2000 – 2001, US Open
US Open, New York
August 28-September 10, 2000; 128 Draw (16 seeded); Surface – Hard
20-year-old Marat Safin won the event, one year younger Lleyton Hewitt reached his first Grand Slam semifinal (the Australian triumphed in doubles becoming the youngest man to get a Grand Slam doubles crown of the Open era at the age of 19 years 6 months). Both youngsters were praised a lot by the best player of the previous decade – Pete Sampras. It seemed they would be the rulers of the 00s: Roger Federer at the US Open ’00 snapped his worst losing streak, Andy Roddick just made his major debut whereas Rafael Nadal hadn’t even played his first Futures, and no-one heard about him outside Spain.
First round: Steve Wilstein
As leaden as Pete Sampras looked, he served well enough to overcome an even slower Martin Damm of the Czech Republic, 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-4. It was that kind of day at the National Tennis Center, when heavy, muggy weather took a toll on players and fans alike after nearly two hours of rain interrupted matches early in the afternoon. In the cooler, breezier night air, top seed and defending champion Andre Agassi had no trouble dispatching NCAA champion Alex Kim of Stanford, a wild-card entry, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. Sampras, never happy when he has to play in heat and humidity, went through more towels and shirts in his opening match than he usually does in a week. He didn’t run much, but he didn’t have to, relying instead on 22 aces and Damm’s tendency to make the occasional inelegant error. Damm obliged in the first-set tiebreaker with an overhead he slugged long for a mini-break to 5:2, and once again a few points later on a double-fault at set point. Damm finished with 12 double-faults to only four by Sampras. At 5:5 in the second set, Damm did himself in again when he chased down a baseline shot, hit an apparent winner, then watched like a spectator as Sampras flicked a backhand half-volley over the net. Damm’s late sprint to the ball cost him the game, and Sampras pumped his fist in his one show of emotion in the match. “First match out, not an easy one to get through,” Sampras said. “A tough opening-round match. I think I can kind of build from this win and hopefully play a little bit better against Gimelstob.” Torpid performances infected many of the matches, including No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov‘s 6-7(5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 comeback against 116th-ranked Orlin Stanoytchev. The match lasted 2 hours 45 minutes. For the 29-year-old Bulgarian player it was the last Grand Slam match in career (record: 1-6). Patrick Rafter was back in the spotlight in Arthur Ashe Stadium with his high-kicking serve, crisp volleys and bouncing ponytail. It was just the place and time for Galo Blanco to shine. As Tuesday turned into Wednesday, Blanco rallied from a 2:4 deficit in the fifth-set tie-break to eliminate the two-time U.S. Open champion 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(5). The 3-hour, 2-minute match ended at 12:07 a.m. Although Rafter was unseeded for the first time since 1997 and just recovering from shoulder injury, he was considered a threat to win the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The threat was wiped out by a Spaniard who has had problems winning on any surface this year. The 23-year-old Blanco had lost in the first round in 13 of his 16 previous Grand Slam tournaments. In his best performance in a major, he reached the quarterfinals of the 1997 French Open where he bumped into Rafter and lost in straight sets. ”That was my most important match in my life,” Blanco said early Wednesday morning. ”So I beat him here in this tournament, and he beat me there in my tournament. That’s life.” The short Blanco served career-best 18 aces (Rafter 24). ‘We both fought very hard out there,” Rafter said. ”I’m happy with the way I fought, and I tried to win. Some days it just doesn’t go your way. Tonight was one of those. He put in a good performance there. Just too good on the night.” Rafter’s dismissal ended a long day that also saw the shocking loss of second-seeded Gustavo Kuerten, the reigning French Open king. He was booted by Wayne Arthurs, an Australian left-hander  known more for his doubles play, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(1). Kuerten became only the second No. 2 seed to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open since 1956, when the present system of seedings started. The only other time it happened was in 1994, when second-seeded Goran Ivanisevic was ousted in his opener. Arthurs, a qualifier, pounded out 26 aces, the final one a 134-mph blazer on match point. Told that Kuerten was one of the favorites to win this tournament, Arthurs said, ”Not any more.” Kuerten had opportunities against the go-for-broke Australian but failed to cash in. He was 1-for-9 on break point chances. “I did not convert the breaks,” said Kuerten, who earlier this month won at Indianapolis for his first hardcourt tournament title. “Things didn’t go my way when I needed them to. I should have won some of the break points I had. If I had taken three or four it would have made the difference. Sometimes I just missed the returns. That’s just the way it went. Sometimes you don’t guess right. Sometimes you do guess right but don’t hit the shot.” Ivanisevic, who may have played his last match in Flushing Meadows, was booed when he finished his match against Dominik Hrbaty on an outside court. Three times a runner-up at Wimbledon, Ivansevic won the first set, then only one more game as he lost 3-6, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. ”I’m undecided to play anymore this year,” Ivanisevic said. ”It’s not fun anymore. My head is a little confused. The battery is empty.” Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt struggled to win a first-round battle of 19-year-old tennis heart-throbs on Monday at the US Open, but took a lesson on how to handle his new-found fame in the process. Ninth seed Hewitt needed 2 hours and 58 minutes to subdue 43rd-ranked Andreas Vinciguerra 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Hewitt lost the first four games but rallied with 17 aces to down his Swedish foe in a first-round match. “I think it was definitely a big step,” Hewitt said of his comeback. “I was very nearly down two sets to love. I really had my face in the ground. But I didn’t push the panic button out there. It was one of my best wins.” Swedish pizzamaker’s son Vinciguerra grabbed a 4:0 lead and broke Hewitt again before ending the first set with an ace. Vinciguerra was serving at 5:4 in the 2nd set before Hewitt stood firm. “I sort of waited a little bit,” Hewitt said. “I wasn’t really positive in my own game right from the start and that’s why I made so many unforced errors early.” It took four break point chances but Hewitt finally cracked the Swede, who netted a backhand and then a forehand to allow the Aussie to level at 5:5. Hewitt finished his serve with two aces then watched a Vinciguerra forehand sail beyond the baseline to take the break he needed to claim the second set. From there Hewitt seized command, having weathered the storm in only his fourth match here. “There are a lot of positives to come out of that match because I didn’t play my best but I still won,” Hewitt said. “When I’m not playing my best and looking at a first-round exit, it didn’t come into my mind at all.” Others most talented youngsters at the time, Marat Safin, Juan Carlos Ferrero (both b. 1980) and Roger Federer (b. 1981) won their matches as well. Safin, seeded 6, unexpectedly lost a set to Thierry Guardiola 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 (served impressive 25 aces, but committed as many as 68 unforced errors), Ferrero ousted Fernando Meligeni in four sets too, whilst Federer snapped his career-worst match losing streak (7) thanks to an injury of Peter Wessels, being two games away (one game in the 4th set) from defeat: 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 3-4 ret. (2 hours 32 minutes). Those guys along with eight (a bit older) others, belonged at the time to an advertiser ATP banner/slogan: “New balls please”. “I think it’s very nice of the ATP Tour to promote us,” Safin said. “Because I think we are the future of tennis. We will be there in two or three years. Sampras and Agassi, they’re not going to play forever, right? So, somebody has to take their places.’‘ Britain’s Tim Henman ousted Spain’s 36th-ranked Fernando Vicente 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Henman avenged a third-round French Open loss to Vicente this year and exorcised the demons of a first-round ouster on the same Louis Armstrong court last year at the hands of Argentina’s Guillermo Canas. “My game is at a different level now,” Henman said. “There’s more consistency with my serving, a little bit better understanding of the way I can maintain levels at a high standard.” His white baseball hat on backward and two necklaces, one beaded and the other silver, bouncing on his chest, Mardy Fish  looked the part of the child prodigy on Wednesday. At 18 years old and playing in just his fourth tournament and first major as a professional, Fish was determined to show that he, like his opponent, Jan-Michael Gambill, should be considered an ascending star. In his first-round match with Gambill on Wednesday, Fish looked like the player who should have been touted. He led the 23-year-old fellow American, two sets to love, and was up a break in the third (4:3), the spotty crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium loquaciously behind him. But the soft-spoken Fish could not hold on. His legs betrayed him as the match stretched into the fourth and fifth sets. He lost to Gambill, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, in the most entertaining match of the day. “I didn’t really get nervous,” Fish said. “I was fired up and ready to play.” Gambill fired 30 aces in a 3-hour, 28-minute battle. An US Open debut notched also Fish’s friend, 18-year-old Andy Roddick , who lost to Albert Costa 3-6, 7-6(5), 1-6, 4-6. It’s interesting that A-Rod was out-aced 14-18 by the Spaniard. Two weeks later Roddick won the junior competition… Magnus Norman projects none of the charisma of Agassi, none of the power of Sampras, and has none of the Grand Slam titles that they possess. Yet, in the quirky way the ATP Tour rankings work, Norman could take over the top spot in the year-end race without even winning a major tournament. In fact, only Norman and Sampras are in position to pass No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, a first-round loser, when the U.S. Open ends. Agassi could win his second major of the year and still not be No. 1. Norman, No. 2 in the race at the moment, took his first step back toward the top spot he briefly held last spring, beating Paul Goldstein 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
Second round: Bob Greene
