2002 – 2003, US Open
US Open, New York
August 26-September 8, 2002; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
Pete Sampras hadn’t been able to win a tournament more than two years, but during the US Open 2002 he pieced everything together: his serve was lethal, other strokes worked well, and he won all the crucial points in the last five rounds of the tournament against players who could have theoretically beaten him – the last five encounters of his career too – because he didn’t play another professional match afterwards!
First round: Howard Fendrich
Little was ordinary about the start of the U.S. Open for third-seeded Tommy Haas, from being ordered to change out of a sleeveless shirt to three consecutive double faults in the fifth set. Haas and his foil, David Sanchez, produced enough theater for a round’s worth of matches. Haas pulled out a 7-6(1), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 (Haas saved triple mini-set point in the 1st set, in the decider he came back from *0:3) victory on Louis Armstrong Stadium yesterday, that was a struggle for a player normally most comfortable on hard courts. If he can deal with right arm pain that has been hounding him, Haas could be a title threat. Before yesterday’s match, however, he received a talking-to that put him in sartorial territory previously occupied by Anne White (remember the skin-tight nylon leotard at Wimbledon in 1985?) and Agassi (remember the denim shorts and Day-Glo bicycle tights?). Haas showed up for the first-round match wearing a white muscle shirt that revealed his shoulders. It wasn’t nearly as provocative as the zip-down, stop-at-the-thighs black Lycra outfit Williams wore. Nonetheless, it caught the attention of chair umpire Norm Chryst. He alerted tournament referee Brian Earley, who turned on the TV, looked at Haas, and ruled that the shirt had to go. Earley cited Article III, Section C of the Grand Slam rule book: “Every player shall dress and present himself for play in a professional manner. Clean and customarily acceptable tennis attire shall be worn as determined by each respective Grand Slam.” “I was given the job of making a determination on the spot. I decided it wasn’t ‘customarily acceptable,'” Earley said. Haas – who said sleeves annoy him – had polo shirts with him and wore those for the 3-hour, 23-minute match. “On the women’s tour, you see Serena and all those other ladies wearing tight stuff,” Haas said. “It’s something new, brings something else to the game.” Told what happened to Haas, Williams said, “You’re kidding!” Earley noted that Williams’ outfit was approved for the Open a month ago. He wouldn’t say whether Haas’ shirt might have been approved had it been submitted ahead of time – or whether Haas will be allowed to wear it for his second-round match. As for Pete Sampras, he might have been relieved to make it to the second round, an indication (as is his No. 17 seeding) of how far he has fallen. The 13-time Grand Slam tournament champion defeated Albert Portas, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Fan favorite James Blake survived a bout of cramps and a spirited performance by fellow American Brian Vahaly to squeeze into the second round of the U.S. Open 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(5) on Monday. Blake, who won his maiden ATP Tour title in Washington earlier this month, was treated for leg cramps and a shoulder injury by trainer Doug Spreen in the 4th set of the Arthur Ashe Court clash. After a shaky start, Blake tore through the second and third sets punching winners from the back of the court and using his volleying to great effect. But the 25th seed faltered in the fourth and allowed ‘wild card’ Vahaly  off the ropes. Blake, a former Harvard student, was massaged for leg cramps while trailing 4:5 and had his left shoulder treated while trailing 5:6. He proved the stronger in the tie-break, however, sealing the win after 3 hours and 3 minutes when Vahaly netted a backhand. Andy Roddick, seeded No. 11 and three days from his 20th birthday, needed treatment for a blister on his right hand and defeated Grand Slam debutant Martin Verkerk 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-4 in night match on Arthur Ashe. The tall Dutchman led 5:4* (30/15) in the 1st set. Juan Carlos Ferrero, used too bright hue to dye his hair, but it didn’t distract him as he won two tiebreakers before subduing Wayne Arthurs 7-6(4), 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-5. The Spaniard broke just one, after 160 minutes of play in the 12th game of the 4th set (Arthurs hit 36 aces). Two-time champion Andre Agassi smashed his way past fellow American Robby Ginepri 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on Monday to stride into the second round of the U.S. Open. As the clock inched towards midnight, Agassi wrapped up his opening match in 84 minutes on Arthur Ashe stadium court after some customary powerful hitting from the baseline and accurate serving. “You know 9:30… it is not an easy start-time. I am used to pushing away from the dinner table at around that time,” he said afterwards. “It was pretty humid tonight, and that has an aspect of work to it. You work hard to make a scoreline appear easy. I am very pleased with tonight. I stayed strong on all his big shots.” Agassi & Ginepri will meet at the US Open also in 2004 (first round) & 2005 (semifinal). Carlos Moya, awarded his highest Grand Slam seed in three years at No. 9, advanced to the second round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday by defeating Adrian Voinea 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4). It was a grind for Moya, who came into the Open after winning at Cincinnati – just the second hardcourt title of his career. Ten of his previous 11 victories were on clay, and he won at Cincinnati by defeating No. 1 Hewitt in the final. Moya came into the Open with four titles this year, tying Agassi and Hewitt for the most on the tour. The wheelchairs were there, if needed, resting side-by-side in the corridor leading from the court to the locker room. For 4 hours 28 minutes (final set 1:27), 2000 champion Marat Safin and Nicolas Kiefer traded big serves and crackling strokes to the point of exhaustion. By the end, both were cramping. Kiefer barely could walk, his body contorting in pain. The second-seeded Safin, not known for his mental toughness on court, kept his head in the game when he really needed to and had just enough energy left to win the first-round thriller 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) on Arthur Ashe. “How was I feeling? Dead. Completely dead,” the Russian said. “I was choking so badly. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t serve, I couldn’t play, I couldn’t move.” Still, he and Kiefer managed to stay on court until the bitter (for Kiefer) end, quite an accomplishment so far at the Open. Seven men have quit during first-round matches, a record for a Grand Slam tournament. “All the players are praying not to get injured. Any small injuries – even a finger, or some small muscles you don’t even know about – can bring you trouble,” said Safin, who withdrew from a tournament in Indianapolis this month because of injured ribs. “Tennis is getting a little bit more powerful. We’re playing much faster. That’s why the body breaks.” In the amazing 5th set, Kiefer saved six break points to level at 2-all, then Safin won to ‘love’ his serve, and since 3:2 for him, there were four consecutive breaks of serve. At 5-all Safin saved a mini-match point when Kiefer netted slice backhand. In the 12th game, the German suffering cramps, saved two match points rushing the net. At 6:3 for Safin in the tie-break, Kiefer fell on the court and needed a treatment. When he picked up, he managed to save the third match point with a service winner, but succumbed on fourth. 5th set tie-break was required also in a Latin battle between Tommy Robredo and Mariano Zabaleta; the Spaniard won 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(5) in 4 hours 19 minutes (Robredo won just one point more: 183-182). Two Chilean players (Nicolas Massu & Fernando Gonzalez) prevailed dramatic encounters. Massu struggled past Nicolas Lapentti 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(8), 7-5 in 3 hours 59 minutes. Lapantti won the 3rd set despite a *2:5 deficit saving three match points in the process, and led *5:1 in the 4th set! Gonzalez fired 24 aces during his 2-6, 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Paul-Henri Mathieu in 190 minutes. One week before, the 20-year-old Frenchman stunned Sampras at Long Island. Among Tuesday’s victims was 1998 finalist Mark Philippoussis, who wrenched his long-troubled left knee in the 4th set against No. 24 Sjeng Schalken and had to stop four games later. Philippoussis was leading 2-1 in sets, and was 5:3 down in the fourth. Defending men’s champion Lleyton Hewitt had a very matter-of-fact debut, beating Nicolas Coutelot of France 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Hewitt rode 14 aces to victory on Tuesday. However – as has been the case recently – Hewitt made more news off the court just after his match concluded. Hewitt stoked his row with the organizers of professional men’s tennis on Tuesday by branding the ATP liars.
