open, Melbourne
January 14-27, 2002; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
One of the most unexpected major champions in the Open era – Thomas Johansson. The 27-year-old Swede never before played even a Grand Slam semifinal. But the circumstances were beneficial for him during the fortnight: two-time defending champion Andre Agassi pulled out due to injury, main favorite for the title Lleyton Hewitt was already eliminated in the first round, good draw, eventually Johansson’s last opponent – Marat Safin – celebrated too long his 22nd birthday a day before the final.
First round: (Sports Illustrated)
Lleyton Hewitt‘s first time as a No. 1 seed in a Grand Slam event will be one he’ll want to forget. Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament since 1990 when he lost in four sets Tuesday to Spaniard Alberto Martin at the Australian Open. Hewitt, the world’s top-ranked player and first homegrown top seed at the Australian Open since 1976, breezed through the first set, then crumbled to a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) defeat in 3 hours, 33 minutes. Stefan Edberg was No. 1 seed at the 1990 U.S. Open when he lost his opener 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-2 to Russia’s Alexander Volkov. “I was struggling out there,” Hewitt said. “I thought I hit the ball pretty cleanly, but my movement and fitness’ wasn’t there. I knew I was in trouble right from the start. I hadn’t played a serious match for a week and a half or two weeks. I tried to put him under the gun from the first set.” Hewitt said he wouldn’t have played if it wasn’t a Grand Slam, but added that he enjoyed being No. 1 seed for a major. He looked like he might turn the match around when he broke for 2:1 and then 3:2 in the 4th set. But Martin broke back twice and evened it at 4:4. The Australian led 3:0 in the tiebreaker, but fell behind 5:4 when Martin sent him back with a lob and then put away an overhead. Hewitt, who twice during the fourth set called the trainer to attend to blisters on his feet and to massage his hamstrings, waited nervously in the tiebreaker when Martin, leading 5:4, got courtside treatment on both upper legs. Serving for survival, Hewitt hit a backhand out to give Martin two match points and then dumped a backhand into the net. The 20-year-old Australian, who won the Masters Cup last November to finish at No. 1, said Martin’s timeout was unfair, coming at a crucial time. Martin finished 2001 at No. 41 and had notched just one win in four Australian Opens. “I beat good players, but never beat the No. 1 in his home,” Martin said. “I knew that I can beat anyone. The next step is to be every day at a good level.” He rejected Hewitt’s assertion that he’d bent the rules, saying his break was within the laws of tennis, and it was something that’s “happened a thousand times.” Pete Sampras opened with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Jarkko Nieminen of Finland (Nieminen’s Grand Slam debut). The 30-year-old American wasted four match points on Nieminen’s serve at 3:5 in the 3rd, but set up another in the next game with his 13th ace and finished with a service winner. “That’s what I was needing,” he said. “My game was there. I served well, I was putting pressure on his serve.” Sampras said the absence of Andre Agassi helps his bid for a 14th Grand Slam title and his first since Wimbledon 2000. “I’m one of the favorites,” he said. “When I get my game going, I’m tough to beat.” And he said that before Hewitt’s loss. He’d rated the young Aussie a tough favorite and then said: “I’m in that league.” Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1999 Australian Open champion, is the highest seed left in the draw. He’s No. 4. Sampras is No. 8 Tommy Haas, the seventh seed, ousted Russian Andrei Stoliarov 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 and No. 19 Jan-Michael Gambill lost for the fifth consecutive year in the Australian Open’s first round. Wayne Ferreira, ranked 63rd and playing his 45th consecutive Grand Slam event, beat Gambill 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(6). No. 11 Roger Federer won 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 against Michael Chang, who has fallen to No. 94 from his career-high No. 2 ranking in 1996. Other first round winners were veteran American Todd Martin, former No. 1 Marcelo Rios and 20-year-old American Mardy Fish, who knocked out No. 20 Fabrice Santoro 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1. Gustavo Kuerten, not feeling so well, was beaten on Monday by Julien Boutter, a Frenchman ranked No. 53 in the world. Kuerten, the three-time French Open champion and former No. 1, lacked his usual zip and was treated for hip pain. He wasted a two-set lead in losing 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Kuerten left the Melbourne Park complex to get a medical opinion, but he returned not knowing exactly what is wrong or what to do. “It’s already been eight months that I’ve been feeling this,” he said. “I prepared well, but I was still not able to compete on hard courts.” Kuerten has never advanced past the second round of the Australian Open. “After the third set, I couldn’t move,” he said. “I feel like I couldn’t play my game. There’s a lot of pain and it’s no pleasure for me to play like that.” After falling behind in the first two sets, Boutter took advantage of the Brazilian’s sluggishness, sending 91 winners by Kuerten to compensate for 50 unforced errors. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1999 champion and 2000 runner-up, beat German qualifier Michael Kohlmann 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Big servers Goran Ivanisevic and Mark Philippoussis opened with wins. Ivanisevic, the Wimbledon champion, didn’t even qualify for the Australian Open last year. He is seeded 10th this time, and he opened by serving 30 aces in a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Martin Damm. Ivanisevic was *0:3 (15/40) in the 4th set. Philippoussis, playing in his hometown, had 29 aces in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win over Spain’s Galo Blanco in Monday’s last match. Stefan Koubek produced one of the most amazing comebacks in the Grand Slam history defeating qualifier Cyril Saulnier 0-6, 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 8-6. The Frenchman led 4:1* (40/15) in the 3rd set, had also a match point in the tie-break. Koubek rallied also from a 2-set deficit in his following match as he ousted James Blake 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 .