Andre Agassi‘s summer of sadness ended Thursday when Frenchman Arnaud Clement  upset the defending U.S. Open champion 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Agassi, who reached the final in four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, winning three, failed to get past the second round on the hardcourts of the National Tennis Center. It ended a summer in which Agassi injured his back in a car accident and revealed that that both his mother and sister have breast cancer. And, for the first time in more than a year, girlfriend Steffi Graf was not seen sitting in the stands at one of his matches. For Clement, it was the match of his life. It was the third career meeting between the French right-hander and Agassi – all coming in Grand Slam tournaments. It was the first time Clement has won. Throughout the match, Agassi, known for his quickness and court movement, looked sluggish. Several times he stood on the baseline as a Clement winner zipped past him. And on the final point of the 1-hour, 42-minute match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Agassi looked relieved. Clement never waited for Agassi to find his game. Instead, the Frenchman repeatedly hit deep and heavy shots, moved Agassi from side to side and found the openings for his big ground-strokes. Clement lost his serve to begin the match. It was the last time he trailed the tournament’s top-seeded player. Clement broke Agassi in the ninth game of the final set, then needed five match points to close out the victory. On one, he raised his hands in triumph when he hit what he thought was a second-serve ace. Instead, a let had been called and Agassi eventually won the point to bring the score back to deuce. Four points later, Clement held his hands out in triumph after serving what he thought was an ace. It was called wide. Two points later, he didn’t have to halt his celebration. Agassi had buried a forehand service return into the net. “For sure, he didn’t play a great match today,” Clement said. ‘‘He did a lot of mistakes. I don’t think about him. I just think about me. To win this match… it’s unbelievable because it’s on an unbelievable court. Maybe 15,000 persons. Everybody is for him. It’s my best victory in my career.” Cedric Pioline  overcame Greg Rusedski  in a mammoth five-setter, 6-7(4), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-3 (3 hours 45 minutes), and sweltering conditions at Flushing Meadows to squeeze into the third round of the US Open. The fourth set was a tense and nervous affair and went with serve until 4:3. The Frenchman turned on the power and with Rusedski looking increasingly tense Pioline was able to take a 5:3 lead. Both players were making unforced errors and in a battle of nerves the set went to another agonizing tie-break. With temperatures running high Rusedski failed to capitalize on two match points and eventually lost the set to the Frenchman, who was looking increasingly vibrant. The final set was one long roller-coaster ride. Pioline started in dominant mood but Rusedski, needing massages and drinks to suppress his back spasms, battled back fantastically but to no avail. Pioline completed this epic battle, winning the final set 6-3 despite Rusedski battling to the very end. Both players served 12 aces and 12 double faults! Pioline second straight year won a match at the US Open overcoming a two-sets-to-love disadvantage (in 1999 against Rafter). “It’s always something special to come back from two sets down and save match points to win,” said Pioline, who was runner-up to Sampras in the 1993 Open. Rusedski, who lost to Rafter in the 1997 final, tipped his baseball cap to Pioline. “I have nothing to complain about. He was too good today. But I gave it everything I could possibly do.” Marat Safin also came through a five-set thriller as he edged out the oldest player in the men’s singles (35 y.o.), Gianluca Pozzi  of Italy, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in 3 hours 8 minutes. The 20-year-old Russian needed five match points before finally seeing off the Italian and said: “I wasn’t sure if I could win this match. I was already afraid in the fifth set and I did not play my best.” Magnus Norman was a comfortable winner to become the highest ranked player in the third round. Norman beat French qualifier Cyril Saulnier 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 and clearly feels he can go all the way this week. “I feel great, even though I haven’t played 100 per cent yet,” said the Swede. “I haven’t dropped a set but I feel I have a little bit left. I’m happy with the way things are going.” Pete Sampras loves to deliver a message on the first point of a match, and the one he sent to Justin Gimelstob – a 133 mph service winner up the middle – was emphatic. It was a serve that left no doubt that Sampras was on, that there would be no upset on Wednesday night in the U.S. Open as there had been the night before when two-time champion Rafter tumbled out. Sampras kept pounding out that message, game after game, never losing a service game, and when he served four aces in a row in the final game to run his total to 13, Gimelstob was gone, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. “It was one of those matches where everything kind of clicked,” Sampras said. “I was keyed up. You hope it carries over for the rest of the tournament, but it’s pretty tough to keep that level up. But it can be done.” If he can, Gimelstob thought, nobody will beat him. “I couldn’t hang with him,” Gimelstob said. “He just played much too good for me. Even when I felt like I was on the ball, it was just a little bit out of my reach. He was moving the ball around well and placing it well and obviously hitting it hard. It was pretty impressive.” Viewed as two of the game’s future stars (it sounds a bit weird knowing Henman is almost seven years older, but he began to be a widely recognizable player just two years before Hewitt), Britain’s Tim Henman and Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt played their way Thursday into the third round of the U.S. Open tennis championships. Henman, who this summer has been playing the best tennis of his career, easily defeated qualifier Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 (Gonzalez’s first Grand Slam). Hewitt had slightly more trouble stopping Julien Boutter of France 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4. Everything worked for Henman on Thursday as he dominated his opponent, known more for his prowess on a clay surface. He took 1 hour, 42 minutes to advance to the third round. “I’m not going to try and make out that I played a great match,” Henman said. “I was a question of getting the job done.” The slingshot serve from the hulking Mark Philippoussis crashed into the top of the net, ricocheting into the air on a flight as unpredictable as paper airplane’s. But with whipsaw reflexes, and a little luck, a wide-eyed Jan-Michael Gambill managed to leapfrog the wayward serve as it headed toward his body on the fly. Disaster averted. The ball bounced, and the Aussie’s double fault on break point set up Gambill to serve out the final second-round match of the United States Open. But first, there was the changeover, and time to ponder the moment while a rowdy crowd chanted for the American at Louis Armstrong Stadium yesterday. And yet, as Gambill  sat in his chair, he had the detached stare of a subway passenger. ”If you saw my face, I hope that I betrayed no emotion,” Gambill said. ”Logically, for me to go out there and be too emotional isn’t how I win.” This is how he won. He stayed as cool as Frigidaire in the suffocating heat that coated the grounds on Day 6 of the Open. And only after he calmly finished off a puzzled Philippoussis, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, did he allow himself to punch his fist into the air. Fifth seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov also advanced but needed four sets and 2 hours and 44 minutes to beat Alexander Popp of Germany after going five sets in the first round. He will have to figure out a way to conserve his energy if he is to add to his two career Grand Slam titles. Two other seeds fell by the wayside in minor upsets. Argentine Franco Squillari, the 13th seed, was ousted by South Korean qualifier Lee Hyung-Taik, and 48th-ranked Jerome Golmard emulated Clement by dismissing 16th seed Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 7-6(3), 6-0, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(5) in an epic five-setter that brought the curtain down on a busy day. The 5-set specialist, Lapentti, blew a 4:2 lead in the deciding tie-break set losing four points in a row. Lapentti had won nine previous five-setters, before he began the winning streak, he had lost in a 5th set tie-break to a Frenchman too (Fabrice Santoro at the US Open 1998).
Third round: Steve Wilstein, Janis Carr
There was drama on the courts and drama in the sky, and for most of Sunday at the U.S. Open the sky won. Thunder, lightning and heavy downpours played havoc with the schedule, twice suspending close matches at pivotal moments and sending frustrated fans and players scurrying for shelter. Between the deluges, fans saw some of the best young players in men’s tennis show off their talent. No. 6 Marat Safin, a 20-year-old Russian in his first full year of Grand Slam play, served at up to 138 mph as he won the first two sets against France’s Sebastien Grosjean, in Arthur Ashe Stadium. But Grosjean suddenly started playing with the baseline ferocity of Agassi, and Safin’s game unraveled with unforced errors, as the Frenchman won the next two sets. The first cloudburst hit with Safin serving at 4:4, 30/15 in the fifth set, and the rain delay lasted an hour and a half. When the players returned, they put on a high-quality duel, each of them at their best, and pushed the match to a tiebreaker. Safin, who had already racked up 25 aces, took a 5:3 lead and served to move within a point of victory. But he floated a volley long as rain began to fall again, and the match was suspended once more, this time with Grosjean ready to serve while trailing 5:4. They resumed an hour and 45 minutes later, Grosjean tying it at 5:5, then Safin going to match point at 6:5 with a mini-break on a strong forehand that Grosjean hit wide. Safin didn’t wasted that chance, punching a forehand cross-court that Grosjean hit wide. Safin’s 6-4, 7-6(3), 1-6, 3-6, 7-6(5) victory in the match, which took 3 hours, 9 minutes to play but stretched over 6 hours, 18 minutes with the rain delays – put him into the round of 16. ”I’m here to make history,” Safin said. ”I want to win it, if it’s possible. I am not playing so bad.” For Grosjean, it was the second consecutive year he exited from the U.S. Open after losing a fifth-set tiebreaker (in 1999 to Santoro). Meanwhile, over in Louis Armstrong Stadium, 19-year-old Roger Federer of Switzerland and 20-year-old Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain were engaged their own frustrating confrontation. When the rain stopped them the second time, Ferrero was three points from victory – or three points from a 5th set – as he led 7-5, 7-6(6), 1-6, with the fourth-set tiebreaker knotted at 4:4 with Federer to serve. Their second rain suspension lasted more than two hours – towel crews wiped down their court after attending to Arthur Ashe Stadium – and when they resumed they played only a couple of minutes before Ferrero put away the tiebreaker 8/6 saving set point on return with a brilliant passing-shot off the backhand side. The only match to finish before the rains came was one between two former U.S. Open boys’ singles champions, No. 14 Nicolas Kiefer of Germany and Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. Kiefer won 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to move into the round of 16. They have taken long roads, but different paths, to get to the fourth round of the U.S. Open. Pete Sampras‘ has been a rocky trip; Hyung-Taik Lee‘s an incredible journey. Sampras, a 13-time Grand Slam champion and four-time U.S. Open winner, has found the going rough with close matches in the first three rounds. He needed stamina and guile to outfox Agustin Calleri, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-4, in Saturday’s stifling heat. Lee, meanwhile, is surprised just to be going on in his first U.S. Open. The 24-year-old Korean qualifier won his third match at the Open with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory against Rainer Schuettler of Germany. It was his 11th match victory, a streak that began in the Bronx more than a week ago. Lee’s odyssey from obscurity to a fourth-round match-up against Sampras began when he drove all night after competing in a Challenger event in Binghamton in upstate New York to the Bronx in time to enter the qualifying of the Bronx Tennis Classic. Lee lost in the third round of that qualifier, but got into the main draw as a lucky loser when a player dropped out and he has not lost since. As a qualifier, he has beaten David Wheaton, a 1991 Wimbledon semifinalist, and Jeff Tarango, an American Olympian, during his streak. He is the first Korean to advance past the first round of a Grand Slam event. Lee, who doesn’t speak English, said through an interpreter that he has a “50 percent chance at best” to beat Sampras, a player he never heard of growing up in a small town in South Korea. “The thing I have to be wary of with Sampras is obvious his great serve,” Lee said. “I have to work on my return. If I can return Sampras’ serve… the game will be a good game.” Lee is from Kang