|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Agassi on hold as contenders beat rain
Ossian Shine and Stephen Wood | August 31, 2003 19:11 IST
Jennifer Capriati, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Lleyton Hewitt all looked forward to the business end of the U.S. Open after clocking up victories at the rain-hit hardcourt Grand Slam on Saturday.
But top seed and world number one Andre Agassi was put on hold by organisers, who told the American to go home and complete his interrupted third-round match with Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov on Sunday.
Agassi was leading 6-3, 0-1 when rain over Flushing Meadows forced the pair off Arthur Ashe court.
While Capriati and Hewitt, as well as resurgent Frenchwoman Mary Pierce, had the good fortune to finish their third-round matches before the weather turned, women's second seed Henin-Hardenne and men's third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero were among those forced to hang around.
When the rain relented, Belgian Henin-Hardenne emerged to crush Saori Obata of Japan 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.
The win set up a fourth-round encounter with Dinara Safina, the sister of men's 2000 U.S. Open champion Marat Safin.
The unseeded Safina beat Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-5 to become one of five Russian women in the last 16 -- a record at the U.S. Open.
Spaniard Ferrero was at his diligent best in overcoming Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela 7-5, 7-5, 6-1, while the rain delay could not derail American Taylor Dent as he recorded the best performance of his grand slam career.
The American world number 74 came from two sets to one down to beat Chilean 15th seed Fernando Gonzalez 7-6, 6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, a victory which gave 22-year-old Dent a fourth-round contest with the winner of the Agassi-Kafelnikov match.
"I'm excited, I don't think it's sunk in yet," Dent told reporters. "I've lost to Andre twice at grand slams before, that guy is unbelievable."
While Dent was kickstarting his career, 33-year-old compatriot Todd Martin was reprising his glory days with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 third-round victory over young American pretender Robby Ginepri.
It meant twice grand slam finalist Martin had secured his best run at a major since Wimbledon 2001.
Earlier, Capriati powered into the fourth round, blasting France's Emilie Loit 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 in a sometimes erratic performance.
"I hate playing in those kind of conditions," said the sixth-seeded American, adding that she felt like she was racing to finish before the rain.
In the absence of the Williams sisters Venus and Serena, 27-year-old Capriati is looking a good bet to provide the U.S. Open with a home champion.
Along with Wimbledon, the Open is one of the two grand slams she is yet to win and she may never have a better chance.
Eleventh seed Elena Dementieva now stands in her path after the Russian did enough to edge past Amy Frazier of the U.S. 7-6, 7-6.
Pierce continued to build confidence, form and momentum. The twice grand slam champion was a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Japan's Shinobu Asagoe.
Fighting back to fitness after two injury-plagued seasons, the unseeded Frenchwoman has begun to show glimpses of the power game that helped her to claim victory at the Australian and French Opens.
Pierce can equal her best effort at Flushing Meadows if she wins her next match against Russian seventh seed Anastasia Myskina.
Back in the men's draw, sixth seed Hewitt was given an easy passage into the last 16 when his Czech opponent Radek Stepanek retired injured while trailing 6-1, 3-0.
Stepanek pulled out with back trouble during the fourth game of the second set and Hewitt, champion at Flushing Meadows in 2001, next faces Thai Paradorn Srichaphan for a place in the quarter-finals.
"It's funny, you want to get some time on court under your belt but I won't complain," the Australian said.
Paradorn, the 11th seed, had earlier wasted no time ousting Spain's Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.