Second round: (Sports Illustrated)
Pete Sampras avoided the growing pileup of injured and beaten players at the Australian Open and stayed on the path to a possible 14th Grand Slam crown. Ordinarily, making the third round of a Grand Slam is no big deal for the former No. 1 player in the world. But with nine of the top 15 men, including the top five seeds, already ousted, Sampras took Thursday’s 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 win over Juan Ignacio Chela with some relief. “Knock on wood, I’m still healthy,” Sampras said. He’s the only player left in the field who reached the final at one of last year’s four majors. He lost the U.S. Open final to Lleyton Hewitt last September. “It’s a sign of where the game is – the game is very deep, a lot of great players,” he said. “You see a lot of upsets, you’re going to have guys that get hurt.” Tommy Haas and Marat Safin advanced to the third round of the Australian Open in Melbourne with straight-set victories today, avoiding the fate of the top five men’s seeds, who are out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. The seventh-seeded Haas of Germany advanced with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over French qualifier Jean-Francois Bachelot, while Safin, the Russian ninth seed, beat Christophe Rochus of Belgium, 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-1. Safin saved four set points in the second-set tiebreaker. The men’s draw lost its 10th-seeded player when Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic fell, 6-3, 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-4, to Jerome Golmard. No. 4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1999 champion and 2000 runner-up, lost by 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to qualifier Alex Kim. “I don’t think it’s really hit me yet what’s just happened out there,” Kim said. “But I’ve worked really hard in the last month or so, and anything can happen in a Grand Slam. I felt confident going into the match – not that I was going to win – but that I was hitting the ball well and I think I had a good shot.” Spain’s Francisco Clavet ousted No. 5 Sebastien Grosjean 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4, a day after the Frenchman woke up with a sore neck. Grosjean rallied from a 1:4 deficit to tie it at 4 in the final set, but then lost the next two games. He was able to convert only seven of his 14 break points in the match. “It was a tough season for me so it’s kind of not surprising that it (injury) happened,” said the Frenchman, who was a semifinalist last year in the Australian and French Opens and runner-up to Hewitt in the season-ending Masters Cup. Grosjean will take a revenge five months later overcoming Clavet in four though sets in the Roland Garros first round. No. 15 Arnaud Clement, last year’s losing finalist here, lost to Argentine Gaston Gaudio, and Andy Roddick withdrew while trailing 6-7(11), 2-3, giving Ivan Ljubicic a spot in the third round. Roddick had set point at 8:7 in the tiebreaker when he fell and landed awkwardly (he had set points also at 6:5 & *7:6). Hobbling from point to point, unable to race forward to the net or backward to retrieve lobs, he needed treatment twice to continue. Roddick hurt his ankle in the first round and had it strapped “like a cast” Thursday to avoid further damage. He quit when the trainer said he was risking serious injury. “It’s pretty crushing,” Roddick said. “It’s happened a little too much. It’s just really disheartening.” Ljubicic, ranked 37th, said he kept 100 percent intensity despite his hobbling opponent. “I played one of my best matches. I was very aggressive from the beginning,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that he wouldn’t finish.” Clement had 62 errors and lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(3) to Gaudio, who had never gone beyond the first round in six previous Grand Slam appearances. No. 17 Carlos Moya, the 1997 runner-up here, became the 19th seeded player to exit the event when he lost 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-6(5), 6-2 to Rainer Schuettler of Germany, who will now play No. 11 Roger Federer. Federer trailed Hungarian Attila Savolt 2:4 in the 3rd before winning four consecutive games and clinching a 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 victory on an ace. Todd Martin raced to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Belgian Xavier Malisse, and Frenchman Nicolas Escude saved two match points and rallied from two sets down to beat Spaniard Alex Calatrava 2-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in almost 4 hours. Escude will meet Sampras in the next round and gives himself a good shot at a win. “Pete isn’t invincible,” he said. “He’s no longer No. 1. Last year, he didn’t win any Grand Slams. So there’s room to squeak through.” Former No. 1 Marcelo Rios overcame Slovakia’s Karol Kucera and will meet Alberto Martin in the third round. Martin, the 41st-ranked Spaniard who ousted top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, rallied for 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over Michel Kratochvil of Switzerland.
Third round: (ESPN)
Pete Sampras doesn’t have to contend with Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt or several other contenders long gone from the Australian Open. Sampras wasted seven match points (led 6:3* in the 4th set tie-break, Escude staved off a triple match point in the 8th game of the decider), but finally capitalized in a match that ended around breakfast-time on the East Coast. Still, Sampras’ drive for a 14th Grand Slam tournament title is far from easy. He needed nearly 4 hours to get past Nicolas Escude 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 in 3 hours 50 minutes in the third round Saturday. Pistol Pete’s reward for that tough victory? A fourth-round meeting with No. 9 Marat Safin, who beat Sampras in the 2000 U.S. Open final. They’re the only two men left in the tournament who have won a major title. Despite the grueling outing against the 30th-seeded Escude, No. 8 Sampras said, “I feel pretty good. That training I put in during the off-season was well worth it.” He is striving for his first title in 1½ years (2000 Wimbledon) – last year was Sampras’ first without winning a tournament since 1989. His chances have looked good in Australia, especially after Agassi pulled out with a wrist injury and Hewitt lost in the first round. A series of big-name dropouts, in fact, has left Sampras as the third-highest-seeded man still around. Sampras needed all of the patience and experience he’s gathered over the years to eliminate Escude, who has a history of success in long matches. At the 1998 Australian Open, Escude came back three times from two-sets-to-none deficits on his way to the semifinals. He overcame that same hole in his second-round match this year against Alex Calatrava. Escude has said he patterned his serve-and-volley tactics after Sampras’ game, and the two men quietly went on with their first meeting in almost mirror-image fashion. Sampras came to the net 117 times, winning 67 points; Escude came in 105 times, winning 69. The match was interrupted twice by bugs on the court apparently setting off the machine that detects serves going beyond the service line. Sampras said his experience helped in the fifth set. “It’s just being out there in a lot of big matches,” he said. “When I was younger, it might have taken me a few matches to recover from that. It’s a matter of keeping your composure, and I think I did that pretty well.” In other men’s action, Tommy Haas advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday, but needed to work extremely hard to make it there. Haas outlasted Todd Martin, 6-7(8), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 (Martin led 2:0* in the 4th set, 30/0 at 4-all on Haas’ serve) in a match that lasted nearly four hours. Haas and Martin were involved in a heated exchange after their marathon match. The pair argued with each other for almost a minute after the fluctuating match before finally shaking hands and leaving the court. Haas, who staged a mighty comeback to win, was upset that Martin questioned him over why he took a break in the fifth set to have his ankle taped when he did not appear to be injured. Haas took offence at Martin’s remark, telling the American he wanted his ankle strapped as a precaution because he twisted the same foot during a tournament last year. “He made a statement in the fifth set because I was running so well,” Haas said. Martin, a former president of the ATP Player’s Council and one of the most respected players in the game, said his comment was made in jest but Haas had misunderstood him. “He ran down a few balls that I couldn’t believe he got to, even if he was healthy, so I gave him a little hard time,” Martin said. “I said: ‘are you sure your ankle is okay?’, and he, like everybody else, doesn’t understand my sense of humor, I guess.” Martin, a finalist at the Australian Open eight years ago, looked to have the match under control when he grabbed a two sets to one lead only to fade in the scorching heat. Marcelo Rios also advanced, beating Alberto Martin with a behind-the-back service return, a crucial underhand volley and steady play. Rios connects for a backhand volley during his third-round victory. Rios, the former top-ranked player who had not reached a Grand Slam tournament’s round of 16 since the 1999 U.S. Open, kept Martin on the run in a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory. A.Martin, who ousted top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, was threatening a comeback in the third set. He held serve for a 6:5 lead despite a stunning return by Rios, who was leaning the wrong way, spun around and accidentally blocked the ball with the racket behind his back. Martin rushed in for the short return but hit a forehand into the net. “I’ve got to see that on TV tonight,” Rios said. In the next game, Rios saved three set points to reach 6:6. In the tiebreaker, he gained match point with a two-hand, underhand reflex volley when Martin blasted a backhand at his feet from short range. He won when Martin netted a forehand serve return. Rios was the 1998 Australian Open runner-up to Petr Korda, but has been set back by a series of injuries. He had surgery on his left ankle surgery last June. After a week of cool weather, hot summer temperatures returned to Melbourne on Saturday, and Rios said he was tired and in danger of cramping. “I think I played pretty good at the important moments,” he said. “I’m not hitting the ball as clean as I used to, and I’m missing more than I used to, but my game is more mature.” Compatriot Fernando Gonzalez, a qualifier, also has reached the fourth round (eliminating Alex Kim in straight sets). The 21-year-old Marat Safin closed out Mikhail Youzhny with an ace – his 12th – and had 36 winners compared to his opponent’s 16. Roger Federer, seeded 11th but now the No. 5 player in the field after a rash of early injuries and upsets, defeated Germany’s Rainer Schuettler 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 6-4. Schuettler led 5:3 in both tie-breaks and 3:0 in the 3rd set. Nicolas Lapentti rallied for a 4-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Argentina’s Gaston Gaudio in 4 hours, 11 minutes. Gaudio, a first-round loser in his last six Grand Slam events, had reached the third round here by upsetting No. 15 Arnaud Clement, last year’s Australian Open runner-up to Andre Agassi. Gaudio led *3:1 (40/0) in the 3rd set, Lapentti improved his 5-set record in Melbourne to 7-1. Wayne Ferreira, just like Stefan Koubek two rounds earlier, survived an epic encounter trailing two sets to none. The South African saved a match point against Ivan Ljubicic at 1:5* (30/40) in the 3rd set to win 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3, 7-5!