Second round: Christopher Clarey
If you were watching James Blake win his match yesterday at the United States Open, you needed only to walk 30 paces to watch Lleyton Hewitt win his match, too. All that separates the Grandstand and the Louis Armstrong Stadium is a narrow walkway. But no pacing will be required to watch Blake and Hewitt in the third round. They will face each other, just as they did a year ago in the first week of the United States Open in a terrific match that descended into a diplomatic incident when Hewitt lashed out at an African-American linesman, making a comment that was construed to have racist overtones. Blake gave his Australian opponent the benefit of the doubt. ”We put it behind us the next day in the locker room; since then I don’t think we’ve really talked about it,” he said last night after his 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Nikolai Davydenko of Russia. ‘‘I don’t think about it at all,” Hewitt said after his 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Israeli qualifier Noam Okun. ”James and I were fine about it. We spoke straight after the situation, and that was pretty much the end of it. I’ve played James twice since then. We’re not the best of mates I guess off the court, just because we’re from different countries. But we’re as close as we can be.” Against Okun, Hewitt had troubles in the 1st set: broken at 5-all, then trailing 2:4, 5:6 & 6:7. Marat Safin did little to slow the transformation. In a match-up that, judging by names and accomplishments alone, belongs in the latter stages of a major tournament rather than merely the second round, Gustavo Kuerten dominated No. 2-seeded Safin 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 Friday at the U.S. Open. “Maybe today is my happiest day of the year,” three-time French Open champion Kuerten said, his disposition as bright as his orange T-shirt, “I feel much more relieved. I feel I have nothing to lose. Winning the match, I got my confidence back. I feel happy with myself and my game.” That hasn’t been the case for much of 2002, a season interrupted in February by right hip surgery that kept him off tour for two months. Kuerten came into the U.S. Open toting a 13-10 match record and a ranking of 46th – making him the first player in 31 years to go from being seeded No. 1 at the Open one year to being unseeded the next. “He’s hungry,” Safin said. “He wants to come back. He wants to win matches.” So does the man Safin upset in the 2000 Open final, Pete Sampras. The 13-time major champion is without a title of any sort since July 2000, but played about as well as he has all season in a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Kristian Pless. Sampras had 21 aces, including one at 135 mph to end the match. “It’s been a struggle this year, but hopefully I can get it going here,” said Sampras, 18-0 in night matches at the Open, which he’s won four times. “I feel really comfortable playing here.” His next opponent is 1997 runner-up Greg Rusedski, who edged Paradorn Srichaphan 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 6-4 in 3 hours 49 minutes In the 2nd-set tie-breaker, Srichaphan never recovered from a netted forehand on the third point. In the 3rd-set tie-breaker, he made three straight forehand cross-court winners to take a 4:2* lead. Then, leading *5:3, he tightened perceptibly and floated a nervous backhand into the net. Rusedski closed him out with a forehand cross-court winner when Srichaphan went the wrong way. By now, with the Sampras-Pless match over, the Armstrong crowd, growing more raucous by the minute, began to swell. Srichaphan almost went out when he was serving to level the 4th set at 5-all. Rusedski squeezed him to 30-all – a point away from match point – but Srichaphan produced a bold forehand pass and a successful overhead to send the match lurching into its third straight tie-breaker. This time, Srichaphan was up to it. At 2-all, Rusedski gave him a gift – a double-fault – and Srichaphan went on to level the match. In the 5th set, Srichaphan finally gave in to his nerves. He was broken to open the set and with Rusedski holding a break point in the third game, Srichaphan double-faulted to go down 0:4. Rusedski, baring his teeth and tugging on his socks with a trademark service ritual, almost lost the advantage of two breaks – he escaped from 15/40 (serving to win the match at 5:4) with an ace and backhand volley. Srichaphan will be involved in another 5-setter with three tie-breaks in New York (2005, losing to Davide Sanguinetti). Next up is Sampras, to whom Rusedski has lost eight of nine career matches. Is he concerned that Sampras will come into Sunday’s match with two easy three-set wins? “I’m in the best shape of my life,” Rusedski said. “Obviously, it helps Pete a little bit. He’ll be favored so I have nothing to lose.” Also into the third round was No. 11 Andy Roddick, who turned 20 Friday and was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by fans en route to his tour-leading 50th match victory this year. But 10th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean lost to fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 – it was their second 5-set encounter, and Clement survived both matches. The man nicknamed “Hollywood” tore up the script on Thursday – Jan-Michael Gambill buried No. 9 Carlos Moya 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 to storm into the third round of the U.S. Open in front of a thrilled New York night crowd. The American, who has struggled with injury for the better part of a year, had never beaten Moya in three previous occasions and had failed to pass the second round of a Grand Slam since the start of 2001. In his past seven majors, Gambill has lost in the first round on five occasions. But against the Spaniard, he moved and fought like the top 20 player he was last year. “If I can keep playing like this, I am going to do well here,” he said after wrapping up a 94-minute victory. “The crowd was great, the atmosphere was electric.” Former world No. 1 Jim Courier, now a television commentator and pundit, coined Gambill’s nickname because of the young man’s good looks and sideline in modeling. But on Thursday, the 25-year-old showed there is also plenty beneath the surface. Moya came to the U.S. Open on a roll. The former world No. 1 lifted the title in his last tournament in Cincinnati, where he beat defending U.S. Open champion Hewitt in the final. But Gambill ripped into him from the start, firing his idiosyncratic two-fisted forehand into the corners and serving with power and accuracy. He raced through the 1st set in 26 minutes and never looked back on a floodlit Arthur Ashe stadium court. Tommy Haas, choosing not to challenge the United States Tennis Association’s ban on sleeveless shirts which caused a stir earlier in the week, defeated Karol Kucera 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Wearing a conventional tennis shirt and with his hat sitting backward over his ponytail, Haas was a comfortable winner over Kucera, who has been troubled by injuries to his right wrist and knee the last two years. Haas already led 4:0* (30/15) in the 3rd set, then was forced to save three break points in the 10th game. Wayne Ferreira won second dramatic five-setter over Albert Costa in 2002. During the Australian Open, the South African prevailed 9-7 in fifth in more than four hours (served 26 aces); this time 1-6, 6-7(10), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 under four hours (served 21 aces). Early in their careers, Dominik Hrbaty had hounded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, winning seven of their first eight meetings. But the Russian seemed to have reversed that trend by winning their last three meetings. Suddenly, their fortunes turned again, Hrbaty winning easily 6-3, 6-1, 6-1. Kafelnikov, a semifinalist at the Open two of the last three years, was devastated. What went wrong, he was asked. “A very exact question I am asking myself,” he said. “There is no answer for that, unfortunately.” Good manners were the order of the day on Thursday. Andre Agassi demolished his countryman Justin Gimelstob 6-0, 6-1, 6-1, prompting the legendary tennis writer, Bud Collins, to suggest that such play was positively anti-American. Rainer Schuettler after winning two opening sets (6-3, 7-6) against Jean-Rene Lisnard, led 4:2 in the 3rd set when an injury started to bother him. The German lost eight games in a row, and decided to retire at 0:4 in the 4th set.
Third round: (CNN)
James Blake did what he could to the wash away the ill will directed at Lleyton Hewitt by some spectators during a riveting U.S. Open rematch. Blake had a tougher time withstanding the defending champion’s relentless play. His sneakers squeaking with each step, his darting eyes finding the right angles, Hewitt got past Blake 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 Saturday to reach the fourth round. It came a year to the day after another five-setter between the pair, one marked by a call-arguing tirade by Hewitt that was perceived as racist. Saturday’s “was a great match for the sport. We fought our hearts out. He came up with great shots, I came up with great shots. He came up with a few more,” Blake said after playing in the third round of a major for the first time. “The way we conducted ourselves – I really like the fact that if any kid was watching, they could say, ‘I want to be like either one of those two.”‘ In the 1st set Hewitt had three mini-set points in the 11th game and led 5:2* in the tie-break. The Australian broke for the first time after six ‘deuces’ leading 3:2 in the 2nd set. A tight match came down to Blake’s three-point lapse in the 6th game of the last set. Blake made three straight errors (he had 86 total to Hewitt’s 40), Hewitt snapped a forehand winner, and just like that, the No. 1-seeded Australian had a 4:2 lead. “To see us not give an inch the whole match for 3 1/2 hours – it’s something we can both be proud of,” Hewitt said. Unlike last year, there were no prolonged protests about the officiating. Blake just shook his head when a scoreboard replay showed a shot of his that was called out but actually hit the line. Both players applauded great shots by the other, of which there were plenty: 113 winners, 60 by Blake, despite strong winds, occasional rain and a cloud cover that made it so dark the stadium lights were switched on at about 3 p.m. The only boorish behavior came from the stands. There was cheering after faults by Hewitt – Blake waved his hand, indicating he didn’t want that type of support – and in the 4th set, someone in the crowd yelled: “James, don’t let him win. He’s a racist.” When Hewitt closed the thriller with his 15th ace, the players met at the net to shake hands. Blake told the Wimbledon champion, “You played great, man,” and apologized for the fans that were speaking out negatively. “That’s something that I was somewhat embarrassed by, when a few fans did that,” said the 25th-seeded Blake, whose rapidly improving game produced his first title two weeks ago in Washington. Hewitt, who said he didn’t notice what the fans were saying, next plays No. 14 Jiri Novak. He advanced when Marcelo Rios quit after losing the first two sets ‘3-6’, citing a right knee injury and raising the number of retirements to a Grand Slam-record nine men. Also into the fourth round is two-time champion Andre Agassi, who beat Ramon Delgado 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and has dropped 16 games so far. Agassi now faces Jan-Michael Gambill, who demolished No. 21 Gaston Gaudio 6-0, 6-2, 6-0 in 84 minutes. Pete Sampras unfurled a backhand return winner down the line and let out an excited yell: “Aaahhh!” The fans responded, applauding and chanting support. It was tough to tell who was more pleased to see Sampras hit that kind of shot again. Playing in the tournament that’s brought out his best during the past two difficult years, Sampras powered into the fourth round by overcoming Greg Rusedski 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4 in 3 hours 22 minutes Monday night at a U.S. Open disrupted heavily by rain (on Sunday their match was suspended in the 10th game after Sampras saved two set points returning at 3:5). “I hung in there. The crowd was great. It got me going at the end,” said Sampras, who had 81 winners and broke 1997 Open runner-up Rusedski’s serve in the final game of the match: “It made it a little sweeter with the win. As you get older, those are moments you cherish a little more.” Rusedski was hardly charitable in defeat. “He’s a step and a half slow coming into the net. He’s just not the same player,” Rusedski said. “I lost the match. He didn’t win the match tonight. He’s not playing that great. I’ll be surprised if he wins his next match, to be honest with you.” Sampras, seeded just 17th, next plays No. 3 Tommy Haas – the man who wasn’t allowed to wear his muscle shirt at the Open – for a quarterfinal berth. Haas survived a scare against Thomas Enqvist on Grandstand 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. The German already led 4:0* (40/0) in the 5th set. Defending champion Hewitt and two-time Open winner Agassi already are in the final eight. The 11th-seeded Andy Roddick beat No. 18 Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(6) in a match that ended with a 41-stroke point decided by Roddick’s forehand winner. The fifth-seeded Tim Henman was beaten by 26th-seeded Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in the third round Monday. The contest was rained out Sunday. Henman, who owns one of the top pure serve-and-volley games on tour, never seemed to get on track against his Chela, failing to convert any of his five break-point opportunities. Chela was 5-for-9 in the match, which lasted 1 hour, 49 minutes. Henman said afterwards that his shoulder trouble contributed heavily to his tame performance. “Any sort of upward movement is when I get the impingement.” But he added: “I think he played very, very well. I didn’t give myself much of a chance under the circumstances.” Henman committed 42 unforced errors on one of Flushing Meadows’ outside courts. And his confident opponent took full advantage, holding serve with ease and punishing Henman’s delivery, which noticeably lacked pace and precision.
