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Wacky day at U.S. Open features Dent upset

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2003

NEW YORK Forget for a moment that Taylor Dent faced a match point against No. 15-seeded Fernando Gonzalez. Or that Dent had to overcome two significant trends in his career: never having won a five-set match or reached the fourth round at a major.

Dent managed to win, thanks in large part to 26 aces and top-notch volleying, turning in the only upset of a seeded player Saturday at the U.S. Open.

And yet it was about the most matter-of-fact happening on a wet and wacky day at the National Tennis Center. The total attendance was a record 57,115, and everywhere those fans went, something odd seemed to ensue:

Jennifer Capriati complained about the blimp hanging over Arthur Ashe Stadium.

After 4 1/2 hours of action, Jonas Bjorkman had to wait out a three-hour rain delay to play one point and finish his victory.

After a set, a game and a point, Andre Agassi's match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov was put off for about 24 hours.

French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne's match was moved to tiny Court 11 when the Grandstand was deemed unusable because an air blower leaked oil while drying rainwater.

Ivan Ljubicic held a news conference just to discuss his comments at a news conference the night before, when he criticized Andy Roddick's on-court behavior.

Ljubicic said he didn't think he needed to apologize for ripping Roddick about his on-court behavior after losing to the rising star Friday night in a tight four-setter that ended shortly after midnight.

As Ljubicic put it Saturday: ''He is Andy Roddick, we are in the States, and if somebody says something bad about him, then it's a big boom. ...

''I'm sorry if he's expecting everybody's going to like him,'' Ljubicic added. ''He thinks he's the best, the greatest, the most beautiful. But that's not the case.''

According to Ljubicic, he was in his hotel room when he got a call from Roddick at 1:30 a.m. Roddick wanted to know why Ljubicic didn't speak to him privately instead of airing his views through the media.

Ljubicic said he told Roddick: ''Andy, why do you care what others think about you?''

Roddick called the comments ''sour grapes'' on Friday, but neither he nor coach Brad Gilbert would talk to reporters about the matter Saturday. Instead, Roddick issued a statement through the ATP Tour: ''I had a good conversation with Ivan, both last night and again today. I think we both had the chance to clear the air, and I know that last night's incident is behind us.''

Capriati thought the blimp was closer to the court than normal, and found the noise distracting. Still, the three-time major champion persevered, eventually found a comfort zone and pounded out a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 victory over Emilie Loit to reach the round of 16.

''When you're playing worse, everything sort of becomes louder than when you're playing well,'' the No. 6-seeded Capriati said. ''If something is bothering me, I try to stop it or focus a little harder.''

At least Capriati must have been thrilled to finish before the rain came. She will make the Open quarterfinals for a third straight year if she can beat No. 11 Elena Dementieva, who got past Amy Frazier 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3) in another of the handful of matches completed before the first downpour of this Open made everyone put their rackets away.

Dementieva was joined by fellow Russians No. 7 Anastasia Myskina and unseeded Dinara Safina, the younger sister of 2000 Open champion Marat Safin. With Nadia Petrova and Elena Likhovtseva having won Friday, there are five Russians in the round of 16.

Agassi was leading Kafelnikov 6-3, 0-1 when their match was stopped. The winner will face the unseeded Dent, who beat Chile's Gonzalez 7-6 (9), 6-7 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4. The 22-year-old son of former Top 20 player Phil Dent won points on 111 of 170 trips to the net.

Another young American, Robby Ginepri, was ousted by 33-year-old Todd Martin 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4. Martin, the 1999 runner-up, next plays French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 33 Juan Ignacio Chela.

''I'm pretty excited. I don't think it's fully sunk in yet,'' Dent said. ''It was a fun match. The Chileans were going crazy, and as soon as I had a run going, hit a couple of good shots, the New York crowd was going crazy.

"It was deafening sometimes, it was so loud.''

Gonzalez only converted four of 19 break points, including when he put a forehand into the net on match point with Dent serving while down 5-4 in the fourth set.

The Chilean never got within a point of victory again. 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 three-hour 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.

Bjorkman next faces No. 5 Guillermo Coria, who like Henin-Hardenne had to switch court assignments because of the oil spill. Henin-Hardenne beat Saori Obata 6-1, 6-2 as spectators sat in the aisles to catch the action.

Mary Pierce reached the fourth round by beating Shinobu Asagoe 6-4, 6-1. Making it into the men's fourth round before the rain came: 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt 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.

Pierce has won two majors, as has Hewitt. Impressive enough, but nowhere near the 18 singles, 31 doubles and nine mixed doubles titles Martina Navratilova has collected at Grand Slam tournaments and, at age 46, she's trying to add to the total.

She and Svetlana Kuzentsova beat Maria Sharapova and Lisa Raymond 6-2, 6-2 in Saturday's final match to reach the third round of women's doubles.



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