Fourth round: Christopher Torchia
Tommy Haas shouted at himself, made funny faces, hummed during a changeover and received code violations for ball abuse and wasting time. But the flamboyant behavior of Haas, seeded No. 7, helped him win a five-set thriller against No. 11 Roger Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday. “That’s the way I play,” said Haas, the highest-ranked man left in the draw. “I always need some pep talk. I must yell at myself.” Unlike his behavior, the 23-year-old German’s tennis was disciplined and brilliant in what he described as one of the best matches of his career. He saved one match point (5:6) when Federer hit a backhand return into the net before winning 7-6(3), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 8-6. “In the fifth, we were pooped and it came down to one or two points,” said Haas, a silver medalist in singles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “That’s what we play tennis for, to play matches like this.” Federer, 20, agreed the quality of tennis was high on center court in the Rod Laver Arena. “I don’t think there is something you can point that which made a difference today because there was no difference,” the Swiss said. Pete Sampras‘ ambition of a 14th Grand Slam victory this weekend were ended by Marat Safin of Russia in Melbourne today. Just two days after winning his third-round match with Nicolas Escude at 1.45 a.m., Sampras was involved in another late-night finish, with Safin’s 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(8) triumph coming at 12.25 a.m. The match alsted 3 hours 33 minutes. Sampras came back from a 2:4 deficit in the 3rd set, took the third-set tie-break and had two set points in the fourth-set tie-break before Safin won it on his second match point, appropriately with a wonderful winner. Thirty-year-old Sampras was overwhelmed in the first two sets, but showed superb battling qualities to keep his hopes alive. The seven-time Wimbledon champion lost his serve once more in the fifth game of the second set and the flying Safin’s stranglehold tightened as Sampras weakly netted a forehand to fall two sets down. He looked thoroughly deflated and Sampras also appeared angered by a comment from the crowd after questioning a line-call. At least Sampras opened the third set with an ace, but he was broken again in the third game and since he had yet to break Safin the end looked nigh. But he summoned the will to pressure Safin at 3:4 and got the break back. At 5:5 Safin was exasperated by a line-call and at the changeover Portuguese umpire George Dias gave him short shrift. “It would be easier to win the lottery than over-rule at over 200 (kilometres per hour) down the centre,” he said. The set went into a tie-break and Sampras – fighting for his life, letting out loud yells and rousing an already animated crowd – took it. Safin, told to stop complaining early in the fourth, needed to dig deep, but in the end was a worthy winner. Former world number one Marcelo Rios made his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in nearly three years with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 win over Nicolas Lapentti at the Australian Open on Monday. Rios strolled to victory over the Ecuadorean 23rd seed in less than two hours to continue his best run at a major since he made the last eight at the 1999 French Open. But the erratic Chilean was far from happy with his performance, saying he was still a long way off his best form. “I used to play much better. Every time I compare myself with the Rios before, I think I was much better then,” he said. Jonas Bjorkman, who won 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-4 against Tim Henman, said: “His strategy was certainly a little different than I was expecting. Maybe he was trying to change a few things to try and get to my weaknesses. My return of serve is a bit better than Rusedski’s, so I sort of felt he would feel the pressure and need to go for it a bit more.” The Swede won the tie-break in amazing circumstances, he fought off the set point despite Henman’s four volleys, then at 6-all on Henman’s overhead responded with a winning overhead! His compatriot, Thomas Johansson, the 16th seed, had come storming back from losing a first set tie-break to beat Romanian Adrian Voinea 6-7(8), 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. Wayne Ferreira sealed a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(4), 9-7 win over Spain’s Albert Costa with an overhead smash after 4 hours, 10 minutes to advance to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since 1994. The 30-year-old South African, who served for the match in the fourth set before losing the set in a tiebreaker, dropped to his knees and then ran around the court waving in celebration. At 5-all in the final set Ferreira saved two mini-match points.
Quarterfinals: (Sports Illustrated)
Seventh seed Tommy Haas battered his way past the mercurial Marcelo Rios and into the semifinals of the Australian Open 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6(5) on Wednesday. Former world number one Rios, a runner-up at Melbourne Park in 1998, could not handle the power of the German’s lethal serve or backhand. “My serve was the key I think… whenever he had some chances to break me my serve saved me,” Haas said. Haas, a losing semifinalist here in 1999, powered through the night match in 3 hours 17 minutes to set up a semifinal with Marat Safin. Safin, seeded ninth, earlier reached the last four after just seven games when Wayne Ferreira retired with a stomach strain while trailing 5-2. Haas and Rios exchanged early breaks in the opening set but the Chilean grabbed another break in the 9th game with a whipped backhand down the line to give himself the chance of serving for the set. Haas broke back to stay in the set, however, taking his second break point with a drop volley after forcing Rios out of position. The pair both held to force a first set tie-break. A double fault and a huge backhand gave Haas a double break for 5:2 and he chased down a rash drop shot for 6:2 and four set points. He clinched it on the first when Rios pushed a backhand wide. Rios, still angry at a line call on one of his serves, was given a code violation at the changeover for calling umpire Jorge Diaz “stupid.” Haas kept his concentration throughout, though, and broke Rios for a 4:3 lead in the 2nd set. Having held for 5:3, he earned a set point when Rios rifled a backhand into the net. The Chilean saved it with a swinging serve but a game later Haas served out for a two-set lead as Rios’s frustration grew. Dangerous when he is down, Rios began hitting out and grabbed a break for a 3:1 lead in the 3rd set. But Haas hit straight back, breaking him to get back on serve at 3:2. The pair were neck-and-neck in the third set and needed another tie-break to separate them. Rios got the early break and kept it to stretch into a 4:1 lead. He tore a backhand cross court for 5:1 before serving out to pull a set back. The form that saw Rios become world number one in 1998 returned as he hit winners from seemingly impossible angles to break once more at the start of the 4th set. But the volatility which has dogged his career was also present and he allowed the German to break back. Haas kept his nose in front moving within four points of the match after holding for 5:4, but Rios held firm. Haas edged ahead again with a superb service game, crunching down 125 mph-plus deliveries for 6:5. Rios forced another tie-break and again Haas’s serve came to his rescue. He smashed down his 21st ace for a 4:1 lead then cracked a backhand crosscourt winner for 5:1 to move within two points of the semifinals. He missed his first service point but a 22nd ace gave him 6:3 and three match points. Rios saved the first with a big serve of his own, then hit a breathtaking drop volley to save a second but dumped a backhand into the net on the third as Haas claimed victory. Thomas Johansson reached his first Grand Slam semifinal when he ended fellow Swede Jonas Bjorkman‘s Australian Open charge with an efficient 6-0, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. Bjorkman upset sixth-seeded Tim Henman of Britain in the previous round, but met stiffer resistance in his quarterfinal against his friend and 16th seed Johansson, who reached a career-high ranking of 14th last June. “I’ve been to the quarters twice at the U.S. Open but this is something else, it’s a great feeling,” Johansson said. In Tuesday’s last match, No. 26 Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic beat Stefan Koubek of Austria 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour, 25 minutes to move into the semifinals against Johansson. Johansson, who last reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2000 U.S. Open, gained a key break of serve in the 9th game of the 4th set when he planted a volley past Bjorkman and served out the match on Rod Laver Arena after 2 hours and 35 minutes. “In the first set, I was playing maybe my best tennis ever,” Johansson told local television. His heavy serve blunted Bjorkman’s flashy array of groundstrokes and often got him out of trouble as Bjorkman started to find range after the first set. He blasted 15 aces past Bjorkman and had his opponent on the back foot with plenty of service winners. “It’s very tough to serve against Jonas because he is maybe the best returner on the tour,” Johansson said. In a surprisingly easy start for Johansson, Bjorkman dropped serve three times in an error-strewn opening set. Bjorkman fought back in the 2nd set, but Johansson backed his strong serve with well-timed net rushes and a string of backhand passing shots. “I still can’t believe this is happening today,” Novak said. “It is just an unbelievable feeling. I think that I was playing so well today… I know Stefan very well and it was a very hard match for me mentally. It was the first time on center court for me in a quarterfinal. I was very nervous.”