Won Do, a farming community best-known for potatoes, not tennis. He began playing at age 8, when an elementary school coach noticed his budding ground-strokes. He then joined the Korean Davis Cup and two years ago, an electronics company decided to sponsor him, paying all his travel expenses. If Sampras said he had never seen Calleri, ranked No.72, you can bet he’s never even heard of Lee, ranked No. 182. But Sampras knows if a qualifier has gotten this far, he must be playing well. “He’s going to come out swinging away, like the guy I played today,” Sampras said. “It’s just a sign on how strong the game is today.” Hyung-Taik was participating in his fifth main-level tournament, the first one in 2000. Another sign is upsets. No.5 seeded Yvegeny Kafelnikov committed 48 unforced errors in losing to Dominik Hbraty, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1. Storms came and went, day turned to night, and after more than eight hours of playing, waiting and playing again in brutal energy-sapping humidity, Magnus Norman barely escaped the biggest exodus of top seeded men in U.S. Open history. His red shirt soaked as if he’d been swimming in it, Norman dropped to his knees and pumped his fist over and over after the final point last night in a 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, 7-6(9) comeback against an inspired but drained and cramping Max Mirnyi. It was the match of the tournament, 4 hours, 6 minutes on court stretched over a torturous, fatiguing day from early afternoon to nearly 10 p.m., with Mirnyi serving 25 aces to Norman’s 5 and racing to the net 173 times to Norman’s 18. The fans who packed the Grandstand court roared all the way, chanting “Let’s go Max!” for the pale Belorussian Mirnyi as they urged him toward an upset. But in the end Norman’s tactics paid off as he ripped a final backhand cross-court that Mirnyi lunged for but couldn’t handle (in the 20th point of the tie-break it was the only mini-break!). “It was unbelievable. I have no words for it,” Norman said. “I got through, that’s the important thing. Many thoughts at the same time. You’re obviously very happy that you pulled it out. But, you know, it takes a few hours before you really know that you won the match. If you ask me now, I don’t really know so much about the fifth set because we were both so into it. It’s kind of empty in the head.” Norman might not want to be reminded, but the 57th-ranked Mirnyi had four match points in the fifth-set, two with Norman serving in the tie-break at 6:7 & 8:9 (earlier Mirnyi led 6:5*, 40/15). On Mirnyi’s last match point, Norman pulled even with a lob winner over the head of the 6-foot-5 opponent into the corner, then took a 10:9 lead with a volley winner before breaking Mirnyi on his third match point. “It was great to be part of that match,” Mirnyi said. “Unfortunately, you never want to go down in a match like that. I just thought that I made him play. This was my choice today. He dealt with that very well and passed me when he needed it. Credit to him.” In two matches extended over two days: Todd Martin, a finalist here last year and the only American left in the draw other than Sampras, had won the first two sets against 10th-seeded Cedric Pioline of France and led in the third, 2:0, when play was suspended. Carlos Moya of Spain led eighth-seeded countryman Alex Corretja, a set and 2:1 in the 2nd. Eventually Martin won 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-2 and Moya 7-6(4), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Earlier, Thomas Johansson of Sweden eliminated Jan-Michael Gambill of Colbert, Wash., 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 7-6(1), one day after the American had upset 15th-seeded Mark Philippoussis of Australia. “I didn’t feel like I was moving very well the whole match,” Gambill said. “I don’t know if that was just a factor of me being lazy or if it was fatigue.” A frustrated Tim Henman was once again left to work on his game after losing a five set marathon to Dutchman Richard Krajicek at the US Open. The British No 1 double faulted when facing a second match point to lose 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. It was a case of Henman’s serve not quite measuring up in a match of high quality. Krajicek hit 25 aces to 4 for Henman, whose 17 double faults over 3 hours and 24 minutes probably made the final difference. “A few years ago, he had a reputation for double faulting under pressure and maybe when things get tough you can get your bad habits back at the tightest moments,” Krajicek said. “It’s tough to get rid of a name.” So despite superb preparation for the final Grand Slam of the year, Henman acknowledged he now has to go look for solutions to problems which seem to affect him during the big tournaments. “I know I can beat everybody,” Krajicek said. “I have been in the top five, won Wimbledon. I’m not afraid of anybody out there.” One break of serve decided in each set, Henman was broken in the 12th games of the last two sets, he had a slight chance to make a decisive break for himself as he led 30/0 on Krajicek’s serve at 5-all in the 5th set – only for the Dutchman to respond in big-serving style, hitting three aces in four consecutive points.
Fourth round: (BBC)
Todd Martin beat Carlos Moya 6-7(3), 6-7(7), 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-2 in another five-set thriller (4 hours 17 minutes – the longest US Open match in 2000). Martin lost the first two sets to Moya but came back to win their fourth round clash at the US Open. Playing to an almost empty stadium, 1999 US Open finalist Todd Martin played to the crowd, emotionally celebrating every point he won. When the match was finally over, a gleeful Martin, smashed his racket on the ground in delight and ran around the stadium slapping hands with fans who were leaning over at the edge of the court: “I feel terrible, but I feel great. It was so nice for the fans to be able to come down. It makes it so much better.” In the 1999 fourth round Martin also won a five-setter against Rusedski that left him depleted of energy and in need of intravenous re-hydration. After Tuesday night’s match, the big American was left with cramp. It was the seventh time in his career that he has come back from two sets down to win a match. battled to go into the second set with the upper hand. After four of the first five points in the tiebreaker were mini-breaks, it was Martin who showed the first signs of weakness, losing his serve on errors on the seventh and 10th points to give the Spaniard a one-set lead. As another 66-minute set went by, this time without any service breaks, Martin lost another tiebreaker. But he allowed Moya to hold serve just once in the 5th game of the 3rd set. In the 12th game of the fourth set, Martin had three set points on Moya’s serve, but was unable to take advantage of the Spaniard’s offering. In the fourth-set tiebreaker Moya had one match point on Martin’s serve on the 11th point, but the American won the final three points to push the match into a decisive fifth set. By that stage Moya’s spirit had gone and Martin took the set easily. Pete Sampras, who holds a record 13 Grand Slam titles, found himself under extraordinary pressure Monday in the 1st set against Hyung-Taik Lee, a qualifier playing in his first major tournament. A nearly full house of fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium delighted in Lee’s nervy, sturdy play amid the sweltering heat and humidity when play began during the afternoon. But after a cloudburst suspended the match with Sampras leading 3:1 in the 2nd set, it took 2 1/2 hours before play resumed. The stadium was virtually empty then, except for a couple hundred fans as the night crowd drifted in. Then Sampras unleashed a 132 mph ace on his first serve and closed out the set by breaking Lee at love. Lee, a strong, quick baseliner who was unruffled by Sampras or the occasion, coped better with the four-time champion and the cool, blustery breezes in the third set before finally going down 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4. Sampras advanced to the quarterfinals, where he will play Richard Krajicek, of the Netherlands, a 7-6(11), 6-4, 6-1 victor over Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia. Krajicek trailed 6:3 in the tie-breaker but saved three set points in a row and three more later, finally ending it with a forehand winner on his third set-point opportunity. Krajicek, the only player to beat Sampras at Wimbledon during the past eight years, holds a 6-3 lifetime advantage over him. “He’s a guy who gives me a lot of trouble,” Sampras said on Krajicek. Sampras also had nice words for Lee. “He was cool as a cucumber. He’s a good player.” Sampras fended off three break points in the sixth game of the first set and won the tiebreaker only when Lee inadvertently touched the net with his foot as he rushed in for an overhead on a short half-volley by Sampras. Lee didn’t yield on his serve until a marathon game in the second set. Trailing 1:0, Lee finally was broken on the eighth break point and 22nd point (8 deuces) of the game when he hit a backhand wide off a strong forehand by Sampras. It was the 11th break point of the match for Sampras, and the first he was able to capitalize on. That was easy to do on a windy, crisp afternoon at the U.S. Open on Tuesday. It was important, too, for Nicolas Kiefer, who never lost his temper in the face of some questionable calls in his match against Magnus Norman. Kiefer shrugged off the bad luck and went on to a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-3 victory over the third-seeded Norman, who was the highest ranked player left after the early bailouts of No. 1 Agassi and No. 2 Kuerten. That put Kiefer, seeded No. 14, into the quarterfinals against No. 6 Marat Safin, who beat practice partner Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. If his emotions threatened to spill over at the bad calls, Kiefer kept them under wraps. “There were very bad calls,” Kiefer said. “Maybe it’s the bonus of the top players, I don’t know. But finally I will get it soon, hopefully. I have to control myself. If I throw my racket or do anything else, I can’t focus on my game. I try to relax, not to show too many emotions. I want to focus on the way I want to play.” It was not always that way. Kiefer’s temper sometimes has gotten the better of him. “You learn year-by-year or week-by-week,” he said. “I mean two, three years ago, I would have thrown the racket from one side to the other side maybe. But now you learn, you get older, you try to behave a little bit more.” So Kiefer simply went about his business, wearing down Norman, who was coming off a marathon five-setter, that included two tiebreakers, against Mirnyi. Norman said the long match against Mirnyi was not a factor and complimented Kiefer: “He played a good match,” he said. “He didn’t make any mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes, too many mistakes.” 59 unforced errors were simply too much for Norman to overcome. Safin, who leads the tour in broken rackets, had no reason to toss any against the 12th-seeded Ferrero in a match of 20-year-old neighbors who train together in Spain. He controlled it from start to finish. It was a dramatic reversal for Safin, who played consecutive five-set matches in the second and third rounds of the Open, each of them over three hours. He disposed of Ferrero in 83 minutes, riding a power game that included 14 aces and a serve that reached 130 mph. The victory gave him 16 wins in his last 18 matches as one of the hottest players on the men’s circuits. Advancing to a quarter-final clash were ninth seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and unseeded Arnaud Clement of France – both of whom will be playing in the round-of-eight for the first time in a Grand Slam. Hewitt crushed seventh-seeded Swede Thomas Enqvist 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 while Clement, who ousted top-seeded 1999 winner Agassi in the second round, overcame Romanian Andrei Pavel 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(5) in his fourth-round test. Also unseeded Thomas Johansson advanced to his second US Open quarterfinals, withstanding 27 aces of qualifier Wayne Arthurs, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4.