Fourth round: (CNN)
A sweat-soaked Pete Sampras seemed barely able to muster the strength to wave to the crowd after his victory. Just hours earlier, on another court, Roddick packed a match’s worth of athleticism and emotion into one sequence. Sampras and Roddick, at opposite ends of their careers, both won Tuesday night to set up a showdown in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. The 31-year-old Sampras powered 27 aces, was aided by his opponent’s late double faults, and got past third-seeded Tommy Haas in 3 hours 2 minutes, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5. Sampras had lost three straight matches to Haas, and all on hardcourts. It was Sampras’ 200th Grand Slam tournament match victory. “It was a long night. I was feeling it a little bit at the end. It’s pretty humid out here,” said Sampras, without a title since July 2000. “They’re big matches, especially the year that I’ve had. It’s been a little bit frustrating, but I’ve still got the game.” Haas was two points away from taking the 1st set at 5:4* (30-all); in the 10th game of the 2nd set Haas had his only break point in the match after Sampras had squandered four set points. “This past week and a half, I feel like I have kind of got my game going. I’m comfortable playing here,” said Sampras, who entered with a 20-17 match record in 2002. Asked about Rusedski’s statement, Sampras smiled. “I don’t really worry about what he says. Against him, I don’t really need to be a step and a half quicker.” Playing on a heavily taped bruised left foot, the 11th-seeded Andy Roddick reached the Open’s final eight for the second straight year with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 26 Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina. The Argentine led *2:0 (30-all) in the 2nd set. “It’s kind of the generations overlapping,” said Roddick, who turned 20 Friday. “I grew up idolizing him. I have a great deal of respect for Pete and what he’s done. Having said that, I want to go out there and play some ball.” For better or worse, Roddick was the picture of youthful exuberance against Chela. Fernando Gonzalez of Chile reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open on Tuesday, knocking out unseeded Arnaud Clement of France 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round. Gonzalez, the world No. 28, upset seventh-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain in the third round 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Clement, ranked 43rd in the world, upset 10th-seeded countryman Grosjean in the second round and topped Coria of Argentina in the third round. The 28th-seeded Gonzalez will meet Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. Schalken, seeded 24th, topped former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 7-6(4) earlier Tuesday. Kuerten, a three-time French Open champion, was unseeded because of poor results relating to his injury and subsequent surgery. The Brazilian, who has reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open twice before, upset second-seeded Safin – the winner here two years ago – in the second round. Kuerten wasn’t expected to even make it this far in the year’s final major tournament, having been the first man in 31 years to go from being seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open one year to being unseeded the next. He entered the Open with a 12-10 match record in 2002, a season interrupted in February by right hip surgery that kept him off the tour for two months and led to a drop to 46th in the rankings. Schalken, meanwhile, reached the quarterfinals at a second straight Grand Slam event after never having been that far in the first 28 majors of his career. Schalken after winning 1st set easily, led 4:2* in the 2nd when the match turned into a dramatic 4-setter. ‘Guga’ broke back and led 5:3 & *6:5 in the tie-break. In the 3rd set Schalken was two points away from a straight sets victory at 5:4 & 6:5, in the tie-break saved two set points, then failed to save the third one. Kuerten led 5:4 (30/15) in the 4th set when the Dutchman played an excellent overhead. Lleyton Hewitt eliminated No. 14 Jiri Novak 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. No. 32 Max Mirnyi dismissed Roger Federer 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-4. In some respects, it had the feel of two pals out for a late-night hitting session under the lights. There was much more at stake, of course, when Younes El Aynaoui and Wayne Ferreira played until 2:14 a.m on Tuesday: money, ranking points, and a berth in the U.S. Open quarterfinals against defending champion Hewitt. El Aynaoui, a Moroccan seeded 20th, beat the South African 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 7-6(3), with about 300 fans sticking around until the final point. The finishing time was just 12 minutes short of the U.S. Open’s record for latest end to a match. On Sept. 4, 1993, Mats Wilander‘s victory over fellow Swede Mikael Pernfors ended at 2:26 a.m. The late-night show starring El Aynaoui and Ferreira was the conclusion to a long session of tennis as play didn’t get going on Monday until after 6 p.m. because of a rain delay of more than seven hours. Earlier, sixth seed Andre Agassi stormed into the quarterfinals with 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 demolition of fellow American Jan-Michael Gambill. Agassi and Gambill had been the two dominant figures during the first week of the season’s final Grand Slam dropping 16 and 11 games respectively on way to their fourth round clash. But once again, Gambill had no answers, as the 32-year-old Agassi, much to the delight of a large crowd, ran his younger opponent around the Arthur Ashe stadium court. The two-time U.S. Open champion needed just 1 hour and 41 minutes to register his sixth consecutive decision over the 25-year-old Gambill and add his name to a growing list of American victims.
Quarterfinals: (CNN), Sandra McKee
Soft-serving Sjeng Schalken won Thursday’s quarterfinal, beating Fernando Gonzalez before an all-American glamor match at the U.S. Open. Schalken reached his first semifinal in 30 Grand Slam tournaments with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) win over the Chilean. Their 3-hour, 43-minute match ended about an hour before Pete Sampras‘ straight-set rout of 20-year-old Andy Roddick. Smacking aces at over 130 mph, covering every inch of the net, Sampras looked like the younger man and dominated an apparently awestruck Roddick 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the U.S. Open semifinals for the eighth time. The profiles of Schalken and Gonzalez are considerably lower. Schalken is seeded 24th and never reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal until he did it on his 29th try this year at Wimbledon, where he was the only player to take a set from champion Hewitt. Gonzalez, seeded 28th, was in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal and bidding to become the first player from Chile to reach the Open semifinals. “I didn’t expect this, to be in the semis,” Schalken said. “I’m now a little bit more relaxed than before the quarterfinals.” Schalken won the match on a breezy day when he finally held on to a big lead in a tiebreaker. He led the first tiebreaker 5:1 and the second 5:3 and lost them both. At 6:5* in the 1st set he wasted a double set point. In the 2nd set Gonzalez led 3:2* (15/30) when lost 14 consecutive points, and a little bit later found himself at *0:3 in the 3rd set. There was no break point in the decider, no ‘deuce’ even once – they served so well. “You have to win one, of course to win the match”, Schalken said. He went ahead 6:0 in the last one before Gonzalez got the next two points. On the next point, Gonzalez returned Schalken’s serve wide, making Schalken the first Dutchman to reach the Open semifinals since Tom Okker in 1971. “I said to myself, ‘Go for it. The first six points you’re with the wind,”‘ he said of the tiebreaker. Schalken won his fifth match in the tournament after winning a total of seven in his previous seven U.S. Opens. But he failed at critical times. He committed his only two double faults of the match in the 4th-set tiebreaker. He matched Gonzalez with 12 aces, but Gonzalez also had 12 double faults. Schalken’s fastest serve was just 110 mph, compared with 130 mpg for Gonzalez. “I don’t have the speed. I don’t have that in my arm,” the 6-foot-3 Schalken said. “I tried that many times, but I get injuries.” The Dutchman improved his poor five-set record to 6-13. “This is what I play for. I was ready to go from the first point on,” said Sampras after destroying his 11 years younger countryman. “I’m just confident in the big moment that I’m going to come through. I spent moments of struggling with the confidence this year, but I can get it back pretty quickly.” Sampras has played his best tennis of the past 24 months in the U.S. Open, reaching the finals in 2000 and 2001. Now he’s doing it again. “You guys say Pete is washed up. I never said it,” Roddick said. “I don’t think anybody doubts the fact that he’s capable of great tennis still.” Sampras broke early in each of sets leading 3:0, 3:1 & 2:0 respectively, and closed the match out in 89 minutes with a stop-volley. No. 1 seed Lleyton Hewitt seemed to be everywhere on the court. His legs churned with the speed of an antelope running for cover. He got to almost every ball Younes El Aynaoui sent over the net. And he scored at least one point when it was El Aynaoui who appeared to hit a winner. For Hewitt, everything was possible yesterday, as he moved into the U.S. Open semifinals with a 6-1, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-2 victory in 2 hours 40 minutes. It was the last game of the final set. Hewitt served and El Aynaoui returned a brilliant spinning drop shot. Hewitt, who had already tracked down several of El Aynaoui’s well-delivered dropped volleys, charged from the back of the court. It appeared Hewitt would not reach this ball in time, but, it didn’t matter – the ball rose up and spun back over the net. Point, Hewitt. What could El Aynaoui, the first Moroccan to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals in the Open Era (1968-present), do but smile. “He surprised me how fast he runs,” El Aynaoui said. “He got one or two drop shots that were really impressive.” Hewitt didn’t get the spinner, but El Aynaoui knew that didn’t bother him. “He’s running a lot,” he said. “Faster you play, the better he plays. He’s a very complete overall player. He’s also serving much better now. A very tough opponent.” Andre Agassi will be the man who tries to prevent the defending U.S. Open champion from again reaching the final. Agassi, the No. 6 seed, overcame a strong performance by Max Mirnyi last night, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. The victory takes the 32-year-old Agassi, a two-time U.S. Open champion who last won the tournament in 1999, a round deeper into the draw than he managed last year, when Sampras beat him in a thrilling four-setter. In that match, each set was decided by a tiebreaker. Last night, the first set was decided by a breaker, but after that, Agassi shifted gears. With Mirnyi playing brilliantly, coming to the net at every opportunity, he was forced to lift his play. “I thought it was a high-standard match from start to finish,” Agassi said. “The first set I let slip away. I had a couple of opportunities. In the end, he raised his game and won the right points. In the second set, he donated a few opportunities back to me.” In the 1st set after an early exchange of breaks of serve, the Belorussian saved mini-set points in the 9th & 11th games. In the pivotal 3rd set, Mirnyi came back from *1:3 to 4:3 (he had two break points in the match and converted both), won his service game after seven ‘deuce’s to lead 5:4*, but since then Agassi took full control winning 9 of the last 12 games. “He’s difficult for everybody,” Agassi said about Hewitt. “He’s been No. 1 in the world now for almost a full year. He makes you play a great match to beat him. I’ve just got to come out there and do it.” One of the reasons nearly everyone else on tour – at one time or another – has struggled against Hewitt is because of his buzz-saw style of play. He knows only one game plan – attack, attack, attack. Which is exactly what he did yesterday. “I get up for big matches,” Hewitt said. “I thought I came out of the blocks well today, put it to him straight away that I’m defending champion here and it’s going to take a hell of a match from him to beat me out there.” Hewitt played almost flawless tennis in the opening set, but fell behind 3:5, 4:5* (30-all) in the 2nd set, also 0:3 & 4:6 in the tie-breaker. El Aynaoui looked poised to take the set and make it a close match. But he could not close it out, wasting two set points with a forehand and a backhand error. Then it was Hewitt’s set-point chance (third, first two as he led 6:5) and he sent a blistering backhand cleanly past El Aynaoui. At that point, it was too much for El Aynaoui, who didn’t finish his fourth-round match until 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, a situation El Aynaoui said sapped his leg strength and his energy. Hewitt said he did not know of El Aynaoui’s late-night work, but nodded with sudden understanding. “I didn’t think he’d get tired today,” Hewitt said. “I’ve seen him before and I’ve seen him play a lot of tough five-setters, especially on clay, which is probably a more demanding surface. His fitness is pretty good. But then, I thought maybe halfway through the fourth set he was starting to struggle a little bit out there, which obviously had probably a lot to do with the other night.”