Semifinals: (Sports Illustrated)
A cooling rainstorm was just what Marat Safin needed. Saying, “I had no chance to win if it didn’t rain,” Safin took advantage of a 50-minute delay in Friday’s Australian Open semifinals, winning 11 of the final 13 games against Tommy Haas to advance to the second Grand Slam final. The 2000 U.S. Open champion, whose 22nd birthday coincides with Sunday’s final, was trailing the seventh-seeded Haas two sets to one when rain forced the suspension. With the roof of Rod Laver Arena closed and the temperature dropping from 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) to 24 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit), Safin used his booming serve the last two sets to win 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-0, 6-2. “Thank God it started to rain,” said Safin, who was leading 1:0 in the 4th set when the rain came. “I needed the break and God gave it to me.” The semifinal lasted 4 hours, 28 minutes (3:40 hrs on the court), including the interruption. Safin’s quarterfinal win over Wayne Ferreira lasted just 28 minutes before the veteran South African quit with an abdominal strain. The Russian admits he doesn’t like the heat. He held both arms up in triumph when the semifinal was suspended. “I didn’t make any miracles,” Safin said. “I just didn’t give him any chance after the break. I made the break (of serve) straight away, because he wasn’t warm enough. I took this chance and I started to serve better and I started to return – I changed completely the game.” Haas said he was “in the groove after I won the third.” But “after (Safin) came out, he picked up his game. The roof was closed, it was a bit more like an indoor game. It just didn’t go my way. Mentally I was totally there, (but) my legs weren’t there anymore. Once you’re a step late to a shot, you’re not going to make them.” It was a good omen for Safin, who also got the benefit of rain during his winning run at the U.S. Open two years ago. He won the opening two sets of his third-round match against Sebastien Grosjean, but wilted in the heat as the Frenchman rallied to even it at two sets apiece. He used a rain break then to shower and change socks, then returned to oust Grosjean and went on to take the title. Before the break Friday, Safin needed a medical timeout for cramping and heat stress. He later needed treatment for blisters on his hands. In the first set tiebreaker, a forehand volley miss that left Safin trailing 4:6. Haas then won it with a backhand down the line. Haas again broke first in the second and Safin broke back. The ninth-seeded Russian gained a 5:3 lead in the tiebreaker with two winners and cashed in his second set point with a heavy serve. Haas saved a break point at 2:2 in the 3rd set with a diving forehand drop volley that left him sprawling over the Rebound Ace hardcourt. He gained the key break for 4:2 by saving two game points with backhand winners. He clinched it when Safin sent a forehand return long. Safin got a massage and changed his socks during the rain delay. After the restart, he conceded just 11 points in the 4th set, including five after he earned three set points at 0/40 in the sixth game. He won his opening serve in the 5th set before Haas held serve to snap a seven-game losing streak. But the German dropped his next service game to fall behind 3:1, and never caught up. Safin, meanwhile, improved his serve game and fired his 17th and 18th aces at 217 kph (135 mph) and 216 (134 mph) as he took a 4:1 lead. He clinched it on a double-fault by Haas, whose best previous result at a Grand Slam event was a semifinal appearance here three years ago. “There was no excuse,” Haas said. “It was more a physical thing at the end. I don’t think my legs wanted to go any more. I don’t think the break helped me much. I had to start all over again and he came out on fire. That’s just the way it is.” Swede Thomas Johansson fought back from an alarming mid-match slump to beat Czech Jiri Novak 7-6(5), 0-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the Australian Open on Thursday and reach his first Grand Slam tournament final. Johansson, the 16th seed, threw his racket in the air in delight after he claimed the semifinal on his fourth match point against a tiring Novak, who pushed a forehand wide and long after 2 hours and 51 minutes on Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park. “This is like a dream come true for me,” a delighted Johansson told local television. The 16th seeded Swede looked likely to fall short after Novak completely dominated the middle stages of the match, Johansson littering the court with 63 unforced errors. Johansson gradually fought his way back against 26th seed Novak and broke the Czech’s serve for only the third time in the match in the final game of the 5th set. “I was really nervous, I haven’t played in the semifinals of a grand slam before and was really tight,” Johansson said. “I was maybe a little bit too relaxed after first set… but for the whole match I was really fighting.” Both playing in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, the two 26-year-olds relied on their strong service games as a foundation while they probed for signs of a weakness in a dour first set. That pattern continued through the first-set tie-break, with neither player able to gain an advantage until Novak pushed a forehand just wide. Johansson then hammered a service winner to take the tie-break 7/5. But Novak quickly got back on track when he broke Johansson’s opening serve in the 2nd game of the 2nd set, the Swede pushing a tentative backhand long for the first break of serve in the match. Growing in confidence, Novak then broke Johansson’s serve twice more in the second set as the Swede’s unforced error count grew at a rate of roughly two to Novak’s one. Johansson regrouped early in the third set, rediscovered his serve and drew Novak into long baseline rallies. But the Swede undid that good work in the 10th game of the third set with more errors and then a double fault to hand Novak three break points. Novak needed only one and claimed the set. Johansson finally managed to break the Czech’s serve for the first time in the 5th game of the 4th set – only his third break point opportunity of the match – when he drew Novak into a long baseline rally at 15/40 and punched a forehand winner. He repeated the feat four games later, pushing the match into a fifth set decider when Novak netted a backhand on Johansson’s seventh set point in a game that went to deuce eight times. Johansson then turned the match firmly in his favour against a tiring Novak at the start of the fifth set and cut down his high error rate. Neither player had made it past the third round in Melbourne before, with Johansson’s two U.S. Open quarter-finals in 1998 and 2000 his previous best Grand Slam results. “First of all I have to enjoy this victory then go and try to prepare myself for Sunday, I think I’m going to be really nervous for there, too,” Johansson said.