Wearing his baseball cap backward, Lleyton Hewitt marched straight ahead to the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Wednesday, defeating Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 with an impressive service performance (18 aces). The 19-year-old Australian became the youngest male semifinalist at the U.S. Open since Sampras won his first Grand Slam title in 1990. Hewitt rode a big serve and kept Clement off balance. Clement had turned heads early in the tournament when he knocked off defending champion and No. 1 seed Andre Agassi. After that, the 22-year-old Frenchman played a pair of four-setters and did not seem to have the stamina for Hewitt, who shares the tour lead this year with four tournament victories. Hewitt came into the Open seeded No. 9 and became the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Andrei Medvedev made it to the final four at the French Open in 1993 at 18. He started the season with a 13-match winning streak that included victories at Adelaide and Sydney. He also won at Scottsdale and Queens with three of his four titles on hard courts the same surface as the Open. Hewitt reached the round of 16 at both the Australian and French Opens but was knocked off in the first round at Wimbledon by American Jan-Michael Gambill. He found his game again and, seeded for the first time at the Open, has been on a roll in the season’s final Grand Slam. “I was hitting the ball a lot better going into Wimbledon than I was going into the U.S. Open,” Hewitt said. Still, he has fared better on the hard courts of the National Tennis Center than he did on the grass of the All England Club. He sees the Open as a chance to prove himself against the tour’s better players. “Obviously, I’m going to have a few nerves semifinals of a Grand Slam,” he said. “I want to put on a show.” Hewitt approached the Open without any grandiose expectations. “It would be stupid for me to come out and say I’m going to win the tournament when I’ve never been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal,” he said. “I gave myself a chance. These courts do suit my game.” Sixth-seeded Russian Marat Safin turned a potential straight sets defeat into a hard-fought victory over 14th-seeded German Nicolas Kiefer at the U.S. Open on Thursday to advance to his first Grand Slam semifinal. Playing his second Grand Slam quarter-final this year, the 20-year-old Russian with the thunderous ground strokes pulled out a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over the speedy German counter-puncher in 3 hours and 5 minutes. Along the way, Safin let an unthinkable number of chances slip through his grasp, converting just 4-of-21 break points. But it was Kiefer who let the match slip away. He served for both the first and third sets, only to allow Safin to claw his way back from the brink each time. “It was a great match from both of us, it was a great fight,” said Kiefer, who had upset third seed Norman to reach his fourth career Grand Slam quarter-final, “It wasn’t trouble with my serve, Marat made great returns.” referring to that he squandered a 5:2 first set-lead, allowing Safin to win five consecutive games to take the set. The deceptively fast German saved three break points in the seventh game to hold for 4:3 in the 2nd set and broke Safin at love in the 10th game to level the match. Safin, who has a huge game but a tendency to lose his cool or let his mind wander, said Kiefer had his full attention when the German was serving for the 3rd sets with a 5:3 lead. “Maybe I was a little bit more concentrated on his serve cause I know I was close to lose the set, so I was a hundred percent concentrated, and I was a little lucky.” Kiefer said about the hottest players on tour: “Magnus and Marat are the guys who played the best tennis for the last eight months. I can say I beat Magnus and almost Marat. It was a very close match. For sure next time I’m going to get revenge.” Indeed, Kiefer won their next encounter, two years later in Dusseldorf. Pete Sampras was staring across the net at the one player who has been able to defuse his atomic serves with his own, and the one opponent who has been able to emerge from their matches with barely a scratch over the years. It was the steel-coated Richard Krajicek. He had taken six of his last eight matches against Sampras, and put together a head-to-head record no other active player has approached. For so long last night, inside a nervous Arthur Ashe Stadium, Sampras looked as if he would succumb to Krajicek’s strange hold over him again. Sampras was in trouble after sleepwalking through the first set, and was about to fall into the abyss when he found himself down by 2:6 in the 2nd-set tie breaker. ”I was getting outplayed,” Sampras said. ”I thought it was going to get away from me. I got lucky. I don’t know how I won it.” Somehow, Sampras pulled off a great escape on his way to a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-2 quarterfinal victory last night at the United States Open. An unflappable Krajicek, who fired 23 aces to just 8 by Sampras. American veteran Todd Martin  was cheered to victory by the partisan crowd in his US Open quarter-final win over Swede Thomas Johansson 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Martin, who lost in the final to Agassi last year, used a single service break in each of the first two sets to take a comfortable lead. Martin was cruising but a loss of concentration saw the Swede, ranked 91st in the world, claw his way back into the match at Flushing Meadows. It looked as though another five-setter was on the cards but Johansson dramatically lost his serve after being ruffled by a controversial umpire’s decision (the Swede led 5:3* in that set). Unseeded Martin stepped up a gear and broke Johansson in the 12th game to set up a semi-final clash with Safin. After the match, a relieved Martin said: “He played a great third set. He served great and made a couple of good plays. I didn’t do well on my volleys. I lost momentum and he picked up.” The Swede was better in aces: 23-18.
Semifinals: John Parson
Although his added experience always looked like being decisive, there was no need for Pete Sampras to review his assessment that Lleyton Hewitt represents “the future of tennis” as he kept the 19-year-old Australian waiting for his first Grand Slam final. By hitting more aces (23-18) and committing far fewer unforced errors (18-45) than Sampras, Hewitt underlined the growing threat to all-comers within his game. The key difference, which explains why Sampras avenged his Stella Artois defeat by Hewitt at Queen’s Club, 7-6(7), 6-4, 7-6(5), was that the American was always a move ahead mentally on the big points, such as when he pounced on the one lapse of concentration by his opponent in each set. One cost Hewitt his second set-point in the opening set as he hesitated and then pulled a forehand wide. Another led to the loss of his serve from 30/0 early in the second set, while in the third Hewitt led 4:1* before Sampras began hitting those spectacular returns as if to tell the Australian: “That’s far enough.” Sampras, though, was fulsome in his praise of the Australian, who has climbed from 22 to establish himself in the top 10 this year. “He’s going to get better and better as he gets older and stronger,” he said. “He has the tools. The main one is his speed about the court. I’ve always felt that Michael Chang was probably the best mover. I think Lleyton is in the same league. He has unbelievable footwork. And he returns great.” Sampras criticized a schedule which means the men’s singles finalists have so little time to prepare for the final. It was 6.30 p.m. when he beat Hewitt, less than 24 hours before the final was due to begin. At the other three Slams, there is a day between semi-finals and the final. “The USTA are more concerned about making a few extra bucks than the players,” he said. Todd Martin always feared that the effort involved in his four-hour epic against Carlos Moya in the fourth round – and three consecutive matches in the relative cool of the evening – would catch up with him, especially on a sweltering afternoon. So it was as he lost the other semi-final to Marat Safin‘s bludgeoning power, 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(1). “I was fighting an uphill battle all the way,” Martin said. The 20-year-old Russian struck 58 winners and recorded, for him, the impressively low total of 26 unforced errors but said he had played “horribly”. Martin did not think so, especially when Safin tormented him with perfectly lofted lobs as the 6’6 American tried to take charge at the net. “I think I played pretty well but it seemed as though he was laughing at me,” he said. Not for the first time, Safin seemed to be doing the same thing at times – against himself. He lost his temper at just one juncture, though – when he was in the process of throwing away a 4:2* lead in the 2nd set to let Martin back into the match. Serving in the eighth game of that set, Safin handed Martin the break with four unforced errors. The last of those errors, a backhand that floated 5 feet long, was too much for Safin, who yelled, looked down, and spiked his racket on the baseline. Later, he proudly noted it was only his second broken racket of the tournament; last season he mangled 48 rackets and, so far this year, he estimates he’s broken 36 or 37. That fiery attitude, Safin insists, is a secret of his success. “I fight. I fight,” he said, flashing a genial smile that he rarely lets out on court. “I never used to fight. I didn’t know what it was. If I’m playing good, I was playing unbelievable tennis. When I was playing bad, I couldn’t win… I couldn’t beat my mother.” Actually, Safin’s mother, Rausa Islanova, is a pretty good player and coach who taught him the game and also coached U.S. Open women’s semifinalist Elena Dementieva. Safin’s father, Misha, is the director of a small tennis club in Moscow. When Safin was 13, they sent him off for year-round coaching in Spain, and he lived there until recently moving Monte Carlo. “I was tired of fighting with my mother, with my parents,” Safin said. “So they decide to send me to Spain. But for this, I thank very much my mother that she put me in the right way to play tennis. Otherwise, I could be, I don’t know, but definitely not great sportsman.”
Final: John Parson
Pete Sampras, who had won his last eight Grand Slam finals, was not just beaten but ruthlessly outplayed by Marat Safin who became the first Russian winner of the US Open. With an amazing almost faultless display of free-wheeling, instinctively aggressive tennis, Safin was a handsome 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 winner in 1 hour 38 minutes. Safin, who collected £550,000, hardly surprisingly tightened ominously as victory beckoned and had to save the only two break points against him in the match. But a weary-looking Sampras missed a forehand to give the youngster championship point, which he took with another wonderful illustration of the backhand cross-court pass that had been so much a part of his triumph. The new champion dropped to his knees to kiss the court before climbing into the stand to hug a small contingent of Russian friends, including Alexander Volkov, a former semi-finalist. Safin, at 20 the youngest finalist since Sampras, who, as a 19-year-old, beat Agassi for the title in 1990, wasted no time in settling, even though the finest player of the past decade opened with an ace followed by three service winners. As usual when two fine servers are matched against one another, the returns make the difference and it was not long in the opening set before Safin demonstrated that he could be the best equipped on the day in this respect. In addition, he was hitting more cleanly and positively than Sampras from the baseline and those qualities neatly came together as Safin stunned the 23,000 crowd by breaking in the seventh game. Though Sampras served his way clear of the first break point, the blistering forehand cross-court service return on the second was a winner from the moment it left Safin’s racket. To add to Sampras’s concern, he needed treatment for a blister which had developed on the base of a big toe when beating Hewitt the night before. As the second set developed, so Safin began to take charge in every aspect. He was serving, returning and volleying with far greater consistency and confidence than an opponent whose body language turned from anxious almost to despair when he was broken again in the 7th game of the 2nd set. Safin, who had hit three stunning winners in the second game of this set, delivered another wonderful double-handed backhand pass to break for 4:3. It was becoming a quite astounding display from Safin, who dropped only eight points on his own serve in the first set and continued to charge through his service games in the second. Doubtless the member of the transport staff who on Saturday asked him to spell his name when he called three times for a car to bring him to the semi-finals, in which he beat Martin, will know it well enough now. The growing fatigue within Sampras’s game was underlined by the careless manner in which he was broken again to lose the second set and there was no prospect of a reprieve for him in the 3rd. The Russian broke again for 2:0. It was hard to believe that a player who had hardly won five matches in the first four months of the year was now closing in on what may be only the first of many major titles to come. Sampras restored some faith among the American crowd chanting his name and telling him to “remember Wimbledon” by serving an an ace to hold for 1:3 but hope was short-lived. Safin continued to crash down winning serves and then counter-punch 120 mph Sampras serves with equal ferocity. For Sampras, there was no hiding place. Sampras was pushed to a very hard work to avoid a double break down in the last set: he saved a break point at 0:3 and two more at 1:4. The Russian serving to win the championships, faced only break points against him in the final (two – saved them attacking the net). And converted his first championship point with a backhand cross-court passing-shot. “I steamrollered over Andre when I won here for the first time in 1990 and this time Marat steamrollered over me. Marat’s a big man with a big game and a big future. I haven’t faced a barrage of shots like that for a long time. The way he played today he can be number one for many, many years. He can be really dominant because of his power” said Sampras. On and off the court there is a refreshing openness about the first Russian to win the US Open. An American asked: “How will this win change you as a man and how will it change your life?” Safin replied in a manner which left one optimistic that he might not: “Explain me one thing. Why do I have to change? Why?” “Are you going to get drunk tonight?” someone else wondered. “Guys, what do you want me to say? Yes, so that you can put it in the press?” Then, after a suitable pause, he added: “Between us, I hope so,” and with that the vodka deservedly started flowing. Safin’s 5th title, two months later he became the 18th number one in the ranking history (since 1973). Stats of the final
US Open, New York
August 27-September 9, 2001; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
The first US Open with 32 seeded players turned out to be the last one with Twin Towers – two days after the final, the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed by Islamist terrorists… Pete Sampras, just like a year before, advanced to the final where he was crashed by a 20-year-old player – in 2000 it was Marat Safin, one year later – Lleyton Hewitt. En route to the final, Sampras beat three former champions, including Andre Agassi after one of the most memorable matches of the Open era, he had held 87 straight service games, but was broken several times in the final because of Hewitt’s phenomenal returns and passing-shots.
