Roddick has tough U.S.Open row to hoe

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

NEW YORK If Andy Roddick was hoping to ease into the U.S. Open, he won't get that chance.

A final between Roddick and No. 1 Andre Agassi is possible thanks to Wednesday's draw, but first things first. Roddick will start off with a tough match against Tim Henman the only player who beat him during the summer hard-court season.

''If Roddick gets through the first round,'' U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said at the draw ceremony at United Nations headquarters, ''he should be in very good shape to get through to the semis.''

Roddick leads the calendar-year ATP Champions Race and, with three titles in the past month, heads the list of men's favorites at the season's last Grand Slam tournament, which starts Monday.

He's 20-1 on the hard-court circuit, winning titles at Indianapolis, Montreal and Cincinnati. The lone loss was against four-time Wimbledon semifinalist Henman at Washington, D.C.

Henman won that event and is currently ranked 33rd. The top 32 players were seeded for the Open, so he is the top player Roddick possibly could have met in the first round.

Overall, Roddick is 30-2 with four titles and a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon since pairing with coach Brad Gilbert after a first-round loss at the French Open.

''I feel good right now,'' Roddick said at last week's Cincinnati Masters. ''I don't think I'd be winning as many matches if I wasn't confident.''

Eventually, he could meet Australian Open runner-up Rainer Schuettler in the quarterfinals, where other possible matchups are: eight-time major champion Agassi vs. No. 5 Guillermo Coria, 2001 Open winner Lleyton Hewitt vs. French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Wimbledon champ Roger Federer vs. No. 7 Carlos Moya.

Coria knocked off Agassi in the French Open quarterfinals.

Agassi, at 33 the oldest No. 1 in ATP Tour computer ranking history, won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1999. He lost last year's final to Pete Sampras.

With Sampras all but officially retired, and Serena Williams sidelined by left knee surgery, it's the first time since 1971 that neither defending champion is participating.

''It will be wonderful to see such an open event literally on both the women's and men's sides,'' former pro and U.N. Messenger of Peace Vijay Amritraj said Wednesday.

The most intriguing potential women's quarterfinal pits Williams' older sister, 2000-01 champion Venus, against three-time major winner Jennifer Capriati.

''Without Serena playing this year, it certainly opens the door for a couple of other contenders,'' McEnroe said.

The other possible women's final-eight matchups: No. 1 Kim Clijsters vs. No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo, 1998 champion Lindsay Davenport vs. No. 8 Chanda Rubin, and French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne vs. No. 7 Anastasia Myskina.

Henin-Hardenne never has been past the fourth round at the U.S. Open; Clijsters never has been beyond the quarterfinals.

''Justine and Kim have played very, very well this summer, but I think Serena has almost a bigger aura of invincibility around her,'' Davenport said at the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, Conn. ''Serena's the one I lost to the last couple of years either her or Venus so I'm happy not to have Serena there.''

Venus Williams, who lost to her sister in five of the past six major finals, faces a qualifier in the first round at the National Tennis Center.

Agassi will begin against two-time French Open runner-up Alex Corretja.

Some third-round matches that could develop are Agassi against two-time major champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Ferrero against 2000 Open champion Marat Safin, and a Wimbledon final rematch between Federer and 1998 Open runner-up Mark Philippoussis.

In the women's third round, Capriati might play Russian teen Maria Sharapova, who reached Wimbledon's round of 16 as a wild-card entry.

''Lindsay Davenport has got to say to herself, this might be one of her last chances,'' McEnroe said. ''And with Serena out, someone like a Lindsay or somebody like a Jennifer Capriati could say, 'Hey, I've got a shot here.'''

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