Final: (Sports Illustrated)
After one of his earlier victories, Thomas Johansson described himself as uninteresting. When he finally reached a Grand Slam final, on his 25th try, he was dazzling. Johansson used heavy serves and combinations of top spins, slices, flat drives and lethal drop shots to break down Marat Safin‘s power game Sunday, winning the Australian Open 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(4). The low point of Safin’s bad day on his 22nd birthday came in the final tiebreaker, when Johansson slugged a backhand crosscourt passing shot that left him sprawling, and trailing 4:0. Safin rallied from 1:6 to 4:6 and then drew Johansson in with a drop shot – but then lobbed long, giving the 16th-seeded Swede the $520,000 winner’s check. “I wished that it was going out. I felt that it could have hit the line,” Johansson said. “You cannot compare anything with this. You’ve dreamt about it. I’ve seen it on TV but I never thought I was going to be standing there on court.” Johansson acknowledged one problem on his way to victory. “I was close to missing the match because my coach forgot to call a car. We had to get a taxi,” he told the crowd of about 15,000 at the end. Publicly wishing Safin a happy birthday, Johansson added: “He’s turning 22 and I’m 27. I’m almost over the hill. I feel old here. I was lucky to win today.” Safin, who beat Pete Sampras to win the 2000 U.S. Open, told Johansson it was important to “enjoy it as much as you can.” The Russian said the second set changed the match completely. “I didn’t feel comfortable on the court today,” Safin added. “He was overpowering me from the baseline. It’s very unusual for me, somebody playing the backhand better than me. He was on fire.” Safin suggested that the dozens of Swedish fans in the crowd also gave Johansson confidence. Johansson made few mistakes after losing serve on the 1st game of the match to give the Russian the only service break he needed to take the set. Double faults hurt the ninth-seeded Safin in the service breaks that cost him the second and third sets. In the second, Johansson reached deuce on a drop and lob combination. Four points later, after a double fault, Safin hit a backhand into the net and the Swede had a break for 2:1. In the 3rd, Johansson started the 7th game with a drive and drop-shot combination, and gained a break for 4:3 when Safin double faulted on the last point. In six other games in the match, Safin had to save break points to hold. Johansson started the 4th set with a break on errors by Safin, and had a break point for 3:0. But Safin held and then broke for 2:2 with a backhand winner down the line. At 6:1 in the final tiebreaker, Safin saved three match points with a forehand winner, an unreturnable serve and a miss by Johansson before his lob went slightly too long. Unlike in the women’s final Saturday, when defending champion Jennifer Capriati labored in 95-degree heat to overcome Martina Hingis, the men played under generally gray skies with temperatures no higher than 81. Both served at up to 130 mph, with Johansson winning the battle of aces 16-13. A lustily cheering band of blue-and-yellow-clad Swedes greeted most of Johansson’s aces with a chant ending in “We like it!” Stefan Edberg was the last Swedish player to win a Grand Slam title, taking the 1992 U.S. Open. “These two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life and today was just a dream come true,” said Johansson, who earned $520,000 for his seventh career tournament win. “It was unbelievable and I don’t have words to say just how happy I am.” Johansson became the second-lowest seeded player to win the Australian Open in the Open Era. Unseeded Mark Edmonson won the title unseeded in 1976. No 16th seed had ever won a Grand Slam crown in the professional era. Stats of the final
Australian Open, Melbourne
January 13-26, 2003; 128 Draw (32 seeded); Surface – Hard
Perhaps it was the best opportunity for Lleyton Hewitt to win his home Grand Slam event. The young Australian entered the tournament as the best player in the world second straight year. He encountered an amazing service display of Younes El Aynaoui in the 4th round though. The Moroccan extended brilliant disposition to his another match with Andy Roddick, which caused a new record in terms of games played in the deciding set. 33-year-old Andre Agassi captured his last major title beating an unheralded finalist Rainer Schuettler.
First round: AP
Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan started center court play at the Australian Open today with power and precision. The 11th-seeded Paradorn, who improved his ranking by 110 places in 2002, beat Austrian Jurgen Melzer 7-5, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0. Paradorn bowed Thai-style, with folded hands, to the crowd in Rod Laver Arena after forcing repeated errors by Melzer in the final set and watching a forehand volley by the Austrian sail long on the second match point. The honor of starting play in the main stadium went to Paradorn after a year in which he won two titles and scored victories over Andre Agassi (Wimbledon), Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin. He warmed up for the Open by winning another tournament earlier this month in India. Paradorn’s best result at past Australian Opens was reaching the second round in 2000. Against Melzer, he placed his serves effectively, kept the Austrian off balance with a crisp backhand and generally controlled play from the baseline. “It’s really special for me to play the first match on Monday, to open a Grand Slam, and I appreciate it,” said Paradorn. In another Asian victory, South Korean Hyung-Taik Lee, fresh from winning a warmup tournament in Sydney, beat Spain’s David Ferrer 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Andre Agassi overcame Brian Vahaly 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. He broke serve eight times against Vahaly, a former All-American at the University of Virginia. French Open champion Albert Costa needed more than three hours for a 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(5) victory over Germany’s David Prinosil, who had to qualify for this tournament. Costa, seeded eighth, reached the Top 10 for the first time last year despite skipping Wimbledon to concentrate on his new marriage. He wed longtime girlfriend Cristina Ventura five days after winning at Roland Garros. No. 5 Carlos Moya defeated Belgian Dick Norman 7-5, 6-3, 6-4; No. 12 Sebastien Grosjean, a semifinalist in 2001, beat Fernando Meligeni 6-4, 6-2, 6-3; and No. 14 Guillermo Canas beat Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. Wayne Ferreira, playing in his 50th Grand Slam tournament, ousted No. 26 Tommy Robredo 5-7, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. Men’s No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was stretched in his first-round match – arguing close line calls throughout his 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-2 win over Swedish qualifier Magnus Larsson, who was in his 11th consecutive Australian Open. 33-year-old Larsson played only two tournaments more and retired. In the fourth set, Larsson pounded Hewitt with a string of unplayable forehands, frustrating the young Australian, forcing errors and winning it – with his 18th forehand winner – in a tiebreaker. Hewitt, who breezed through the first set in 28 minutes and dropped serve only once throughout, finished it in 3 hours, 13 minutes with a backhand down the line. No Australian has won the Grand Slam on home soil since 1976 and Hewitt has never gone beyond the fourth round. He went out in the first round last year, suffering from a bout of chickenpox. “I’m feeling a lot of relief after last year,” said Hewitt , the reigning Wimbledon champion. “I think the sour taste that was left after last year, I could come out here and get rid of it. I’m going to get better from here.” He had 46 winners and 36 unforced errors, while Larsson produced 41 winners and 61 unforced errors. Facing a Frenchman for the first time since clinching the deciding match of the Davis Cup final in Paris last month, Russian Mikhail Youzhny dropped a set before winning 3-6, 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 over junior world champion Richard Gasquet. Fellow Russian Marat Safin, seeded third and a runner-up here last year, recovered from shoulder problems that sidelined him last week and beat Dutchman Raemon Sluiter in four sets. Former No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, a three-time French Open champion who now is seeded 30th, beat Morocco’s Hicham Arazi 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-3 and No. 6 Roger Federer beat Brazil’s Flavio Saretta 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-3. Saretta had two break points at 4-all int he 1st set, a set point at 5:4 in the 2nd set and 3:0 lead in the 3rd. Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian advanced when France’s Jerome Golmard quit after three sets with a back problem. The Argentine said his recent form was a statement. “Before Wimbledon, nobody knew me. After, everybody watches me,” said the 21-year-old Argentinian, who is seeded 10th here. Last year’s semifinalist, No. 7 Jiri Novak, overcame American Vincent Spadea and No. 20 Xavier Malisse of Belgium defeated Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Feliciano Lopez ousted fellow Spaniard Alex Corretja, seeded 15th, 6-7(3), 7-6(9), 7-6(6), 6-3. No. 9 Andy Roddick, a quarter-finalist at the last two U.S. Opens, came back from *1:4 in the third set and a set point down at 5:6, and defeated Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan 6-7(9), 6-2, 7-6(0), 6-3 in a match that ended at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday. Krajan, ranked 106th, had rebounded from *1:4 and saved five set points in the tie-break.