First round: Charles Bricker, Dylan Butler
Twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan each played against former U.S. Open champions at Arthur Ashe Stadium, or the “big house,” as Bob Bryan called it Monday. That’s the good news for the Bryan brothers. The bad news is that each lost in straight sets, Bob falling to sixth-ranked Patrick Rafter of Australia, 7-6(3), 6-3, 7-5, in the day session and Mike losing to their idol, second-seeded Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0, in the night session. It was the first time two brothers played in the men’s singles draw together since Douglaston’s McEnroes, John and Patrick, did it in 1992. “It’s really exciting for both of us to get out there and get some exposure on TV, play in this big house,” Bob Bryan said. “We just looked at it as a great opportunity, not a scary draw.” For Bob Bryan – younger by two minutes – it was his fourth Open appearance, all coming as a ‘wild card’ entry. And while he was an early exit, he did provide the day’s, and possibly the tournament’s, top highlight as he staved off Rafter with three straight backhand returns from his knees, to win the point. the court: “I think it’s lucky,” Bryan said. “I was thinking Sportscenter all the way after I hit that. Guys are telling me in the locker room that that’s maybe one of the top 10 points in U.S. Open history. It’s going to be fun to watch over the next couple of weeks.” It was sure fun for Mike, who said he watched Bob’s entire match. “That was sweet,” he said. “That was definitely the point of the tournament.” It was Mike’s turn to perform on stadium court, as he was set to take on his idol Agassi under the lights. At their parent’s home in Camarillo, the 23-year-old Bryan brothers’ bedroom was adorned with a bevy of Agassi posters and their father Wayne joked during his match that they got Agassi’s autograph about 200 times. “It wasn’t that many,” Mike said after the match. “We just got him to sign a couple of posters.” After battling Agassi closely in the first set, which was won by Agassi, 6-4, Agassi took the match over in the second set and cruised to win the final two sets, 6-1, 6-0. “He just doesn’t let up,” Bryan said of Agassi, who ironically shares the same birthday (Apr. 29) as his idol. “Once he gets you on that little string of the yo-yo, you can’t stop him.” While Agassi said he was honored to be thought of so highly by someone else on the tour, he was also cautious. “There’s no greater compliment for a peer to look up to you,” Agassi said. “That said it would have been that much greater of a moment for him to have beaten me.” There was still no dominance from Pete Sampras as he ground and scratched his way through the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday. But for the first time in a long time in a major tournament Pistol Pete exhibited some of fire and feistiness that has been too often missing in this year of his slow decline and that, more than anything else, was cause to rethink the possibility that he could win a 14th Grand Slam here this fortnight. “I played a very dangerous player and it was a good one to get through because I knew the level at which he was playing,” Sampras said after stopping big-serving Frenchman Julien Boutter 6-4, 7-6(4), 7-6(6). “He’s got one of the best second serves I’ve ever played, and he’s serving on a court that’s playing pretty quick. He was serving consistently in the 110s. I had a hard time catching up to it.” In a match in which a palm full of points in each set made the difference, Sampras lost his serve twice but broke Boutter three times and saved some of his best tennis for the tie-breaks. Sampras won only three more points in all against the spirited Frenchman, 117-114, and fought off a set point at 5:6 in the third set tie-break before finally completing the 2-hour, 27 minute-match with a forehand passing shot winner. Andy Roddick of Boca Raton, tabbed by some as a dark horse to win his first Slam, clubbed 17 aces and defeated Slava Dosedel 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. “I got more comfortable after the first set and started rolling,” said Roddick who lost in the first round to Albert Costa in his U.S. Open debut last year. “He [Dosedel] likes pace, but I started playing some slice to mix it up.” In one game in the second set, Roddick hit four consecutive aces. The youngster had 41 winners and 20 unforced errors. “I’ve never done that before,” Roddick said of his four-bagger. “But I had to face Goran [Ivanisevic] at Wimbledon and I know what it feels like. It’s cool to have done it.” A few hours earlier, 24-year-old Jack Brasington of Miami, in his first main tour event, defeated wily veteran Gianluca Pozzi in five sets. Roddick and Brasington will play each other in the second round. The son of former University of Miami running back Jack Brasington Jr. (1968-71), Brasington won 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 7-6(6) saving a match point in the tie-break, but did little loud rejoicing at the end. “I’m excited, but I’m never really too loud in the moment,” he said. He had been only the No. 3 player at the University of Texas in his senior year before taking a job as a volunteer assistant to the Longhorns in 2000. This year he concentrated on playing challenger events to get enough ranking points to make a Grand Slam qualifying tournament. Top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten, the French Open champion, outlasted Daniel Vacek 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Against Vacek , Kuerten used a serve that topped out at 123 mph for 18 aces. But he converted just three of 14 break point opportunities, and 33 unforced errors complicated the task. Out on Court 9 on the first day of the U.S. Open, one of the great anomalies of professional tennis was slicing and dicing, as usual, and had the big, lumbering Swede, Magnus Larsson, muttering to himself and occasionally slapping his forehead in disgust. For years, Fabrice Santoro was the pesky Frenchman whose wide assortment of shots would amuse audiences but only temporarily confuse opponents. This season, it has all come together for the Tahitian-born shot-maker. His 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(6), 7-6(6) victory pushed his record to 33-20 and sent him into the second round against Xavier Malisse, who defeated him in the quarterfinals at Delray Beach this year in a match that had so many great rallies you wished you had a tape of it. “I remember the match,” Santoro said. “I had my chances. So now I have to try to take my revenge.” His feet dance around the court. His hand speed is legion. He saved five break points at 5:5 in the 1st set, one of them with a lob-volley that left Larsson stunned. Standing a few feet from the net with Larsson winding up on a sitter, Santoro faked right, came back to his left and correctly guessed on Larsson’s passing shot. Santoro is 3-3 lifetime against Agassi, 3-3 against Sampras and 6-1 against U.S. Open defending champion Marat Safin. This year on grass at Halle, Germany, he beat Patrick Rafter. “Every time I play against him, I think he’s just joking with me,” Safin said. “Of course you get frustrated and you get scared. You have no confidence.” ”Yea, Goran!” the fan shouted. Goran Ivanisevic turned toward him, grinned and waved, then won the next point to close out his first-round victory at the U.S. Open. The colorful Croat was back on the Grand Slam stage Wednesday, basking in his role as reigning Wimbledon champion. With a near-capacity crowd firmly in his corner, Ivanisevic beat Hugo Armando 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. ”I never saw so many people watching me first round,” Ivanisevic said. ”It’s a great honor that I achieve and people respect me. It’s a great feeling.” And on the third day of the U.S. Open, the prophesy came to pass. Fans flocked to the National Tennis Center to watch tennis and a WWF match broke out. Honestly, can’t the men all just get along? The water cooler talk before the start of the year’s fourth and final Grand Slam event focused on the enmity that coats the top layer of the women’s game. And yet it was Michal Tabara who fired the first salvo, sending a spitball in the direction of his conqueror Justin Gimelstob at the conclusion of their tense, 3-hour slug-fest. Tabara, 22, took umbrage with two injury timeouts that Gimelstob, a Delray Beach resident, required late in the five-set match. The 24-year-old overcame blood blisters on his toes and a strained hamstring to send Tabara packing 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2. Tabara shook Gimelstob’s hand at the net, then spit in his opponent’s direction and said in his native Czech, “You have to go to Hollywood and make some movies.” Translation: “I think you weren’t really wounded, just winded.” Tabara said. “I think he takes injury time because he cannot breathe and cannot move.” Australian fourth seed Lleyton Hewitt came through in straight sets (6-3, 6-2, 7-5) against Magnus Gustafsson, playing in his last Grand Slam event.