An inspired Andre Agassi tamed defending champion and world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 6-2 on Saturday, setting up a dream U.S. Open final between two U.S. tennis greats. Earlier on the same sun-kissed Arthur Ashe stadium court, Pete Sampras did his part as he continued his unlikely run to the final with an efficient 7-6(6), 7-6(4), 6-2 win over Dutchman Sjeng Schalken. Agassi will go into Sunday’s final chasing his third U.S. Open crown against rival Sampras, who owns four Flushing Meadows titles but has not tasted victory of any description in over two years – a stretch of futility going back 33 tournaments to Wimbledon 2000. With the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, meeting in the women’s final later on Saturday, it marks the first time since 1979 that both men’s and women’s titles will be contested by Americans, leaving New Yorkers with a patriot weekend just days ahead of the Sept. 11 anniversary. Sunday’s final will also be the fifth time Agassi and Sampras have met to decide a Grand Slam title. Sampras won three of those four meetings, including the 1995 U.S. Open. “I couldn’t be more thrilled about it,” said Agassi, 0-3 against Sampras at the U.S. Open. “This is less about what we pull out of each other tomorrow and more about a nice toast to the past. It’s going to be a great day. Pete, in my opinion, is the best I have ever played against. That forces you to get that rush of blood that makes you do a little something special.” Like Sampras, Agassi appeared to draw strength and boundless energy from the raucous New York crowd, running down seemingly unreturnable balls and outhustling Hewitt. The afternoon didn’t get off to a promising start for Agassi as Hewitt, who was riding on a 23-match winning streak against U.S. opponents, looked set to carve up another victim. The Australian broke the 32-year-old at the first opportunity to surge in front 3:0* but the veteran American would not be rattled. With his wife, Steffi Graf, applauding from the shadows of the cavernous stadium, Agassi punished his 21-year-old opponent with his usual assortment of laser like returns and pin-point passing shots breaking back in the 5th game. When Agassi broke again to go up 5:4 and served out the set, the 23,000 spectators erupted with approval. A relentless Hewitt, however, refused to be discouraged and took the initiative in the 2nd with an early break (*2:0). But Hewitt knew he was in for a long afternoon when the pigeon-toed Agassi, with all the grace of a dump truck, raced to the net and flashed a cross-court winner as he immediately broke back. Hewitt later led *5:3, but shockingly lost two service games in a row. The first cracks in Agassi’s quest began to show when he squandered two set points serving at 6:5. Agassi, though, wasn’t rattled and clinched the tie-break in which led 5:2 before Hewitt stormed back to 5-all. With shadows now starting to stretch across the court, Agassi reasserted his control racing ahead 3:0* to open the 3rd. Hewitt would not disappear, clawing his way back winning the set in a tie-break (he was serving to take the set at 6:5). With Hewitt showing new signs of life and sweat pouring off a fatiguing Agassi’s bald head, the crowd shuttled in their seats fearing a comeback by the defending champion. But Agassi, his dream final with Sampras now in sight, would not be denied sweeping through the final five games to complete the fairytale script… With power on his serves and dominance at the net, Sampras wore down the Dutchman for a straight-set victory and a chance to end more than two years without a title. Sampras, who lost the Open final the past two years, goes for his fifth Open championship Sunday. “It’s a pretty tough turnaround emotionally, physically, but I feel I can do it,” Sampras said. His play here isn’t that of a 31-year-old who is past his prime. Schalken, who turns 26 Sunday, saw that first-hand. “He was placing the ball so good,” Schalken said. “I couldn’t touch the ball.” On Saturday, Sampras didn’t have the advantage of playing at night, when he is 20-0 at the Open. But on one of the hottest days of the tournament, Sampras never lost his serve. The first two sets came down to tiebreakers after neither player broke service. On the first one, Sampras won the first four points then dropped the next five, so Schalken served at 5:4 – lost both points. One point away from winning the set, Sampras struck solid serve, rushed to the net and won with a backhand volley. Then he faulted before winning the set with another backhand at the net. “Yeah,” he yelled as he pumped his fist several times. In the 2nd set, Schalken was again within two points of winning it, in both the 10th and 12th games, but Sampras came back. In the tiebreaker, Sampras fell behind 0:2 then led 5:4 and had the next two serves. He won the next point with a service winner then took the set again in typical fashion: a strong serve, a return by Schalken and a backhand volley at the net. “He comes to the net all the time, puts the pressure on me,” Schalken said. The first service break finally came in the 4th game of the 3rd set and was the only one Sampras needed. Schalken got just one point and Sampras won the game with a crosscourt volley from the net. Schalken had a chance to come back with two break points in the 7th game. But Sampras got back to ‘deuce’, then won the game with his 23rd ace and a backhand volley. In the final game, Schalken was ahead 30/15 on serve but didn’t get another point as Sampras kept charging the net. When his final volley got by Schalken, Sampras pumped his fist again, just one win away from ending his title drought. The match lasted 2 hours, 23 minutes and, at times, it appeared Sampras was wilting. In the quarterfinals, he needed just 1:29 to beat Roddick in straight sets.
Pete Sampras was right all along: he did have a 14th Grand Slam title in him. And just like the first, all those years ago, it came in a U.S. Open final against his old rival and fellow American Andre Agassi. His serve clicking, his volleys on target, his forehand as fluid as ever, Sampras beat Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 Sunday to win America’s major for the fifth time. At 31, Sampras is the Open’s oldest champion since 1970, when Australia’s Ken Rosewell claimed the title aged 35. And though he stopped short of saying he’ll quit, Sampras did sound like someone who’s thinking about retiring on a high. “To beat a rival like Andre, in a storybook ending, it might be nice to stop,” he said. “But I still love to compete. I’ll see in a couple of months where my heart is and my mind. My head is spinning.” Sampras’ play faded in the third and fourth sets, and it was hard to tell whether Agassi or time was taking the bigger toll. But he managed to hold on. Sampras hadn’t won a title since Wimbledon in July 2000, a drought of 33 tournaments, and he was seeded just 17th at the Open. He’s deflected questions about whether he’d keep going for some time now, insisting he still could produce on the big stage. After all, he figured, his 13 major titles were a record. “This one might take the cake,” Sampras said. “The way I’ve been going this year, to come through this and play the way I did today was awesome. I peaked at the right time.” When the 32-year-old Agassi put a backhand into the net to give Sampras the last break he would need, making it 5:4 in the 4th set, Sampras was so drained he barely lifted a fist, slowly pumping it once as he trudged to the changeover. He then served it out, with an ace to match point and a volley winner to end it. And he had enough energy to climb the stairs in the stands to kiss and hug his pregnant wife, actress Bridgette Wilson. Sampras played his best tennis at the U.S. Open the past two years, making it to the championship match before losing in straight sets to a pair of 20-year-old first-time Grand Slam finalists: Hewitt in 2001 and Safin in 2000. On Sunday, Sampras got to pick on someone his own age: Agassi, winner of seven Grand Slam titles. They’ve played each other since the junior ranks, before they were 10, and now have met 34 times as pros (Sampras holds a 20-14 edge, including 4-1 in major finals). “It was special. You can’t get around that,” Agassi said. If the match signaled the end of an era, they produced a gorgeous goodbye. The crowd of more than 23,000 in Arthur Ashe Stadium split its rooting evenly, throwing more vocal support to whichever player trailed. Yells of “Pete!” from one corner would be echoed by “Andre!” from another. “Pete just played a little too good for me today,” Agassi said. “It’s great to hear New York cheer again. It was beautiful being here.” What a study in contrasts. Agassi is the baseline slugger, the greatest returner of his generation, and a true showman. Sampras is a volleyer always looking to get to the net, the greatest server of his generation, and almost always staid on court. Each played the assigned role to perfection, Sampras smacking his serves at up to 212 kph (132 mph), and winning the point on 69 of 105 trips to the net. Agassi ventured to the net just 13 times, but conjured up 19 ground-stroke winners to Sampras’ 16. “I played so well today,” Sampras said. “Andre brings out the best in me every time I step out with him.” At 4:3 in the 1st set, Sampras earned the first break point of the match and converted when Agassi’s backhand flew wide. Then, serving for the set at 5:3, Sampras faced his first break point. How did he handle it? A second-serve ace at 175 kph (109 mph). The 2nd set was similar, Agassi not quite handling the speed and movement of Sampras’ serving – he held at love four times – and Sampras getting a break. Agassi finally was able to measure Sampras’ serve with some regularity in the 3rd set, like a hitter who catches up to a tiring pitcher’s fastball in late innings. “He’s a good pressure-point player,” Agassi said. “He senses the important times of the match and puts pressure on you and elevates his game.” Based on recent play, the showdown seemed improbable. At July’s Wimbledon, both lost in the second round to players ranked outside the top 50. But they are in great shape. Agassi was out under the midday sun, swatting shots on a practice court in a black T-shirt. Sampras, headphones on, jogged in the hallway outside the locker room shortly before taking the court. The last time they played on the Grand Slam stage was in last year’s U.S. Open quarterfinals, a match Sampras won in four tiebreakers, with neither player breaking serve. It was presumed by many to be their last meeting at a major. After, Agassi leaned over the net, offering good luck the rest of the way in that tournament by whispering, “Win this thing.” One year later, Sampras did. Yes, the same Sampras who beat Agassi in the 1990 U.S. Open, setting the record for youngest winner, 19. It was the last match in Sampras’ career; he retired with 64 titles (14 majors). Stats of the final
US Open, New York
August 25-September 7, 2003 (32 seeded); 128 Draw; Surface – Hard
Changing of the guard in American tennis: a defending champion – Pete Sampras, 14-time Grand Slam winner, officially announced his retirement on day one (2000 champion Marat Safin withdrew too), the following day joined him other American player of the “golden generation” – Michael Chang. It opened the gate for much more younger Americans to get into the biggest courts at Flushing Meadow drawing attention of fans. It was a great opportunity especially for 21-year-old Andy Roddick, who had won 3 out of 4 tournaments on American hardcourts before the US Open ’03, which established him as a main favorite. He was on fire, with a little help of officials, spectators and pure luck, captured his only major title beating Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final. For the Spaniard it’s also memorable tournament because he reached No. 1 in the world advancing to that final.