Second round: Phil Brown
Three-time champion Andre Agassi breezed to a second-round victory over Hyung-Taik Lee in the Australian Open today, losing only one game in the match. Lee, who became the first South Korean to win an ATP Tour title last Saturday, took the first game with three clean ground-stroke winners and a miss by Agassi. Another winner and two misses by Agassi gave Lee three break points against the second-seeded American’s serve before Agassi turned the match completely around. He answered by winning 13 straight points himself on his way to a 6-1, 6-0, 6-0 victory. “I was seeing the ball pretty well,” Agassi said. Fourth-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero, who lost to Lee in the Adidas International on Saturday, reached the third round here by beating Jean-Rene Lisnard 6-0, 6-4, 6-2. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, besides Agassi the only former men’s champion in the field, lost 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1 to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen. Kafelnikov won the Australian in 1999 and was runner-up in 2000 but was seeded 22nd this time. French Open champion Albert Costa, seeded eighth, advanced with a 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Australian wild-card Scott Draper . In the 2nd set Draper was twice a break down and rallied from a 0:4, 3:6 & 7:8 in the tie-break. Lleyton Hewitt ought to send Mardy Fish a thank-you note. Fish, a 21-year-old from Vero Beach, pulled the biggest men’s upset at the Australian Open so far by knocking off No. 5-seeded Carlos Moya 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in a second-round match Wednesday. In doing so, the 77th-ranked Fish not only raised his profile considerably, he eliminated Hewitt ‘s nemesis from the tournament. Hewitt and Moya were on course to meet in the final, which would have spelled disaster for the world’s top-ranked player. Moya leads the series 5-2 and did not concede a set to Hewitt the past four times they played. Instead, it is Fish who advanced to the third round, his best showing in a Grand Slam since he turned pro in 2000. The win over Moya was his second in as many weeks over the Spaniard. Fish beat Moya in three sets to advance to the quarterfinals of the Sydney tuneup event last week. “I didn’t really expect to beat Carlos twice in a row,” Fish said. “I was just in the locker room with my coach [former pro Kelly Jones] and all we could say was `Wow!’ ” Wow, indeed. Fish has steadily improved the past three seasons, jumping from No. 304 in 2000 to No. 141 in 2001 to No. 77 now. Two young American men hoping for their first real splash at a major reached the third round with victories Wednesday: Andy Roddick and James Blake. No. 9 Roddick, the younger brother of former Georgia tennis player and coach John Roddick, overpowered Romania’s Adrian Voinea 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, and No. 23 Blake beat Argentina’s Jose Acasuso 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Top seed Lleyton Hewitt brushed aside fellow Australian Todd Larkham 6-1, 6-0, 6-1. “I don’t feel the pressure too much,” Blake said after beating Acasuso “I think Andy took that burden off all of us by carrying that burden on his own. We were all hearing, `Where’s the next generation of American tennis when Sampras and Agassi retire? What’s going to happen?”‘ After 3 hours and 34 minutes, seventh-seeded Jiri Novak, a semifinalist last year, edged Belgium’s Olivier Rochus 7-6(3), 7-6(5), 4-6, 4-6, 6-3. Meanwhile, other Czech player Radek Stepanek, who climbed from 547th to 63rd in the rankings last year, knocked out three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, who never has advanced beyond the second round in the Australian Open. Stepanek won 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 47 minute. Kuerten appeared to be back on track despite seeing a *4:1 lead evaporate to 4-all in the 4th set, breaking the 24-year-old in the 9th game to take the match into a 5th set. But Stepanek proved the stronger in the decider, breaking Kuerten’s serve in the 7th game and holding on for the biggest win of his career. “I didn’t play a bad match, it was just a couple of shots here and there.” said ‘Guga’. No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan, a Thai who rose 110 places in the rankings last year and was given the honor of playing the opening match on center court, played another match on the same court (this time in night session) and lost 3-6, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Australian Mark Philippoussis, the 1998 U.S. Open runner-up. Philippoussis had only two break points in the last two sets and converted both (12th and 8th game). No. 31 Rainer Schuettler ousted 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Krajicek led in all three sets with a break: 3:1, 3:0 & 4:1 respectively.
Third round: Lisa Dillman
Andre Agassi bunted, blocked and even hit baseline winners off his shoelaces to fend off Nicolas Escude in the third round of the Australian Open. Escude attacked Agassi’s serve and rushed to the net 65 times. The Frenchman hit 60 winners and had 20 breakpoint chances, but still ended up falling 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday. “My experience in these Grand Slam tournaments is you need to play well at the right time,” said Agassi , a three-time Australian Open winner. “Today was a day that was pretty dangerous for me. It was a question of playing the big points well. I thought Nicolas was hitting the ball really well, timing it superbly on the returns, putting me under a lot of pressure. So it’s good to get through.” The second-seeded Agassi, riding a 17-match winning streak in the event, will face Argentina’s Guillermo Coria in the fourth round. Coria beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. “I was down many break points throughout the whole third set. I felt like it was love-30 or 15-40 every time I went to the baseline to serve,” Agassi said. “I hit a few good shots down breakpoint, bustled, he made a few errors.” Escude wasted six break points in the ninth game of the third set. “All you can have after a match like that is regrets,” Escude said. “When I think of the number of chances I didn’t take, it was a catastrophe. I take no satisfaction from that kind of match, just an enormous feeling of frustration. I’ve never been so close to beating him and I’ve never felt so bad after.” Escude must have forgotten he had wasted three match points against Agassi in Basel ’99 🙂 Felix Mantilla eliminated French Open champion Albert Costa, seeded eighth, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 in an all-Spanish duel. Another Spaniard, fourth-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero, beat France’s Fabrice Santoro 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira rallied to beat American Mardy Fish 2-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0; Fish led South African veteran Wayne Ferreira, 4:1 (40/30)*, in the 4th set, but unraveled in unsightly fashion, losing the final 11 games. The meltdown included a fifth-set tantrum over a perceived missed line call, a smashed racket and a healthy smack against the chair umpire stand. Santoro charged the net 165 times on Vodafone Arena. No. 12 Sebastien Grosjean of France defeated Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 6-1, 6-3, 6-3; and Mario Ancic, the 18-year-old Croat who is the youngest player remaining, beat Australia’s Peter Luczak 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-2. The fashion icon with an innate sense of style, a big serve and an even bigger forehand created a palpable buzz on the marquee stage, Rod Laver Arena, today at the Australian Open. If you are thinking it was Serena Williams, well, of course that’s not a bad guess. Instead it was James Blake, who signaled his official and highly anticipated arrival, reaching the final 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time. Blake faced off against a clever Alberto Martin of Spain, who had enough moxie to put out Lleyton Hewitt in the first round here last year. Martin’s court coverage is superb and unsettling, but Blake had enough patience and power to handle it, winning, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, in the third round in 2 hours, 32 minutes. The 23-year-old finished strongly, hitting four of his five aces in the final set, and will next play German Rainer Schuettler, who obtained a walkover from Marat Safin, who had been coming back from a shoulder injury, said an injection helped him through his second-round victory over Spain’s Albert Montanes but afterward his left wrist swelled up badly. Safin, a right-hander who hits a two-handed backhand, said it was diagnosed as a cut ligament. “I had a little jitters in the beginning. Once I got through that it felt good,” Blake said. “After I lost the second set, it was kind of a wake-up call for me to keep playing my game.” No. 18 Younes El Aynaoui, a U.S. Open quarter-finalist last year, beat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(3), 7-6(8). El Aynaoui concluded five consecutive sets in tie-break (two against Lopez, 3 against Hewitt next round).