Second round: (AP)
If this is where Australian Patrick Rafter‘s Grand Slam tennis career ends, he’s intent on making it memorable, mate. Rafter, who plans on taking a break – maybe temporary, maybe permanent – from the grind of tournament tennis after this year, is through to the third round of the U.S. Open. Not easily. But that’s the memorable part. The two-time winner of America’s premier tennis event advanced to the third round Wednesday night, defeating 5-foot-7 Christophe Rochus 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. After needing a tiebreaker to finish off wild card Bob Bryan in the first round, the sixth-seeded Rafter fell into a 2:5 hole in the 1st set against Rochus before shifting into overdrive. He won 17 of the next 20 games to capture the match. Memorable, indeed. “I was trying to work out the game in the beginning,” Rafter said. “He was counter-punching very well. I knew I’d have my chances to break sooner or later.” Rafter arrived at the Open on a roll. He has reached four straight tournament finals, a streak that started at Wimbledon. The victory over Rochus – Rafter called him “that little fella,” – gave the Australian 32 victories on hard courts this summer, tops on the tour. A startling mixture of heroics and racism dramatically catapulted former Harvard student James Blake to the attention of the American tennis public Friday. Blake, a 21-year-old wild card, was up two sets to one over No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and they were on serve at 2:3 in the 4th. As he went to his changeover chair, Blake called for a bucket that had been brought to the court when he began feeling sick two games earlier and heaved repeated into it. A gasping audience watched Hewitt break him to go up 4:2. Blake broke back to 4:3, but he was now walking stiffly around the court and obviously in great discomfort from heat illness and cramping. He never won another game, going down 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Hewitt’s controversial victory came as the men completed their third round on Day 5. Angrily complaining to chair umpire Andreas Egli of Sweden about linesman Marion Johnson – remarks clearly captured on television audio – Hewitt demanded: “Change him, change him. I’ve only been foot-faulted on one end. Look at him and tell me what the similarity is. I want him off the court.” Both Johnson and Blake are black. “Generally, I’m a positive thinker,” Blake later told reporters. “I give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes maybe too much. But I definitely am going to give him the benefit this time because it’s in competition. You’re doing everything you can to win the match. If you feel you have a couple of bad calls, it can really frustrate you. I know I’ve thrown rackets and gone through tantrums when I’ve gotten a bad call or done things.” “It was a conversation between me and the umpire,” Hewitt said. “I come from a multi-cultured country. I’m not racial in any way at all.” This wasn’t the opponent Jack Brasington envisioned in his U.S. Open dreams. Not this little pipsqueak he used to hit balls with during his free time on the junior circuit. At 10, Andy Roddick wasn’t giving it much thought either. “I was worrying how I was going to get money for a frosty at the vending machines,” said Roddick, whose older brother John was among Brasington’s contemporaries on the circuit. “I wasn’t worried about the U.S. Open.” They came from opposing corners of the tennis world, but Roddick and Brasington met again under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights. The 18th – seeded Omaha native coasted through two sets before battling to prevail 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(4). The victory was Roddick’s 18th in 25 hard – court matches this year. Roddick, who turned 19 on Thursday, is trying to become the first player to win the U.S. Open men’s title a year after claiming the junior crown. “This could work out positively, that I had to battle going into the third round,” Roddick said. “If I would have won 1, 2 and 2, I might not be accustomed because I know I’d have to battle the next match. On the other hand, I would have taken an easy victory.” He had positioned himself for yet another comeback from a two-set deficit in a Grand Slam tournament, but Todd Martin couldn’t quite finish the job against one of the game’s rising tennis stars. The 31-year-old Ponte Vedra Beach resident bowed out of the U.S. Open in the second round yesterday in New York, falling to Spanish teenager Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. It was Martin’s earliest exit since 1998, when he lost to Goran Ivanisevic in the same round. “I had some bad streaks and when that happened, he capitalized,” Martin said in a phone interview after the match. “I’m not going to pout or cry about this one. I didn’t do as well as I liked, but when the day ends, somebody wins and somebody loses. You move on.” Defending champion Marat Safin needed four tie-breaks to defeat Ivan Ljubicic in a 3-hour, 27-minute marathon Thursday to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open. Earlier, ninth-seeded Tim Henman shrugged off a peculiar odd-year Open jinx, defeating Fernando Meligeni 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Safin defeated Ljubicic 7-6 (5), 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(5). After winning the first-set tiebreak, Safin was up 3:0 in the 2nd when Ljubicic took an injury timeout. ATP trainer Juergen Dess massaged his lower back as the Croatian player lay face down on center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The treatment worked. Ljubicic recovered and the two men traded serves of more than 130 mph. Each player managed just one break and their huge serves produced a combined 37 aces – 21 for Ljubicic and 16 for Safin. Ljubicic made 65 unforced errors to 38 for Safin. The end came on Safin’s third match point after he had often been frustrated by mistakes that left him with his head hanging. “He served unbelievable,” Ljubicic said. “It was not just serve. I expected he was going to give me some chances but he played a great match and it just didn’t happen.” Henman, a semifinalist at Wimbledon, has lost in the first or second round of every Open he’s played in an odd-numbered year since his debut here in 1995. Now he’s in the third round after Thursday’s victory. Andre Agassi anxiously waited through two sets for a sign of mortality from his relentless opponent, and it finally came when Nicolas Massu double-faulted on set point. “C’mon!” Agassi shouted as the serve landed an inch wide, symbolic of the margin by which he escaped Thursday at the U.S. Open. Confronted with a barrage of remarkable shot-making from Massu, Agassi hung on until the Chilean cooled off. With the tense victory, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(1) in 3 hours, 20 minutes, the second-seeded Agassi advanced to the third round. “My experience tells me that was a great one to kind of sneak through there,” the two-time Open champion said. “He wasn’t giving an inch from the beginning, and neither was I.” After losing the first set, Agassi was in danger of losing the second. He struggled to hold serve for a 5:4 lead, then took the set when Massu hit only his second double fault. U.S. Open Reactions With that one errant shot, momentum immediately shifted to Agassi. Massu, 10 years younger at 21, was nonetheless weary from doing most of the running and began spraying his shots. “Over the course of a match, that’s an important ingredient for me – that an opponent is having to work hard,” Agassi said. Another marathon winner of a 4-setter was Britain’s 30th-seeded Greg Rusedski, who also took 3 hours and 20 minutes to beat Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman 7-5, 7-5, 6-7(8), 7-6(6) in a rematch of their 1997 semifinal here. In the 3rd set Bjorkman fought off two match points at 4:5 and converted his fourth set point in the tie-break – Rusedski devastated his racquet immediately. In the 4th set the furious Rusedski, shouting at a linesman (received a point penalty for that), came back from a break down and managed to win his fourth match point. Bjorkman stated that his opponent should have been disqualified for the inappropriate behavior. In the Tenth seed Pete Sampras took only an hour and 55 minutes to eliminate Brazil’s Andre Sa 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-3. From the moment he was pushed into a tie-breaker, Sampras raised his level of play. Qualifier David Nalbandian  saved a match point in the 5th set to eliminate Nicolas Escude 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in 3 hours 52 minutes.
Third round: (sportsillustrated)
Gustavo Kuerten dug a big hole, then worked his way out Sunday night at the U.S. Open. The top-seeded Brazilian rallied to beat big-serving Belarussian Max Mirnyi 6-7(5), 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-2 in the final match of the third round. Kuerten played for 3 hours and 19 minutes (the entire match lasted 3:31 h) before converting a break point on his 11th chance. His backhand passing shot clipped the net cord and skipped over Mirnyi’s  head for a 3:1 lead in the final set, and Kuerten quickly closed out the victory. “That was a great win,” Kuerten said. “All the sets were decided by very little. We both played a great match and one had to win, so I was lucky it was me.” Kuerten’s late-night match was the sort that makes the Open unique. Thousands of noisy fans – a few waving Brazilian flags – stayed until the finish at 12:17 a.m. They roared as a jubilant Kuerten climbed to the first row of seats to hug his mother. “Things were difficult for me,” Kuerten said. “I just gave everything that I learned all these years in the match to win. The end was a great payback, having all these feelings on the court with the crowd.” Mirnyi, an intimidating serve-and-volleyer at 6-foot-5, hit 22 aces and won 124 (!) points at the net. But Kuerten hit 33 aces and lost serve only once, in the 2nd set (a moment after blowing a set point at 5:4). The momentum switched during a dramatic sequence in the 3rd set. Kuerten was unable to convert eight set points (four at 5:4, three at 6:5) before closing out the tiebreaker with a return winner. “There’s a reason he’s No. 1,” Mirnyi said. “He has won many matches of this type the past couple of years.” The Belorussian was three points away from victory leading 6:5* (15/0), Kuerten had back problems in the late stage of that set, and it’d seemed Mirnyi would have won in four sets. Kuerten, a three-time French Open champion, remained on course for a potential semifinal showdown against 19-year-old American Andy Roddick, whose startling ascent has revived hope for the next generation of American men’s tennis. Roddick made another breakthrough Sunday by advancing to the second week of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. In a rout worthy of his favorite team, Roddick blew out French Open runner-up Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 after saving a double break point at 3:4. “Incredible – best I’ve ever seen Roddick look,” four-time Open champion John McEnroe said. Roddick said he can sense the stakes rise: “It’s a blast. You definitely feel it a little bit more. I’m no longer the new guy. I’m not surprising anybody. I’m not sneaking up on anybody anymore. Still, I’m definitely having fun. I’m playing tennis. That’s a blast.” The men’s final 16 will also include beleaguered Lleyton Hewitt but not popular Goran Ivanisevic. The reigning Wimbledon champion, seeded 15th, lost to Albert Costa 6-4, 7-6(4), 7-6(2). “This time, I didn’t have so much luck,” Ivanisevic said. “I had it at Wimbledon.” Hewitt drew only scattered jeers while beating Albert Portas 6-1, 6-3, 6-4. But the fiery Australian then had to fend off another round of questions about his comments perceived by some as racial during a second-round match against a black player. “I’ve been through this three days straight now,” said Hewitt, who denies that his comments were racial. “I apologized if it came out the wrong way. I said that right from the start.” The day’s marathon winner was Tommy Robredo, an unseeded Spaniard who needed 3 hours 47 minutes to upset fifth-seeded countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(1). On an afternoon pretty as a topspin lob, with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, Roddick mixed some finesse with his overpowering serve and forehand. He boomed four aces in one game – at 114, 123, 110 and 136 mph – but against a Spaniard who’s best from the baseline, Roddick also settled into some long rallies. And won most of them. “When I started grinding out a couple of points rather than just teeing off right away, I started getting into my groove,” Roddick said. “I showed him I wasn’t just going to give points away. That helped me a lot.” Pete Sampras wasn’t perfect: he double-faulted, blew two easy volleys and dumped an overhead into the net. And that was just in the first game. But for the most part on Saturday, Sampras played like the Pete of old, dominating with his serve and blanketing the net to beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and reach the fourth round at the U.S. Open. The performance suggested Sampras may be ready to make a run next week at his fifth Open title – and his first tournament title since Wimbledon last year. He’ll play two-time champion Patrick Rafter on Monday. “Everything is in place,” Sampras said. “I’m very hungry. I’m mentally fine. I’m physically fine. Everything is in one piece. I can’t complain about the way the first week has gone.” The road turns tougher next week. Rafter advanced by winning the final match of the day, beating Nicolas Lapentti 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-2. The Sampras-Rafter winner will likely next face two-time champ Andre Agassi, who also won Saturday. “I’m going to have my hands full,” Sampras said. “It’s a tough section of the draw for all of us. There are a lot of U.S. Open titles in that little section, but that’s the way the draw went, and let’s play it.” Agassi had the same attitude. “You’ve got to beat the best to win here,” he said. “Sometimes you play the best before the final.” The No. 2-seeded Agassi advanced by beating qualifier Ramon Delgado 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-3. His next opponent will be No. 13 Roger Federer, who ended Sampras’ reign at Wimbledon two months ago. Defending champion Marat Safin, seeded third, beat Hicham Arazi 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(5). The expanded seeding system protected the top players in the early rounds, just as intended, and the tournament remained mostly upset-free Saturday. The seven top-seeded men and the 11 top women were still alive, but one prominent casualty was No. 9 Tim Henman, who blew a 3:0 lead in the 5th set and lost to Xavier Malisse 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. The match carried extra meaning for both players because Malisse hired Henman’s coach, David Felgate, earlier this year. “There was no way that I wasn’t going to go down after three-and-a-half-hours,” said the Belgian. “I played a great game,” Henman admitted that Felgate’s court-side presence had felt “a little bit strange,” but denied it had been a factor in his defeat. “It is a story for you guys,” he said to journalists at the post-match press conference, “but for me it was business out there.”