First round: Howard Fendrich, Al Picker
The opening day of a Grand Slam tournament is a carnival of tennis, with more than 100 top men and women playing all across the grounds. And yet, without so much as lifting a racket, one man commanded most of the attention Monday: Pete Sampras. The owner of a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, including five at the U.S. Open, Sampras formally announced his retirement at a news conference, then was honored during a half-hour ceremony on the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium at night. “I’m 100 percent retired,” Sampras said, his voice cracking. “I’m at peace with it. It’s time to call it a career.” After the ceremony, sixth-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters’ boyfriend, hit 26 winners in beating Victor Hanescu 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. “That’s a good one to get under my belt,” Hewitt said. “After the ceremonies, I wanted to get out there and get off to a good start and put pressure on him early, and I was able to do that.” Surprise French Open finalist Martin Verkerk advanced to the second round when Alex Bogomolov , a 22-year-old wild-card entry from Miami, had to quit a game into the fifth set because of cramping during a 3 1/2-hour match. Bogomolov, who had two match points in an 11/9 fourth-set tiebreaker, was taken off the court on a stretcher. Earlier in the set Bogomolov led 3:1 (deuce) on return. No. 9 Sebastien Grosjean, twice a Grand Slam semifinalist, did acknowledge lingering right elbow pain contributed to wasting two match points and losing to  Ramon Delgado 6-4, 6-7(3), 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4. Grosjean held match points leading 6:5 in the 4th set, he also led 3:0* in the decider, it was his fourt 5-setter in New York – lost them all. Without the fanfare accorded Pete Sampras at his farewell ceremony Monday night, Michael Chang also called it a career, but in a far different fashion. He played out his curtain call. Yesterday, the 31-year-old Chang, a shell of the player who was within one victory of attaining a No. 1 world ranking in 1996, completed his farewell tour by playing a spirited match before losing his first-round match to 15th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. In his prime, Chang demonstrated to fellow American teenagers that they could aspire to greater achievements. He did it by example, pulling off one of the biggest surprises in tennis in capturing the 1989 French Open title at the age of 17 years, 3 months. How he became the youngest ever Grand Slam winner is a story in itself. In the fourth round, the teen took on the mighty No. 1 of the time, Ivan Lendl. Chang won a 4 1/2-hour five-setter, in which he fought off severe bouts of cramps. Three rounds later, Chang knocked off Stefan Edberg for the title in another thrilling five-set marathon. “I think the match (against Lendl) was the defining match for my career,” Chang said. “In many aspects, that match taught me a lot about life, taught me about recognizing that we have our ups and downs in life… and you have to fight through it. There was actually one point in the fifth set where I was walking over to the side, thought about quitting. Something inside me said, ‘No, don’t do that. You’ve got to fight.'” Chang’s surprise success sent a message to his generation of young stars. “It changed everything,” Jim Courier said. “Chang really opened the door for Pete (Sampras), Andre (Agassi) and myself, to know we were capable of winning tournaments like that.” Chang feels the same way. “I’m positive the other guys were saying, ‘Shoot, we’ve grown up playing with Michael. If this little squirt can win a Grand Slam, why can’t I?'”From there, the Grand Slam titles started to come.” It was Chang’s 17th appearance at the US Open.
If Andre Agassi is feeling a little lonely out there, with contemporaries Pete Sampras and Michael Chang leaving tennis (Courier did it three years earlier), youngster Roddick would be more than happy to make a date for the U.S. Open final. One by one, the generation of American stars who grew up playing junior tennis against each other in the 1980s and wound up collecting Grand Slam singles titles together for more than a decade is calling it quits. Chang lost his final match as a pro Tuesday at the U.S. Open in a far more muted farewell than Sampras’ retirement announcement the night before. Jim Courier, the first of the ol’ gang to stop, called Chang’s match from the TV booth. And Agassi? He isn’t done yet, not by a long shot. Still calibrating points perfectly, lacing lines with hit-it-as-soon-as-possible groundstrokes, the 33-year-old Agassi began his run as the oldest top-seeded player in the Open era by beating Alex Corretja 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. “It’s a weird feeling. You just sort of expect to leave the dance with the ones you came with. When they decide that it’s time for them, it’s a sad feeling,” said Agassi, the 1995 and 1999 Open champion. “I’m certainly proud to still be doing this, this long and at this level.” Andy Roddick, who turns 21 Saturday, is just getting started, and he handled Tim Henman 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3. Four-time Wimbledon semifinalist Henman missed two months after shoulder surgery in February and has slipped to 34th in the rankings. While acknowledging he would have preferred an easier opening opponent, Roddick played down the significance of the victory. “I haven’t done anything yet, man. I’m just in the second round,” said Roddick, 30-2 since pairing with Agassi’s former coach, Brad Gilbert. “It’s always going to be Andre’s tournament until he retires.” Roddick is the first player since Agassi in 1995 to enter the U.S. Open with 20 match wins on the summer hard-court circuit. The lone blemish on the youngster’s 20-1 record came courtesy of Henman at Washington, D.C. This time, the Englishman was tentative on key points, including a double-fault followed by a forehand long that ceded the opening set. The fourth-seeded Roddick would like to stick around just a little longer. He was a semifinalist at the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, and his past two U.S. Opens ended with quarterfinal losses to the eventual champion, including Sampras in 2002. “My day will come as far as Grand Slams go. I believe that,” Roddick said. “I’m not going to rush myself.” A three-time French Open champion, Gustavo Kuerten, was eliminated 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) by qualifier Dmitry Tursunov. Guga led 4:3 (40/30) on serve in the 5th set against the Russian, for whom it was a Grand Slam debut. Switzerland’s Roger Federer arrived at the Open with no worries and a far different outlook than a year ago. Since his fourth-round exit last summer, he has a Wimbledon championship and this tournament’s No.2 seed on his resume. Leading Jose Acasuso 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 2-0, Federer advanced to the second round when the Argentine qualifier retired with a lower back and groin injury. Acasuso started cramping late in the third set, but that didn’t affect Federer’s strategy. “There’s not much to change,” he said. “I was already winning. It was just a matter of seeing how much pain he had. I played maybe the first few points looking more at my opponent than concentrating on my own game. He didn’t last long.” Mardy Fish has a following all his own at the U.S. Open – the “Fish Freaks.” They are six shirtless men who showed up for Fish’s opening match in Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing rubber fish hats over their heads and faces. Each person painted one letter on his chest so together they spelled G-O F-I-S-H. They hollered all through Monday’s match. “They were great,” said the 24th-seeded Fish, who beat Sweden’s Joachim Johansson 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. “It’s cool to get recognition for your tennis. I don’t think that has all to do with my tennis. I think it has a lot to do with my last name.” Fish’s fishy friends all live in the New York area and found each other on-line when Doug Akin, 26, placed an Internet ad in hopes of assembling a group of Fish fanatics. James Blake had so much fun in his first-round match, even he looked at the jumbo screen to watch replays. Pumping his fist after winning big points – and once making a return with his left hand, not his right – the enthusiastic Trumbull native upset 27th-seeded Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-2, Wednesday at the U.S. Open. “Even down 4:1 in the first set, I didn’t think I was out of it,” said the unseeded Blake, who reached the third round last year. “I play my best tennis at the Open. I made a couple of unbelievable shots even I didn’t think I’d make. I played and won a night match at center court at the Open and no one can take that away from me.” 27-year-old Magnus Norman , former No. 2, played his last Grand Slam match. He was a few points from losing in straight sets to Jean-Rene Lisnard  but leveled at two sets apiece. In the 5th set came from a break down, and after breaking Lisnard in a very long game was holding a match point at 5:3, only to find himself at 5:6* (15/40) four games later. Ultimately Lisnard won 6-2, 6-2, 6-7(4), 0-6, 7-6(4) after 4 hours 1 minute. Norman played just two tournaments afterwards and announced retirement due to problems with heart, hip and knee.