Fourth round: Phil Brown
Younes El Aynaoui overpowered Lleyton Hewitt with his serve (33 aces) and big forehand Monday, knocking the top-ranked player out in the fourth round of the Australian Open. The Moroccan, seeded 18th, beat Hewitt 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 6-4 – Hewitt led 4:2 in the last tie-break – derailing his hopes of becoming the first Australian winner of the home Grand Slam tournament since 1976. Hewitt, known as an outstanding returner, had only three break chances in the match as El Aynaoui served at speeds up to 131 mph. “I gave it everything I had and he was too good,” said Hewitt, the 2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion. “It’s tough at the moment, but I’ve got to not get too dejected and bounce back strongly. It was just too hard the way he was serving today. It was a little bit out of my control.” El Aynaoui ran around to hit forehands from all corners of the court, and at all angles. In the final game, he reached match point with a leaping overhead smash and then won the 3 1/2-hour match with a forehand into Hewitt’s backhand corner. “I hope I didn’t give away all the power I have – there are still more matches left,” El Aynaoui said. The 31-year-old El Aynaoui reached only his third Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal. His second was in the U.S. Open least year, where he lost to Hewitt in four sets. El Aynaoui had the first service break in the fourth set’s seventh game. At 30-all, Hewitt hit a passing shot attempt wide, and then double faulted. Meanwhile, Andy Roddick became the second American in the men’s quarterfinals, rebounding from two sets down to beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. Counting two previous losses to Youzhny, Roddick had lost six consecutive sets against the Russian Davis Cup hero before staging his comeback. He pulled out a tight third set with a heavy serve return that Youzhny hit wide, gained an early break in the fourth set and broke twice in the fifth, ending with a low shot that Youzhny volleyed into the net and three unreturnable serves. “Midway through the third set, I was thinking whether there was a flight out tonight,” Roddick said. “I was a little frustrated but I didn’t let it get the best of me.” Youzhny led 2:1 with a break in the 3rd set when he lost his serve for the first time. He entered Monday’s match with a 3-0 career record in five-set matches and a 2-0 record against Roddick – both in straight sets: “Even when I was down, I felt for some reason like I still had a chance.” Another American hope, James Blake, lost 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to Germany’s Rainer Schuettler, who gained the fourth round when 2002 runner-up Marat Safin withdrew with a wrist injury from a fall in an earlier match. Schuettler, a 26-year-old German who had never reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal before, rebounded from early service breaks by Blake in the first two sets. In the final set, the two traded service breaks in the fourth and fifth games, and Schuettler gained the key break in the sixth when Blake double-faulted. Schuettler finished with a forehand down the line that Blake couldn’t handle at the net. The 23-year-old Blake, playing in a Grand Slam event’s fourth round for the first time, had 35 errors, compared with 19 by Schuettler. “When you’re playing for something that’s really important, the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam, it hurts,” Blake said. “I learned something. You can’t play the same tennis in the second week as you can in the first.” Schuettler’s quarterfinal opponent will be 10th-seeded David Nalbandian. The Wimbledon finalist ousted No. 6 Roger Federer 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3. Nalbandian led 3-0 in their rivalry at the time. Juan Carlos Ferrero seems to think there is little distinction between himself and the likes of Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi. Really. Positive thinking is one thing, but there is one obvious point which really can’t be debated. The category is Grand Slam titles and the order is clearly defined: Agassi – Seven, Hewitt – Two, Ferrero – Zero. The young Spaniard does seem a decent proposition to join the elite group someday. He reached the French Open final last year before turning into a nervous mess in a loss to countryman Albert Costa. Sunday, he landed in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time, showing impressive form in a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Mario Ancic of Croatia. “I think there is no favorite here in Australia right now,” said Ferrero, who next plays Wayne Ferreira of South Africa. “Why? Because the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, there is no difference between us. I think we play at the same level when we play good. There is no more the difference.” Andre Agassi lost one set in his first four matches. His on-court time Sunday was limited to 48 minutes when his opponent retired in the second set. Agassi led, 6-1, 3-1, when Guillermo Coria of Argentina quit because of an injured foot. Agassi will meet 2001 semifinalist Sebastien Grosjean, a 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Felix Mantilla in 3 hours 37 minutes. It was Mantilla’s fourth consecutive five-set match. He became the second man in the Open Era to play four consecutive 5-setters in a major (previously Eliot Teltscher did it in Paris in 1979). Grosjean actually didn’t exist in that match with his biggest weapon (forehand) until the floodlights were fully activated midway through the 3rd set.
Quarterfinals: Herald Wire Services
They bowed to the crowd and walked off the court together well after midnight, exhausted after playing one of the longest and most riveting matches in Grand Slam history. In a match that lasted a minute shy of five hours, Andy Roddick outlasted Younes El Aynaoui in a 40-game fifth set Thursday to reach the Australian Open semifinals. “Strategy was out the door; it was just pure fighting,” Roddick said. Roddick of Boca Raton won 4-6, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 in a match lasting 4 hours 59 minutes. So weary were the players that at 19:19 in the fifth, they each handed their rackets to ball boys to rally while they took a breather. “Younes is a class act, and I’m truly humbled by this victory,” Roddick said. At 2:23, it was the longest fifth set in the Open era, which began in 1968. It topped Mark Philippoussis‘ 20-18 win over Sjeng Schalken in the third round at Wimbledon in 2000. The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam that plays a tiebreaker in the fifth set. On El Aynaoui’s last service game, his left leg was shaking with fatigue. “My legs were feeling a little bit heavy at the end,” he said. “Andy kept serving really hard.” His physical shape was good enough to joke with John McEnroe in the on-court interview right after the match though. The 83-game match was the longest at the Australian Open in more that 30 years. The longest Australian Open match in terms of time was 5:11 – Boris Becker‘s victory over Omar Camporese in 1991. The longest Grand Slam match was 5:31 when Alex Corretja beat Hernan Gumy in the third round of the 1998 French Open – but that match was played over two days because of rain. The Roddick-El Aynaoui quarterfinal ended at 12:47 a.m. when the Moroccan netted a forehand volley following an exchange at the net. The pair embraced over the net. They took a deep bow and left the court together, arm in arm. “With the way the world is today to see those two guys go at it – the No. 1 Arab and the No. 1 American – with the kind of attitude they did, they both set a fine example,” said El Aynaoui’s coach Jeff Tarango, who is American. While both players had harsh words on occasion for the French chair umpire Pascal Maria – “Grow a spine!” Roddick shouted after Maria declined to overrule a call in the third set – they frequently acknowledged each other’s best shots. Roddick, 20, becomes the youngest semifinalist at Melbourne Park in 11 years, advancing to the last four at a major for the first time. “This match is the kind you have to win in a Grand Slam – these are the big matches,” Roddick said. He will meet Rainer Schuettler in the semis after the German ousted Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 in the other quarterfinal. ”It’s like a dream come true. First time I’m in the semis,” said Schuettler, who is in his 18th Grand Slam tournament. ”I won it in four, it’s unbelievable.” Roddick had lost in the quarterfinals twice at the U.S. Open but had never advanced this far in a Grand Slam outside his home country. El Aynaoui, seeded 18th, was aiming to be the first Moroccan into a Grand Slam semifinal. El Aynaoui, 31, had a match point on Roddick’s serve in the 10th game of the fifth set, Roddick fought it off with an inside-out forehand winner then served for the match in the 22nd game but was broken. It was his first win from a match point down. El Aynaoui had nearly twice as many winners as unforced errors, 107 to 55. Roddick had more than three times as many, 102 to 31. El Aynaoui upset top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt of Australia in the fourth round by serving superbly, getting 70 percent of his big first serves into play. Against Roddick, who did not break his serve in the first three sets, he put 71 percent into play with 25 aces. Roddick had to settle for 62 percent, striking 27 aces and just two double faults. “Even though both of us played well, it’s the law of sport that there has to be a winner and a loser,” El Aynaoui said. “You have to accept the defeat and congratulate the opponent when he deserves it. Andy went after this match. I didn’t give it to him. He fought hard, and at 20, it’s really a credit to him.” Andre Agassi moved to within two victories of his fourth Australian Open title Tuesday by beating Sebastien Grosjean, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Grosjean put in only 47 percent of his first serves, and won only 34 percent of the points on his second serve. The 32-year-old Agassi had beaten Grosjean 10 days earlier in the final of the Kooyong Classic warm-up tournament. And the last two times Agassi won that event, in 2000 and 2001, he won the Australian Open. An injury kept him out last year. “I make a guy really pay the price to beat me,” he said. “Where I feel like it’s been a good tournament for me up to now is … I haven’t spent any unnecessary energy.” And now he has more than 48 hours to rest before playing Wayne Ferreira in the semifinals. The 31-year-old Ferreira, the only unseeded quarter-finalist, upset French Open runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 6-1. Ferreira called it “one of my greatest wins.” The South African is playing in his 49th consecutive Grand Slam event, but the match against Agassi will be his first semifinal at a major since the 1992 Australian Open. Ferrero led 2:0 in the first two sets, he was also serving at 5:4 in the 2nd set as he squandered three set points.