Fourth round: (Reuters)
Andre Agassi thrashed Roger Federer in straight sets at the U.S. Open on Monday and said the 20-year-old Swiss ought to consider the result a compliment. “Roger should take it as a big compliment that I played so well today,” Agassi said after his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 romp to the quarterfinals. “It takes that kind of respect for somebody’s weapons and somebody’s abilities that force you to execute everything without second-guessing it.” Agassi reckoned he had to raise his game against the up-and-coming Swiss star, who had ended Pete Sampras’ four-year reign as Wimbledon champion this summer in a fourth-round upset. And the 31-year-old American did just that, playing his best match of the tournament. “It was like third gear, then fifth gear,” double Open champion Agassi said about revving up his attack. “Today I just absolutely stepped it up in every department. You need it to happen that way sometimes.” Pete Sampras rediscovered his greatness Monday, dominating a dangerous opponent with nearly flawless tennis punctuated by a brilliant sequence of shots on the final point. Disproving detractors who contend he’s washed up, Sampras won a rare fourth-round showdown of former champions at the U.S. Open, beating Patrick Rafter 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4 without dropping a service game. Sampras won’t have long to savor his sweetest victory since winning Wimbledon last year. He will face Agassi for the 32nd time in the quarterfinals Wednesday. “Doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure,” Sampras said. “Another heavyweight that I’m up against. He, like Pat, brings out the best in me.” Serving at 4:5 in the final game, Rafter dug a 15/40 hole, erased two match points and then confronted a third, which produced the longest, wildest rally of match. Chasing down a cross-court volley, Sampras whipped a running forehand that sent Rafter into retreat. Sampras sprinted forward and punched a volley into the corner. Rafter dug it out with a lob, but Sampras slammed an overhead for the victory. “I scrambled pretty good there at the end,” Sampras said. “I really felt like we were going to a tiebreaker, which I didn’t really look forward to playing, to be honest with you. It was nice to end it at that point.” At the end of the year, Rafter, 28, plans to take a six-month break that might turn into retirement. In a battle of unseeded men, Mariano Zabaleta reacted as if he’d won the Open title after he advanced to the quarterfinals with a straight-sets victory over Xavier Malisse, 6-4, 7-6(4), 7-5. Off came his headband. Off came his wristband. Off came his shirt. “Oh, I’m so happy,” Zabaleta said. “You know, it is my first time in one Grand Slam quarterfinal. I so happy because I win four matches, very important matches. I beat big guys. I’m so happy, too, because I’m playing very good tennis. I play, I think, my best tennis in the year.” Zabaleta, who was ranked as high as No. 20 in his rookie season on tour, is now 103rd. He has upset No. 8 seed Sebastien Grosjean, ousted wild card Taylor Dent and then upset well-respected No. 30 Greg Rusedski. Zabaleta celebrated his advancement twice because after the first one Lars Graf informed him the ball was out and the point should have been replayed. Malisse didn’t get the momentum and lost that point with a forehand error. Next on Zabaleta’s dance card is defending champion and third seed Marat Safin, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) winner over No. 14 Thomas Johansson. “It doesn’t matter who I play,” Zabaleta said. “It is the same. Johansson is very good and Safin better.” The Louis Armstrong Stadium looked more like the Maracana on Tuesday night with Brazilian flags flying and fans singing, dancing and chanting for Gustavo Kuerten as the world number one defeated Spaniard Albert Costa 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(7) to advance to the U.S. Open quarterfinals. “There was a lot of noise,” Kuerten said appreciatively. “I think it’s Brazilian week or something… a festival this weekend.” Once again exposing the full repertoire of his shots, Andy Roddick defeated Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to go into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. “It’s a lot more fun playing than sitting home the second week. It kills me when I’m at home and you’re watching guys win,” Roddick said. He was asked to compare where he was last year with where he is today. “You know, I don’t believe it,” he said. “I’m supposed to wake up any minute now but I’m trying to stay asleep.” Despite his success, Roddicks has had a difficult week, dealing with the auto accident that involved his coach’s father-in-law, Francois Catalano in Toulouse, France. “I haven’t gotten much sleep. In the middle of all this going on, all the good stuff going on, that’s definitely on my mind,” he said. If he wins, he’ll play Thursday against the winner of today’s final round-of-16 tussle between No. 4 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 16 Tommy Haas. Haas was leading 6-3, 2:2 when the match was halted by rain and moved to today (after the resumption Hewitt won three sets). Earlier in the day, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the No. 7 seed, defeated No. 12 Arnaud Clement 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. The victory was interrupted for 47 minutes by a brief afternoon rain. Kafelnikov’s mercurial career has been as befuddling to him as it has to everyone else. He had to come from two sets to one down in his opening match to beat Michel Kratochvil in five, then from two sets down to beat George Bastl in five in the second round. In round three against qualifier David Nalbandian, he lost the first set before finding his game.
Quarterfinals: (Sports illustrated)
They battled for 3 1/2 magnificent hours, then met at the net with smiles, a handshake and warm words for each other. “Win the thing,” Andre Agassi whispered in Pete Sampras‘ ear. Taking another huge step in his remarkable resurgence, Sampras edged longtime rival Agassi 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(2), 7-6(5) in a quarterfinal thriller Wednesday night in the U.S. Open. The match lived up to the sort of hype only New York can generate, with both players at the top of their game and the difference between them thinner than racket string. Four sets ended with four tiebreakers. In 48 games, neither player broke serve. If there were any doubts that Sampras shook his yearlong slump with a victory Monday over Patrick Rafter, he erased them with another poised, polished performance before a capacity crowd. And Agassi was nearly his equal in their 32nd meeting. “Probably about as good as it gets, playing the very best in a night match at the U.S. Open,” Sampras said. “The atmosphere was phenomenal, and it was so close.” A gracious Agassi agreed. “Certainly a memory I’ll never forget,” he said. “Quite a powerful evening in many respects.” In the end Sampras’ serve was just too good and his composure too cool. When Agassi hit a forehand into the net on match point at 12:14 a.m., Sampras raised his arms in well-earned celebration. “It always comes down to a couple of points against Andre,” Sampras said. “He’s an unbelievable player.” Sampras isn’t bad, despite recent reports to the contrary. He entered the Open amid questions about retirement with the No. 10 seeding, his lowest since winning the first of his record 13 Grand Slam championships in 1990. Now he’s two victories from his fifth Open title. But Sampras-Agassi will be tough to top. The match drew a crowd of 23,033 at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The president’s box overflowed, and even the sky-boxes were full. VIPs included Agassi’s shy girlfriend, Steffi Graf, who peered from around the corner of a suite. Even a wave couldn’t taint the occasion. There hadn’t been a showdown like it in 32 years. Sampras and Agassi have won a combined 20 major titles, the most collective trophies in any Grand Slam men’s match since Roy Emerson and Rod Laver – holders of 22 titles – played in the 1969 Open quarterfinals. Sampras ended a three-match losing streak in the rivalry and extended his edge over Agassi to 18-14, including 3-0 at the Open. But the victory didn’t come easily. Both players dominated on their serve. Sampras served 25 aces and erased three break points. Agassi hit 18 aces and erased six break points. “You’ve got to do more than hold your serve, I guess, huh?” Agassi said. During one stretch the two went 22 games without a break point. In one game Sampras double-faulted three times, endured an unlucky bounce on a net cord and still held. Squandered chances cost Sampras the 1st set. The No. 2-seeded Agassi fell behind 1:2, 0/40, but Sampras committed errors on the next three points. Those were his only break-point chances until the 4th set. They pushed on to the first tiebreaker. Sampras held three set points at 6:3, but Agassi saved them all with a forehand winner, a service winner and a sizzling forehand passing shot. On the final point Sampras mis-hit a volley into the net, then hung his head and swatted at the ball in frustration. “I was kicking myself a little bit after that first set,” Sampras said. “But I got it going a little bit.” In the 8th game of the 2nd set he hit two skyjam overheads, his patented putaway, and after the second slam hopped on his toes as though reinvigorated. Again the rivals went to 6:6. “Let Pete win this set, Andre!” a fan screamed. Pete did, sweeping the final four points of the tiebreaker. When he yanked a forehand crosscourt to make it 6:2, he screamed “Yeah!” and punched the air. A deft drop volley on the next point gave him the set, and Sampras screamed again and threw an uppercut as he walked to his chair. In the third set they dueled again on even terms, Sampras playing serve-and-volley, Agassi hugging the baseline. Again they reached 6:6. Agassi committed three of his 19 unforced errors in the 3rd-set tiebreaker, and Sampras delivered aces on the final two points for a 2-set-to-1 lead. When Sampras faced a break point in the 8th game of the 4th set, he responded with an ace and two service winners. When the fourth tiebreaker started, the crowd gave both players a standing ovation. Sampras hit consecutive aces for a 4:3 lead, and Agassi blew a volley to make it 6:3. Sampras squandered the first two match points, hitting a volley into the net and double-faulting for the 12th time. But Agassi then blew a short forehand, giving Sampras the hard-earned win. “It came down to the wire. How much closer can you get?” Agassi said. “When you lose one that close, it’s difficult to appreciate much about it except the standard I forced him to play. And that I feel good about.” Marat Safin advanced earlier by defeating Mariano Zabaleta 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. During a post-match on-court interview, Safin said he’s not good enough to beat Sampras or Agassi. “I don’t want to look ridiculous on the court against them,” he said later with a sly smile. “So I need some excuse in the beginning.” Three times Yevgeny Kafelnikov had met Gustavo Kuerten in a Grand Slam, and all three times he served as Kuerten’s personal quarterfinal valet to a French Open title. This time Kafelnikov defeated Kuerten 6-4, 6-0, 6-3. He told himself – on the hard court of the National Tennis Center, thousands of miles from the comforting clay of Roland Garros – it would not happen again “I showed him from the first point on that I wasn’t going to give up the match, like easily, like perhaps he would have thought,” the Russian said Thursday. “I just didn’t want to have previous experience happen to that match like it did three times in the French Open, where I’m having the match in my hand and just not able to close it out. Today was different story.” The backward-cap kids took their turn in prime time at the U.S. Open, and for more than 3 1/2 hours Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt matched wits, aces and effort, applauding each other’s best shots. Then Roddick lost his cool – and the match. The budding rivalry got a big boost Thursday night, when Hewitt edged Roddick 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals. There were only four service breaks, including one in the final game after Roddick became irate at an overrule by chair umpire Jorge Dias. On the first point of the game, Roddick hit a crosscourt forehand that a linesman called good but Dias overruled, even though the ball landed on the sideline farthest from his chair. TV replays were inconclusive, meaning perhaps it was too close to overrule. “It was straight on the line!” Roddick screamed at Dias. “How can you overrule the far side of the court? What is wrong with you? You can’t overrule it at 4:5 in the fifth set. What are you? Are you an absolute moron?” The first break point came early in the 2nd set, and Roddick double-faulted into the net, then angrily slammed his racket to the court. The gift gave Hewitt a 2:0 lead, and he easily held serve the rest of the set. Hewitt broke again in the 3rd set for a 4:3 lead. In the next game Roddick chased an angled volley off the court, lunged and fell, landing on his right side and skidding into the cyclops machine that judges serves. He rose slowly, then bent over in pain but continued. Hewitt closed out the set with an ace. Roddick earned his first break of the match and a 2:0 lead in the 4th set when Hewitt double-faulted. Hewitt was unable to convert two break points in the final game of the set, and Roddick closed it out with a service winner to even the match at two sets apiece. Both players easily held serve as the fifth set progressed and the number of winners, errors and wild exchanges mounted. “I’m missing every other shot and I’m still in five sets,” Roddick shouted after dumping a backhand into the net. A few games later, he lost the composure that has helped him soar into the top 20 this year.