Second round: Janie McCauley, Wayne Coffey
Lleyton Hewitt faced a one-set deficit and the possibility of making his earliest U.S. Open exit ever. He was going for too much and missing. The sixth-seeded Aussie eventually settled down, rallying for a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory against aggressive South Korean baseliner Hyung-Taik Lee in the tournament’s second round Thursday. Hewitt repeatedly yelled “Come on!” and pumped his fists after many points. Once he finally ended it on his fourth match point (seven deuces in the final game), Hewitt bent his knees, threw both arms up and screamed. Then, he hit a tennis ball into the seats of Louis Armstrong Stadium. Hewitt is not the top-seeded player in a Grand Slam for the first time since 2001 Open – but he was seeded fourth that year and wound up winning. “I was just playing a little bit within myself and not going out and being aggressive,” he said. “From the first point in the second set, I started putting more pressure on him. I just say win. For me, sometimes the first few rounds are the toughest.” But, he added: “I’m through to the third round, I can’t complain.” Hewitt has advanced to at least the third round of the Open every year he’s played, with his earliest elimination coming in the third round in 1999 when he made his debut. “I felt like when I stepped it up and took the initiative a little bit more, I played some of my best tennis in the second and third sets,” Hewitt said. Lee’s first-round victory over Vladimir Voltchkov ended a nine-match losing streak dating to May. He hadn’t won a match in four previous hard-court events this summer. American Todd Martin, 33, won a thriller over French Open runner-up and 16th-seeded Martin Verkerk, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(9) in 3 hours, 3 minutes. Martin trailed 5:2 in the fourth-set tiebreaker, then saved two set points at 5:6 & 7:8. He’d saved also three set points in a tie-break of his opening match (Robert Yim). “I was starting to think about a fifth-set tiebreak, but I knew I had my chances,” Martin said, for whom it was win No. 400 at the main level. “I felt like I could win the match and I felt, without being presumptuous, I felt like I would win the match.” In that 3-hour match completely dominated by serves, Verkerk fired 26 aces, Martin 17. French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, seeded third, beat Jurgen Melzer 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-4. No. 28 Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a four-set winner over Kenneth Carlsen. Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan, seeded 11th and a fan favorite, defeated Dominik Hrbaty 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to resounding cheers from his animated countrymen. Paradorn, who believes he is representing all of Asia, grew up admiring Michael Chang. Paradorn won the title in a tuneup at Long Island last week. “Like I said every day, it’s nice to have support out there,” he said. “In best-of-five matches you need somebody behind your back to help you keep fighting because you never know how long the match is going to be.” In other men’s action Thursday, No. 5 Guillermo Coria defeated Bohdan Ulihrach 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and No. 33 Juan Ignacio Chela was a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Tomas Berdych . For the lucky loser, 17-year old Berdych it was first main level tournament. The chances were all lined up for Mardy Fish in a critical tiebreaker Thursday at the U.S. Open – four set points (6:3, 7:6), including a backhand on the last crack that looked like a practice ball. Fish hardly could have hit it worse. He jumped at it, jamming it low into the net, losing that point, the next two and giving Karol Kucera a two-set lead and a vice-like grip on a 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4 win. It not only ushered the young man from Tampa out of the tournament but probably cost him a starting singles spot on the United States Davis Cup team (it didn’t happen, Fish played against Slovakia in a Davis Cup play-off next month and took a revenge on Kucera). “I got anxious,” Fish said later. “I had to come up with the goods on almost every point, and I knew that going in. I knew I had to be smart, which I wasn’t today, as smart as I can be. You know, the guy came up with the goods on the big points and I didn’t.” In the 1st set Fish was broken after holding 92 consecutive service games (starting from 2nd set of the first round in Cincinnati). He had his black hat backward, his black tee shirt sleeveless and his stubbly growth razorless. Robby Ginepri looked vaguely like a biker boy who had crashed into the white-clad world of tennis last night, and was no less menacing with a racket in his hand. Ginepri is 20 years old, lives with his parents in Marietta, Ga., and is having the best year of his life – in tennis, where his rank is up to No. 40, and in romance, where his love interest is British actress Minnie Driver. The guy who made the announcement in the locker room that called him to the court last night mispronounced his name, calling him GIN-eh-pree (it’s gin-EP-ree). It is not a mistake that figures to be repeated much if Ginepri maintains the level he achieved at Louis Armstrong Stadium, where he ousted No. 23 Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(0), 6-2. The victory – against a 31-year-old pro who won the tour stop in Los Angeles this summer, beating Lleyton Hewitt in the finals – puts Ginepri in the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time. “It was a great match to get through,” Ginepri said. “I was fired up to go out there tonight.” Andy Roddick has been working on toning down his on-court exuberance, trying not to get too riled up during matches. According to Ivan Ljubicic , the man he beat 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-6(8) in the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday night, Roddick is still too loud and too demonstrative on court. “Anywhere in the world, except in the United States, if we played this match, I would have won it,” Ljubicic said. “I mean, generally, I don’t like him. I mean, not me – nobody in the locker room likes his acting on the court. I mean, he’s a good player. He’s going to win a lot of matches, but not because he’s like that. It’s just that we don’t like it. Because nobody acts like that. He’s the only one.” Ljubicic said other players wished him luck and urged him to beat Roddick. Told of the comments, Roddick said: “I think that’s pretty much sour grapes. That doesn’t really deserve a response. I don’t think that’s very respectful.” The 43rd-ranked Croatian was particularly flustered by what he thought was a blown call on the last of four set points (6:3, 7:6) he wasted in the final tiebreaker. Roddick hit a runaround forehand that landed right at the line. Ljubicic thought it should have been called out, put his hands on his head and dropped to his knees in exasperation. “That was the crucial point, obviously. I am expecting some bad calls. But, you know, it hurts when it happens in the crucial moment like that,” Ljubicic said, adding that he thought a linesman’s ruling could be affected by hearing Roddick yell, “Yes!” after hitting a shot. There were 44 aces in that match (22 each). 17-year-old Rafael Nadal  playing his first US Open, lost to Younes El Aynaoui 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-7(6) on Grandstand, leading on both tie-breaks, 3:0 & 3:1 respectively.
Third round: Howard Fendrich
Heavy rains caused havoc with the U.S. Open yesterday, suspending some matches and delaying others at critical – and curious – points. But Taylor Dent wouldn’t let rain or Fernando Gonzalez keep him from the biggest win of his life. While one match was stopped at game-point and postponed for three hours, – and while Andre Agassi’s was washed out until today – the unseeded Dent resumed after his delay and rallied to a third-round upset of the 15th-ranked Chilean, 7-6(9), 6-7(3), 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. The 22-year-old Dent had never before reach the Round of 16 at a Slam before. “I’m excited. It’s nice; I’m not going to lie,” Dent said. “I was in a rhythm before the delay. I was so juiced up, I came [back] trying to hit my serve Mach 5 and ended up hitting three double (faults). But it’s a learning process.” The 22-year-old son of former Top 20 player Phil Dent won points on 111 of 170 trips to the net (65 %). Dent fought off two set points in the 1st tie-break and match point (service winner) at 4:5 in the 4th set. The 22-year-old American served 26 aces – the most in his career. 3 hours, 1 minute – that’s how long Jonas Bjorkman had to wait to convert match point in his 6-4, 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Karol Kucera. As sprinkles started falling, Bjorkman slipped twice in the middle of a rally on match point – prompting the chair umpire to take the highly unusual step of stopping play during a point. When they returned to the court after the delay, it took about 30 seconds for this sequence: fault, good serve, short rally, Kucera’s forehand hits net and drops wide, Bjorkman pumps a fist to celebrate. Then they packed up their bags and left the court. “I felt terrible,” Kucera said. “It was like running a marathon and you go rest awhile and have to come back again.” Making it into the fourth round before play was halted was 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt, who advanced when Radek Stepanek quit because of muscle spams in his lower back while trailing 6-1, 3-0. Hewitt next faces No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Fernando Verdasco . “I would have liked to have kept going,” Hewitt said. “I felt like I was in a pretty good routine out there today. I was hitting the ball cleanly. It was a big step up from my first two matches.” 20-year-old “lucky loser” Verdasco became a first player in the US Open history to advance to the last 32, losing a qualifying match (Verdasco lost to Jeff Salzenstein 1-6, 4-6). Andy Roddick unfurled his body and unleashed a 140 mph ace that forced a line judge to duck as the ball slammed against the wall with a thud. It was the loudest display Roddick produced Sunday in a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Flavio Saretta to reach the U.S. Open’s fourth round. Roddick was the picture of calm, without a trace of the antics he used to pull – and which his prior opponent derided. Instead, it was Saretta who clowned around, staring at a line when he thought a call was incorrect, kicking the ball, flipping his racket in the air or cracking it on the ground. The No. 4-seeded Roddick was all business. “I’ve been playing like that the past three months,” Roddick said. “I just kind of realized I didn’t need to fight a mental battle every day.” Andre Agassi doesn’t abide distractions these days, too concerned with saving every bit of energy and keeping track of each detail. So Agassi wasn’t pleased about not being consulted when his third-round match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov (his 125th and last Grand Slam match in career) was suspended for nearly 24 hours early in the second set Saturday. Not that it mattered in the end: The top-ranked Agassi wrapped up a 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory Sunday to set up an Old vs. Young meeting with fellow American Taylor Dent in the round of 16 Monday. “For the match to get called, and to be the only match that didn’t finish yesterday, I think was a mistake, an oversight in judgment,” the 33-year-old Agassi said. Among his complaints: The Dent-Gonzalez match also should have been delayed a day so that winner wouldn’t get more rest. “It gets harder as you get older for a number of reasons,” Agassi said. “Between your body and your mind, your heart, the energy, the focus, the determination, the eagerness, the freshness – all those things get tougher.” Everything seems to come so effortlessly for Roger Federer, who moved a step closer to becoming the first man since Pete Sampras in 1995 to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same year. The No. 2-seeded Federer reached the fourth round with a 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over unseeded American James Blake. The second set was particularly memorable, with a 13-minute third game that featured eight break points and 10 deuces before Blake finally held serve. Federer had a total of 20 break points in the set but converted just one – when Blake dropped behind 3:2 with consecutive double-faults. Blake drew even at 5:5 by breaking back when Federer missed two straight forehands, but the Swiss star was cooler in the tiebreaker. “They were cheering him on like he won the match when he won his own serve, which is normal,” Federer said. “But I always felt in control of the second set.” He had played almost 3 1/2 hours on a bright Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Open. So when Younes El Aynaoui finally prevailed against Jiri Novak, he was entitled to exult. First, he went flat on his back, pumping his arms. After he scrambled to his feet and completed the obligatory handshake at the net, El Aynaoui started celebrating, throwing kisses to the crowd. He began shedding equipment, tossing souvenirs into the stands – first his shirt, then his racket. He went to a courtside wall to hug his trainer and waved the Moroccan flag to the crowd. While other prospects get free rides at high-profile tennis academies, El Aynaoui paid his way through Nick Bollettieri’s program. “I was doing a lot of small jobs just to pay for my stay there,” the 31-year-old said. “For a while, I cleaned the gym, organized the gym, drive the bus, watch the kids in the room, see if everything is clean at night, things like that.” That humble beginning may be part of the reason why the Open crowd urged him on with a chant of “Younes!” El Aynaoui’s 7-6(1), 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) victory in 3 hours 20 minutes sent him into the fourth round against Carlos Moya. As soon as the Moroccan stretches sets into tiebreaks, he has an edge. He is 5-0 in tiebreaks at the Open this year. El Aynaoui  went five hours in an epic quarterfinal against Andy Roddick at the Australian Open, never before in Grand Slam history had a fifth set stretched 40 games. Novak led 5:4* (30/15) in the 5th set, in the deciding tie-break rallied from 2:5 to 5-all before lost a point which seemingly won (El Aynaoui’s fantastic passing-shot in the run). More tie-breakers: Dutchman Sjeng Schalken, seeded 12th, played three tiebreakers to beat qualifier Ivo Karlovic, who upset Hewitt in the first round at Wimbledon. Schalken won 7-6(8), 7-6(5), 7-6(3) and seems to fancy close sets – he has played 187, winning 92. Karlovic played six consecutive tie-breaks because in the previous round he ousted Hicham Arazi 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 7-6(6) having just 1 break point in the match which he didn’t convert! Karlovic extended the number of tie-break sets played in a row to 7, in Shanghai (September ’03), becoming the first man to do something like that. He’ll repeat this feat in 2004, also Marat Safin will do that during the 2004 season, in Autumn.