Semifinals: Tony Harper
Rainer Schuettler had too much energy for a tired and bruised Andy Roddick. Schuettler beat the ninth-seeded Roddick 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 this morning in the Australian Open to advance to the final against three-time champion Andre Agassi. Schuettler, the German seeded 31st, finished off the American in 2 hours, 19 minutes, breaking Roddick at love with a backhand down the line. Roddick outlasted Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui 21-19 on Wednesday in the longest fifth set in Grand Slam tennis to advance to the semifinals. He injured his wrist during a fifth-set fall and consulted a tournament doctor before the match. “I knew going out there it was sore but it didn’t get better,” Roddick said. “I thought if the adrenaline started pumping – it’s a very strong thing – but it just didn’t happen.” The 20-year-old American never considered retiring from the match. “It was tough but I went out and tried my best,” he said. “I wasn’t going to pull out of another Grand Slam – it wasn’t going to happen.” A hamstring injury forced him out of a third-round match against No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the 2001 French Open. Andre Agassi advanced Thursday with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira. Roddick tripped and fell over a plant box at the edge of the court, where he’d picked up an Elmo doll that had tumbled down from the bleachers, and fell behind 4:2 when Schuettler drilled a forehand winner on break point. “Right now I’m really speechless,” Schuettler said. “Sometimes you have a chance to realize a dream. You have to have dreams otherwise it’s pretty boring.” Schuettler’s longest previous match in the tournament was 2:18 against Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian. The German got the benefit of a walkover into the fourth round when No. 3 Marat Safin withdrew because of a wrist problem. In all, Schuettler had spent 7:53 on court before semifinals, while Roddick had been on court for 13:55. “He won the big points when he had to… he played a smart match,” Roddick said. “All credit, he deserves to be in the final.” Roddick received treatment from trainer Bill Norris for his tired muscles and cuts and grazes on his hands and knees following his scrambling victory over El Aynaoui in 4:59. The match finished at 12:47 a.m. Thursday, 1:50 after Roddick saved a match point at 5:4 in the fifth. The last set lasted 2:23. After improving to 11-0 against Ferreira, Agassi was asked if he is getting better. “I can’t be that objective about myself,” he said. But when pressed, Agassi added: “I’m stronger, faster, and I have 17 years experience, so my vote is probably ‘Yes.’ I’m always striving to improve, and hopefully I’m accomplishing that.” He’ll play in his 14th Grand Slam event final Sunday. Agassi lost to Pete Sampras in last year’s U.S. Open title match. Agassi and trainer Gil Reyes have increased his fitness workload. His mental edge is as sharp as ever. “It’s my motivation that I can always improve,” Agassi said. “That’s what I’m fueled by, so I want to believe I’m better, you know?” Agassi is not afraid to celebrate his victories. The trademark bow and kiss to the four points of the center court arena might look tacky from a younger, less successful player. From Agassi it delights. Winning “is a great thing,” he said. “This is what you play for. These are the moments you remember, so it’s very special for me.”
Final: Phil Brown
Andre Agassi just keeps getting better with age. The 32-year-old Agassi overwhelmed Rainer Schuettler right from the start and breezed to his fourth Australian Open title 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 Sunday, becoming the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles crown in 31 years. “There’s not a single day that’s guaranteed or promised to us, and certainly days like this are very rare,” Agassi said. Agassi won his eighth Grand Slam championship. And the victory might also have been enough to lure his wife, Steffi Graf, out of retirement. Agassi had said earlier that if he won this tournament, Graf would be his partner for mixed doubles in the French Open. After the final point, Agassi gave a quick wink into the stands at Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles before she stopped playing three years ago. “There’s one positive thing: I think everyone’s looking forward to the French Open,” Schuettler said, said drawing laughs from Agassi, Graf and the fans. Agassi was the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972 at 37. “You never know when it’s your last, but I’ll never forget being here,” Agassi told the crowd at the trophy ceremony. “I’ll never forget playing for you. I’ll never forget the love and support here. I feel like I’m half Australian.” It was a mismatch from the beginning. Agassi sent back Schuettler’s first serve back so hard that the German player could only push it long. Agassi won the first eight points of the match. When Schuettler finally won a point to start the third game, he raised his hands in mock triumph. Agassi now has won the Australian Open four of the seven times he has entered. He also had won in 1995, 2000 and 2001, but injured his wrist on the eve of last year’s Australian. The second-seeded Agassi was in complete control throughout the match, finishing off the 31st-seeded Schuettler in one hour, 16 minutes. Agassi matched the most-lopsided victory ever at the Australian Open. By losing only five games, he tied the mark last done in 1926 when John Hawkes defeated Jim Willard 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. Overall, it was the most-lopsided Grand Slam men’s final since John McEnroe lost just four games to Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1984. “There’s not a lot to say,” Schuettler said. “I tried my best, but he was simply too good for me today.” To go with his four Australian wins, Agassi has won two U.S. Open titles and once each at Wimbledon and the French Open. He’s also lost six Grand Slam finals. His eight Grand Slam titles tie him at sixth with Rosewall, Connors, Ivan Lendl and Fred Perry. Agassi also is the fourth man to win at least four Australian titles. Roy Emerson had six, and Rosewall and Jack Crawford four each. In extending his winning streak at this tournament to 21 matches, he lost only 48 games in seven matches this time. Agassi collected $654,000 for winning, bringing his career tournament winnings past $26.3 million. Schuettler collected $327,000 to add to his previous total of $2.3 million. The 26-year-old Schuettler never had reached even a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this year. His best previous record was reaching the Australian fourth round in 2001. He gained one break when 2002 runner-up Marat Safin withdrew from their third-round match with a wrist injury. Agassi’s 55th title. Stats of the final