Semifinals: (Sports illustrated)
Pete Sampras needs only one more win to complete his resurgence. Sampras bids for a 14th Grand Slam championship Sunday at the U.S. Open against 20-year-old Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing in the finals of a major tournament for the first time. Both advanced with straight-set victories Saturday. Sampras’ win over defending champion Marat Safin was more difficult, complicated when his stomach began churning in the second set. He still won 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. Earlier, Hewitt wiped out Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the most one-sided semifinal in U.S. Open men’s history. Stung by whispers that his career was in decline after going 14 months without winning a title, Sampras came into the Open on a mission, determined to win it for the fifth time. His task was complicated by the draw which put him in the toughest quarter of the tournament. In a memorable week, he became the first player in Open history to beat three former champions in succession. There was a four-set win against Rafter followed by another four-setter, each decided in a tie-break, against Agassi. Then came Safin, who had beaten him in straight sets for the Open title a year ago. Sampras set out about the task. “I was just efficient and played a clean match,” Sampras said. “I played a good, solid, aggressive match, really stuck to my game plan-type of match. It was a completely different type of situation from last year. Last year was, I think, the first time that it’s ever happened that I couldn’t do anything. Against most, I feel like if I play well, I should come through. But he possesses a big game. I was a bit overwhelmed there.” Safin knew he could not depend on repeating last year’s match to succeed. “Last year in the final, I played too good,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it was Pete or who. I don’t know what happened that day. Nobody had a chance. I could play against God, and he wouldn’t have a chance. I was too good, too good.” This time, Safin lost the first set but had a chance to recover in the second. After trainer Doug Spreen gave Sampras something to soothe his stomach, the players battled shot for shot. Facing a service break, Sampras got a little lucky when chair umpire Wayne McKewen overruled an out call and awarded him an ace. He converted that by holding his service, extending his streak to 81 service games without being broken. The two rolled into the tie-break set, familiar territory for Sampras after his classic match with Agassi. Safin stayed close, saving one set point but then hitting long on the second. Now, two sets ahead, Sampras went into overdrive. His big serve produced 20 aces, the final one on match point, and he extended his streak of service games without being broken to 87. Now it is on to Hewitt, in very much the same position as Safin was a year ago – a kid thrust into the championship showdown against the most successful Grand Slam player in history. “Pete, the way he’s playing at the moment, the way he played against Andre and Pat, he’s going to be very tough to beat,” Hewitt said. Sampras understands the similarities between Hewitt and Safin. “He’s a young guy that is a great player who’s going to contend for majors for many, many years,” Sampras said of the young Australian. “He’s got the quickness. He returns very well. He passes very well.” “I knew I had a job to do,” Hewitt said. “I just kept going after it out there. It’s hard to sort of keep your concentration, though, when you’re about to serve for it to go two sets to love up, and you know he’s not playing his best tennis.” Kafelnikov’s passivity actually made history, albeit history of an infamous kind. It was the worst performance in a men’s U.S. Open semifinal in the 33 years of the Open era. France’s Cedric Pioline managed to take only seven games off Todd Martin in 1999. At one point, CBS commentator John McEnroe joked that maybe Kafelnikov’s Russian bottled water was actually vodka. Then again, maybe he wasn’t joking. “Absolutely nothing wrong with me physically,” Kafelnikov said, begging the mental question. “You know, I wasn’t tired at all. It’s just one of those days where in the tournament, unfortunately, it came in when I was playing a semifinal. You have stages where you trying best, but it’s not working, unfortunately.” The turning point? Believe it or not, the very first game of the match. Kafelnikov, a two-time Grand Slam champion, won the first three points of his serve and seemed on the verge of holding easily. But Hewitt climbed back to deuce. Kafelnikov, hitting an ill-advised approach shot right at Hewitt, was passed by a rock-solid backhand. At break point, Hewitt passed Kafelnikov again, this time with a cross-court forehand. That made it five consecutive points for Hewitt and a devastating loss for Kafelnikov.
Final: (Sports illustrated)
With one shot, Pete Sampras‘ remarkable resurgence at the U.S. Open began to unravel. The four-time champion sent an easy volley long to lose the opening set, then trudged to his chair, sat down and slammed his racket into his bag, as if done for the day. He kept playing, but barely. The Pete Sampras of old, who for nearly two weeks tore through a daunting draw, merely looked like an old Pete Sampras in Sunday’s final against young Australian Lleyton Hewitt. While Sampras was tentative and lethargic, Hewitt seemed to run down every shot and coolly ripped one winner after another to earn his first Grand Slam title, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1. “The kid is so quick it’s unbelievable,” the 30-year-old Sampras said. “I wish I had some of those legs for this old guy. I lost to a great champion. You’re going to see this Lleyton Hewitt guy for the next 10 years like you saw me.” These words weren’t prophetic, Hewitt added just one major title to his resume. The final was Hewitt’s first and Sampras’ 17th, but the less experienced 20-year-old Australian was much more energetic. After consecutive wins against former champions Rafter, Agassi and Safin, Sampras appeared to have nothing left for his second match in barely 24 hours. While Hewitt was more relentless than a ball machine, Sampras had just five ground-stroke winners and 38 unforced errors. He won only half the points when he went to the net as Hewitt passed him with increasing ease. The rout was reminiscent of Sampras’ loss to young Safin in last year’s final and is certain to renew talk of his decline, despite the impressive run to the final. Although Sampras bristles at retirement speculation and says he wants to play at least another five years, evidence mounts that he can’t sustain his former level through a two-week tournament. “I’ve proven this week I can still win Slams, no question in my mind,” he said. “Thirty isn’t that old. I still feel like I have many years left.” This is the first year since 1992 he has failed to win a major championship. He has gone 18 tournaments without a title since 2000 Wimbledon, when he broke the record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles with No. 13. For the second year in a row, he came up one win shy of a record-tying fifth Open men’s title. “Walking out there to play Pete Sampras in your first ever Grand Slam final is something you’ll never forget,” Hewitt said. “Obviously, I had a few nerves going out there playing probably the greatest player to ever live in my biggest match ever in tennis.” But it was Sampras who struggled from the start. He thought he had an ace on the third point before chair umpire Norm Cryst overruled, changing the call to a double fault. Sampras lost the game, ending his streak of holding serve in 87 consecutive games, dating to the second round. He broke back for 1:1 when Hewitt double-faulted twice, but the Aussie quickly settled down. The set progressed to 6:6 without another break. In the tiebreaker, Sampras hit two forehands long and another into the net, then sent that backhand volley long on set point. Hewitt passed Sampras five times in one game to break for a 3:1 lead in the 2nd set, and the rout was on. “He returned and passed about as well as anyone I’ve ever played,” Sampras said. “He’s got the best return and the best wheels in the game.” Looking progressively more sluggish and discouraged as shadows crept across the court, Sampras hit one forehand against the backboard and sent a return into the seats behind him. The crowd was firmly behind the American – despite one shout of “C’mon mate!” – but had little to cheer about in the last two sets. When Hewitt walked into his postmatch news conference, he was still wearing his cap backward. “Take it off?” he said with a chuckle. “No, my hair’s not done.” Sampras wore an impassive expression, but was matter-of-fact about defeat. “I just wish,” he said, “that I could have given a better show for the people.” Hewitt’s 10th title – the same for Kafelnikov and Krajicek when they got their first majors in 1996. Stats of the final.