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Rain ends, routs are on for top players

Agassi, Hewitt, Venus, Davenport, Hingis and Capriati all win easily after a five-hour delay.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002


NEW YORK -- Once the rain stopped, the routs were on.

Andre Agassi got his work out of the way quickly Thursday. So did fellow U.S. Open champions Lleyton Hewitt, Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis. Even Jan-Michael Gambill produced a lopsided score, upsetting ninth-seeded Carlos Moya.

Monica Seles, meanwhile, had to rally from a set down to get into the third round.

Other than Gambill's 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory, his first over a top 10 player in 2002, the surprises were rather limited: fourth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov lost to Dominik Hrbaty, and French Open champion Albert Costa was knocked off by Wayne Ferreira.

Action didn't get under way until 4 p.m., five hours late, forcing postponement of all scheduled doubles matches and creating a logjam of stars on court. Jennifer Capriati was up first at Arthur Ashe Stadium and set the tone with an easy victory, despite nine double faults.

With Agassi's wife, Steffi Graf, and 10-month-old son, Jaden, watching in the stands, he beat Justin Gimelstob 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 in 66 minutes to move into the third round. Agassi, who won the Open in 1994 and 1999, had 27 winners to six for Gimelstob.

"It's nice not to spend more (time) than you need to," Agassi said. "You're glad you're not him. You're glad that it's not happening to you."

His path grew significantly easier Thursday. With Kafelnikov, Moya and Michael Chang all losing, Agassi is the only Grand Slam champion left in his quarter of the draw. No. 13 Roger Federer, who beat Chang 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, is the top player in Agassi's way until the semifinals. Federer's never reached a major's final four.

Hewitt's 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 6-1 victory over Noam Okun put the defending champion into a Saturday rematch against 25th-seeded James Blake, who defeated Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the third round of a major for the first time.

Hewitt beat Blake in five sets at the 2001 U.S. Open in a second-round match tainted by remarks the Australian made that were perceived as racist. Hewitt demanded that linesman Marion Johnson be removed after calling two foot faults. Blake and Johnson are black.

"Look at him, mate," Hewitt said to the chair umpire, referring to Johnson. "Look at him and tell me what the similarity is." Hewitt later said "similarity" referred to both faults being called by Johnson.

"We put it behind us the next day in the locker room," said Blake, who won his first career title last week in Washington. "Since then, I don't think we've really talked about it. We just moved on."

Williams, the two-time defending Open champion, improved her 2002 match record to 56-6 -- she's 0-3 against sister Serena -- with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Alicia Molik; 1998 winner Davenport wrapped up her 6-4, 6-2 victory over Petra Mandula in a match halted by rain Wednesday night at 2-2 in the second set; and 1997 champion Hingis eliminated Antonella Serra Zanetti 6-4, 6-1.

Seles won the U.S. Open in 1991 and 1992 and had the fans firmly behind her as she worked her way out of a big deficit to construct a 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win over Barbara Schwartz, who was two points from victory at 5-5 in the tiebreaker.

"It was a great feeling at this stage of my career," Seles said. "The crowd pulled me through tonight. I could have lost without their help. I came out flat."

Capriati hopes to add an Open trophy to the three Grand Slam titles she's won in Australia and France in the past two years. But she'll need to serve better than she did in ousting Tina Pisnik 6-4, 6-2.

Capriati had all those double faults -- "It's obvious they're an annoyance," she said -- was broken three times and won the point just 33 percent of the time on her second serves.

Kafelnikov, who succumbed 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 to Hrbaty, has a match record barely above .500 this year. He had lost three straight matches coming into the Open, and said he'll retire if he helps Russia win the Davis Cup.

And Costa, a player whose best efforts always have come on clay, simply was worn down in a 1-6, 6-7 (13-11), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 marathon against Ferreira.

Agassi might be 32, but he's in fantastic shape. And he knows how to deal with a rain delay, waiting until 2:30 p.m. to show up at the National Tennis Center "so I could just keep my feet up and keep my mind off it."

He dominated Gimelstob, who twice has reached the Open's third round. It took Gimelstob 39 minutes just to win a game; by then, Agassi built a 6-0, 5-0 lead.

Trailing 3-1 in the third set, Gimelstob's crisp forehand volley erased a break point. He raised an index finger and mocked himself, yelling, "That's one! One good shot!" Two strong service returns by Agassi later produced the break.

"The whole day is a tough situation," Gimelstob said. "You don't know if you're going to play, definitely not going to play, you might play, you might not play. That's probably one of the other reasons why it was so brutal, but way secondary to the fact that he was playing so well."

Agassi had 10 winners each on forehands and backhands, never faced a break point in the match, and lost just two points on his serve in the last set.

"Did we even play out there? It went so quickly, I don't even remember," Gimelstob said. "We didn't get rained out?"

Sorry, Justin.

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