Fourth round: Howard Fendrich, Mark Hale, Matt Jacob
A long, rainy day turned into a short one for Andre Agassi. The two-time champion moved into the U.S. Open quarterfinals Tuesday night when Taylor Dent quit because of a right hamstring injury with Agassi leading 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-5. It goes into the books as Agassi’s 200th career Grand Slam match victory. If he wins the tournament, he’ll tie Pete Sampras at 203, the third-most in the Open era behind Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. “To see him injured is outright disappointing for everybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s my 200th or first match. That’s not way you want it to end,” Agassi said. “It started to become apparent he was struggling with the leg. I was surprised he was unable to continue.” Their match was the first one that started and the only one completed because of off-and-on showers. There also was another postponement: the retirement ceremony for Michael Chang that was supposed to be held between the night matches. The tournament referee’s office was the site of the biggest buzz of activity Tuesday. Rain washed out big chunks of action for a second consecutive day, and officials said the tournament might not finish on time. “The forecast right now is not all that optimistic,” said Arlen Kantarian, U.S. Tennis Association CEO of pro tennis. Shortly before 6 p.m., the top-ranked Agassi and unseeded Dent went out on the court to warm up. They played 34 minutes, long enough for Agassi to go up 5:4 in the first set, before rain returned and they walked off. A little more than an hour later, the match resumed, with Dent breaking right back to 5:5 and then winning the first set on a 109 mph second-serve ace. During the changeover, it was decided to stop. Then, at about 8:40 p.m., Agassi and Dent were playing the second set. It took nearly another hour, though, for matches to start on other courts, including Todd Martin against French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, and No. 5 Guillermo Coria against Jonas Bjorkman. Shortly after Dent called it quits, it was raining again, and action across the grounds came to a halt. Ferrero had won the first set 6-2 against Martin, while Coria led Bjorkman 6-2, 2-0. Also, 2001 Open champion Lleyton Hewitt trailed No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan 4-3 on serve in the first set… It barely mattered what the opponent’s name was last night. For posterity’s sake, let the record show that it was Xavier Malisse. But the fact is, when Andy Roddick serves like this, he’s probably unbeatable no matter who he faces. Period. Last night, Roddick’s serve was magnificent during his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory. Pick any stat you want to decorate its prowess – he was never broken in 16 games, he reached 139 mph, he had nine aces and zero double faults. All worthy nominees, but how about this: In the first set, Roddick won 20 of his 22 service points. Absurd. In the second set, he then won 20 of 21. Double absurd. Roddick only “struggled” in the third, winning 33 of 47 points. Overall, he won 73 of 90 (81 %), baffling even himself when asked what made his performance so dominant. “I don’t know. I just – I serve well,” he said. “I don’t really know much past that.” Malisse does. “It goes 140 or 139 mph the whole time and even if you get your racket on it, the ball just takes off and goes long,” the Belgian native said. “Then on the second [serve] you’ve got all that spin on it. It’s the toughest serve I’ve ever seen.” Roddick moves into the Open quarters for the third straight year. He’ll face the winner of the Sjeng Schalken-Rainer Schuettler match, which was suspended with Schalken leading 5:1 in the 1st set. In regard of tough conditions, officials moved that match from Court No. 11 to Grandstand, but was initiated on Louis Armstrong stadium, only to be finished the following day on Court No. 10! Schalken won 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the last two years, Roddick’s lost in the quarters to the eventual champion. This year, though, he believes there’s a difference. “I feel like I’m doing everything a little bit better,” the No. 4 seed said. “I think I’m moving better. I think it’s night and day with my returns and my backhand. I just feel a lot more confident.” Despite a short delay before play began, normalcy returned to the U.S. Open on Thursday to keep alive tournament organizers’ hopes that the event can finish on time. The men’s tournament, which was a day behind schedule entering Thursday’s play, made the most strides by completing the necessary matches to make a Sunday final still attainable. Before Thursday, only two players – top-seeded Andre Agassi and No. 4 Andy Roddick – had advanced to the quarterfinals. They were joined by a host of other top players Thursday, but Roger Federer wasn’t one of them. He became the highest men’s seed to fall, losing in four sets to David Nalbandian, 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-3. Federer needed only 35 minutes to win the first set, 6-3, but things began to sour after that for this year’s Wimbledon champion. Nalbandian surged to a 5:0 lead in the second set behind a pair of service breaks, but Federer wasn’t about to back down. He tied the set, 5:5, and the players held serve to force a tiebreaker. Nalbandian, however, regained his form to race through the tiebreaker, 7/1, to tie the match at a set apiece. From that point, Nalbandian took control. The players traded service breaks to open the third set, but Nalbandian broke again in the ninth game for a 5:4 lead. He won the set in the next game, when Federer netted a backhand. Trailing, 5:3, Federer was serving in the ninth game of the fourth set to stay in the match. But Nalbandian won the first two points to go ahead, 30/0, and set up three match points with a crosscourt dropshot. He won the 2-hour, 50-minute match with a forehand service return winner that Federer could not reach. Federer, done in by 62 unforced errors, was attempting to become the first men’s player since Pete Sampras in 1995 to win both the All-England and U.S. Open titles in the same year. With the loss, Federer dropped to 0-5 lifetime against Nalbandian. “I never felt I had a great day playing against him,” Federer said. “I’m still trying to figure out how to beat him.” Federer has struggled against Nalbandian since they were playing junior tennis. Nalbandian beat Federer in the U.S. Open boy’s championship, 6-3, 7-5 in 1998. Despite the dominance, Nalbandian never enters a match against Federer overly confident. “He is a very good player, but I’ve known him for five or six years,” Nalbandian said. “I like playing against him, but you never know what is going to happen.” Nalbandian will play No. 22 Younes El Aynaoui in the quarterfinals after he upset No. 7 Carlos Moya, 7-6(4), 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-4. El Aynoui saved set points in two sets, he was *5:6 (15/40) down in the 1st set, 4:6 & 6:7 in the 2nd set tie-break. Serving to win the match he led 40/0, but faced a break point in that game (!) before converting his fifth match point. Despite a first-set hiccup in a fourth-round match against Paradorn Srichaphan, No. 6 seed Lleyton Hewitt looked dominant in his 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory. Hewitt had amassed only a 5-3 record since his first-round upset at Wimbledon, and observers wondered how he would respond. But his strong baseline game is begin/emning to reappear, which played a big role when he won the championship here in 2001. In the quarterfinals, Hewitt will take on No. 3 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero, a five-set winner over Todd Martin on Thursday, 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3. Ferrerro won the first two sets in convincing fashion, but Martin, a finalist here in 1999, rebounded to take the next two. Ferrero then connected on 73 percent of his first serves in the final set and converted his only break-point chance to advance to the U.S. Open’s final eight for the first time.
Quarterfinals: Howard Feindrich
Ah, what a little extra rest can do for a 33-year-old. Andre Agassi was filled with so much pent-up energy, he jogged to the sideline at changeovers while his bedraggled opponent shuffled over, limping. The oldest man ever ranked No. 1 took advantage of getting two days off during a rainy U.S. Open and reached the semifinals for the ninth time by beating No. 5 Guillermo Coria 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 Friday. “A lot of things get more difficult as you get older. Opportunities get rarer,’‘ said Agassi, whose next opponent is French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. “It wasn’t easy on anybody – the players, the fans, TV. It’s been a difficult week.” Less difficult, though, for Agassi and Andy Roddick, who powered into his third Grand Slam semifinal of 2003 with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 12 Sjeng Schalken. Roddick, whose season-high winning streak reached 17 matches, will play No. 13 David Nalbandian in the semifinals. Agassi finished his fourth-round match Tuesday when Taylor Dent quit after three sets with a leg injury. And No. 4 Roddick booked his quarterfinal spot Wednesday. The six other quarter-finalists played Thursday, setting up the possibility of four matches over the final four days at a major for the first time in the 35-year Open era. “In a Grand Slam, it’s always important to have at least one day to rest,” the 21-year-old Coria said. “Agassi was kind of more rested.” Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 Open champion who lost to Ferrero on Friday, said: “It’s a huge swing in Andre’s favor.” Roddick’s response when told some thought it wasn’t fair that he and Agassi got time off? “Well, that’s too bad for them.” As fresh as Agassi and Roddick looked Friday under a clear sky with temperatures in the high 70s, there was wear and tear all around them. ATP Tour trainers were busy, hustling out to attend to participants in all four quarterfinals. Hewitt lost nine of the last 11 games against Ferrero after plopping down on the court to have his left hip massaged during a medical timeout. Hewitt also was treated a second time, and Ferrero won 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-1, saving two set points in the 3rd set with two aces (21 in total). Schalken needed his right leg massaged, and No. 22 Younes El Aynaoui‘s left knee was sprayed and taped during his 7-6(2), 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 loss to Nalbandian. El Aynaoui lost first tie-break after winning nine in a row (7 in New York), he could avoid another tie-break but failed serving to win the set at 6:5, he had also good position to take the 4th set as he led 4:2 (deuce) on Nalbandian’s serve. Coria was hampered by a sore left hamstring he picked up earlier in the tournament – plus an injury completely unrelated to the weather: He sliced his right thumb Friday morning when he reached into his racket bag and unwittingly grabbed a sharp tool used to cut foot calluses. He wrapped it himself, found that uncomfortable, and took the tape off – producing specks of red blood on his white shirt until a trainer bandaged it. Coria had other woes. One shot by Agassi midway through a 21-stroke rally looked long, and when the point ended, Coria walked over to the line judge and applauded, as if to say, “Thanks for helping him.” Coria’s biggest problem was presented by Agassi, who dictated points much better than during a quarterfinal loss to the Argentine at the French Open in June. “I wanted to make the match physical and make him step up and hit big shots consistently, and I did,” said Agassi, a two-time Open champion and runner-up to Pete Sampras last year. “It feels like I hadn’t played in a week, to be honest. I don’t think I started all that great, but then I managed to get into the match and started playing better.” Hoping to test his older opponent’s fitness – or perhaps because little else was working – Coria attempted several drop shots, including on each of the last two points of the first set. Agassi hustled to get both for slick backhands that enabled him to break serve and grab a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. In the second set, Agassi broke for a 5:3 edge with a feathery drop shot that prompted an errant forehand from Coria. Then, in the third, Agassi won 15 straight points on his serve, but a blip came when he allowed Coria to break back to 5:5. Agassi broke right back, helped by Coria’s double-fault, long forehand and long backhand, then served out the match. It was a tidy, 2-hour, 5-minute affair, leaving plenty of time for recovery – if Agassi needs it.
Semifinals: Bruce Jenkins
Andy Roddick couldn’t have looked much younger. Belittling the chair umpire, trash-talking his opponent, disgustedly tossing balls and rackets into the air, he was going down hard at the U.S. Open, and now he was down two sets to love with a match point against him. Exactly an hour later, he was standing in the center of Arthur Ashe Stadium, raucous applause honoring his first-ever spot in a Grand Slam final. The scoreboard read 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-1, 6-3, and nobody was quite sure how it happened. You could have fooled his coach, Brad Gilbert, who wore a look of resignation as David Nalbandian carved out one of the greatest performances of his life. The stadium had been fully drained of its pro-American sentiment, Andre Agassi having taken a 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 loss to the exceptional Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first semifinal. And now this. What happened in exactly one hour, between 5:53 and 6:53 p.m. Eastern time Saturday, left the hint of destiny. The 21-year-old Roddick still hasn’t won a major championship, and the way Ferrero played, there could be a distinct Spanish flavor to the winner’s ceremony tonight. Still, there’s a magic to Roddick’s ascent. It’s a story that grows, reeling in appreciative fans as it gains momentum. “I’d sure like to see him pull it off,” said one of those fans, Agassi. “I mean, it would be his first one. It’s always great to see that happen. And he’s a good kid – I’d be happy for him.” Out on court, Roddick isn’t always such a good kid. His frustration leaks out for all to see, and as he found many targets for blame over the first two sets, he forgot the most important one: himself. Nalbandian was simply outplaying him, and not a single Roddick excuse would make any sense. What separates Roddick from the other young American tennis players – and perhaps the rest of the world, in time – is his self-belief. Even as he scatters his toys around the room, he believes in himself, coming from match point down to win four other matches earlier this year (El Aynaoui, Hyung-Taik, Agassi, Fish). Only a terrific sense of revolves brings someone back from the brink, and by the start of the fifth set, Roddick was completely in charge. As Nalbandian plowed through the first two sets, fighting through the pain of a sore wrist, CBS analyst John McEnroe marveled, “He’s unbelievable, this guy. He sucks the life out of you – and the crowd.” Roddick, meanwhile, had problems with line calls, his opponent, even fans who grew impatient during his delay for medical treatment (blisters) in the third set. Serving at 5:6 and match point against him in the tiebreaker, “I was pretty much down and out,” said Roddick, “so I didn’t have much pressure on me. I just decided to kinda go for it. The feeling was… like a little bit of calmness.” With a huge service winner, 138 mph to the backhand, Roddick fought off the match point and the comeback was on. Nalbandian grew increasingly irritated by line calls, many of which went Roddick’s way, and as the Argentine grumbled later, “Every time when it’s close, everything is for them.” (Presumably, he meant Roddick and his fans.) Nalbandian needed some self-examination, though, on a couple of huge points. At 7:7 in the third-set tiebreaker, he gave up on a point after a fan yelled, “Out,” when in fact the ball was in and he should have properly answered Roddick’s return. Much later, on the point that gave Roddick a crucial break for 5:3 lead in the final set, Nalbandian was incredulous that his down-the-line backhand was called out. Television replays were inconclusive, but the ball looked to be marginally separated from the line. “There was such a fine line on a lot of points,” said Roddick. “I feel incredibly fortunate to be sitting here talking about the U.S. Open final. Everybody’s saying I’m this and that, and hey – don’t give me that much credit. I’m still maturing. You play and you learn. One big match to go.” Ferrero, who wasn’t cheered much by the pro-Agassi crowd, got a rousing ovation and strutted around the court like a prize fighter after winning one incredible rally when he was running like crazy from the net to the baseline and aback to win a point with a passing-shot. Agassi’s take: “When I got the lob over his head, I started moving forward, and I said, ‘Why am I doing this? I don’t really want to hit a volley. Screw it, I’ll do it anyhow. Then, he made a shot between his legs. As it left my racket, I said, ‘I told you so, you jerk.’ As he was running for it, I said, ‘I deserve this.'” Ferrero agreed the win over Agassi will raise his profile, especially on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. “I think they didn’t know me so much here because I didn’t play so good in the U.S. Open,” he said. “America is pretty big. If you don’t play good here, people don’t know you. But this time, the people will know me good. I beat Agassi; he’s very popular here. I’m in the final beating Hewitt, Agassi and Todd Martin, the guys who play good on hard court. So, I think right now it’s my time.” That win secured Ferrero No. 1 spot, he lost it irretrievably eight weeks later.
Final: Journal Gazette
Three points from his first Grand Slam title, Andy Roddick stepped to the baseline, crouched, sprang up like a jack-in-the-box and smacked the ball. The result: Ace. Next point: Ace. Again: Ace. It was a fitting end to an awesome serving display. And there couldn’t have been a more fitting successor to Pete Sampras as U.S. Open champion. With 23 aces, strong baseline play and a veteran’s composure, Roddick beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3 Sunday, a breakthrough victory that very well could be followed by a series of major triumphs. “I can’t imagine my name and ‘U.S. Open champion’ together. It’s more than I could ever dream of,” Roddick said. “I came to this tournament so many times as a little kid and watched from way up there.” He’s still a kid, of course, just 21. And the newly No. 1-ranked Ferrero is 23, making for the youngest combined ages of U.S. Open finalists since Sampras beat Andre Agassi in 1990. After Roddick’s final too-fast-to-see serve – his 123rd ace of the tournament (17.5 per match) – he curled into a ball, covering his eyes as they welled with tears. Then he waded through the courtside photographers’ pit and climbed into the stands for a frenzied series of hugs with his singer-actress girlfriend, Mandy Moore, his parents, his brothers and a couple of friends who drove 10 hours to cheer on their buddy. It was an uplifting end to a rain-soaked Open with scheduling problems that forced Ferrero to play four matches in four days, the first time in the 35-year Open era that’s happened at a major. The Open began two weeks ago with a retirement ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium for Sampras, who beat Roddick in the quarterfinals last year en route to his record 14th Grand Slam title. And Sunday’s performance on the same court allowed Roddick to strut into the post-match news conference and announce: “No more, ‘What’s it feel like to be the future of American tennis?”‘… “I don’t think you could have written a script any better, with Pete’s retirement,” Roddick said. “It was just too good.” Men’s tennis has been as wide open as ever lately: Roddick is the eighth man to win at the last eight Grand Slam tournaments, tying the Open era record for most consecutive different champions. But Roddick appears to have staying power. He’s won 19 straight matches, and is 37-2 since teaming with coach Brad Gilbert, Agassi’s former mentor, after a first-round exit at the French Open. “There’s been a lot of pressure on him. This will shut a lot of people up that he was all hype,” U.S. Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe said. “We knew he had it. It’s a great day for him and for American tennis. It’s a great passing of the baton.” Roddick rises to a career-best No. 2 in the rankings and now leads the tour with six titles in 2003. The most important one, of course, is the most recent, a championship at the U.S. Open to put alongside the junior title he won at the National Tennis Center only three years ago. Stefan Edberg is the only other person with boys’ and men’s Open titles. “I’m baffled by how calm I felt out there and how easy it was,” Roddick said. “I almost didn’t feel anything out there.” Perhaps most impressive was his ability to hang in there on long rallies with French Open champion Ferrero, a consummate baseliner who beat Agassi relatively easily in the semifinals. In contrast, Roddick’s biggest test came in Saturday’s semis, where he trailed 2-0 in sets and faced a match point before beating No. 13 David Nalbandian. “Yesterday was a different climate. The other guy was returning and playing well,” Gilbert said. “Andy played not to lose yesterday, and today he played to win.” Ferrero was out on a practice court in the shadow of the stadium 2.5 hours before the final’s start, getting some last-chance work on returning serves. To replicate the power Roddick produces, Ferrero’s coach told his hitting partner to move up about 3 feet inside the baseline to serve. During his warm-up, meanwhile, Roddick loosened up by using his racket as though it were a baseball bat, taking cuts with a two-handed backhand and trying to hit balls over the fence. A bemused Ferrero looked on, sipping an energy drink. Once the action began for real, Ferrero was often reduced to bystander. It wasn’t just that Roddick smacked serves that would be fined for speeding on a European highway. He also has mastered the art of placement. “Today I didn’t play my best tennis,” Ferrero said, “but Andy played so good, and he served unbelievable, and I couldn’t do much.” If the Spaniard was listless, he had an excuse (one he didn’t use). Roddick was playing for a third straight day, because his fourth-round match ended Wednesday, a day earlier than Ferrero’s. Ferrero did look out of sorts at times, including when he forgot he had to switch sides of the court after the opening game of the second set. He wasn’t moving his feet well, and that’s one of the keys to his game – he earned the nickname “Mosquito” for the way he zips around the court. Even when Ferrero did show spunk, Roddick had an answer. On the opening point of the tiebreaker, Ferrero used a flat-out dive to his left for a stinging backhand volley. But as he was rising and gathering himself, Roddick spun a forehand passing winner. Ferrero then hit a brilliant winner, running so far he ended up against the stands, and a Roddick error made it 2:1 for the Spaniard. But Roddick reeled off six straight points to take the set, ending it with a crosscourt forehand winner that Ferrero simply gave up on. Roddick never was broken, though he actually faced a break point in the third game of the afternoon. He saved it with a 135 mph serve that drew a long return. Roddick then picked up the only break of the first two sets in the very next game. He got to break point when his backhand return clipped the net and landed deep, forcing an awkward forehand by Ferrero that landed wide. And Roddick took a 3:1 lead with a cross-court forehand winner to the corner. Roddick lost the second point of the ensuing game, then began a run of 23 straight points on his serve. That included the final game of the first set, which Roddick won this way: forehand winner down the line, 139 mph service winner, 141 mph ace, and 131 mph ace. He didn’t celebrate, though. He just calmly walked to his seat while the partisan crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was Roddick’s 11th title, first major, seemingly with many to come, but it didn’t happen. He never raised a Grand Slam trophy again, that final also didn’t establish a rivalry between him and Ferrero. They met for the first time then, and played against each other only four times in the future with Roddick being victorious on each occasion. Stats of the final
Sampras vs. Portas (SamPe shots selection)
Sampras vs. Rusedski (SamPe shots selection)
Sampras vs. Haas (SamPe shots selection)
Sampras vs. Roddick (highlights)
Sampras vs. Schalken (SamPe shots selection)
Sampras vs. Agassi
Roddick vs. Henman
Roddick vs. Ljubicic
Agassi vs. Kafelnikov
Federer vs. Blake
Ferrero vs. Agassi
Roddick vs. Nalbandian
Roddick vs. Ferrero
Grand Slam as last ATP title
Safin – Australian Open 2005
Sampras – US Open 2002
Little off-top – The statistical tribute to Igor Andreev & Nico Massu?? Both oficially retited recently
Number of their tournaments played as they won the last title (in parenthesis):
Marat Safin (162) – Australian Open 2005
Pete Sampras – (268) US Open 2002
Albert Costa – (201) Roland Garros 2002
Goran Ivanisevic – (305) Wimbledon 2001
Petr Korda – (213) Australian Open 1998
off-top: Perhaps when the season is over.