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Hewitt again outlasts Blake in five

A year to the day after going the distance with Tampa's James Blake, top seed escapes with a U.S. Open win.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002


NEW YORK -- James Blake did what he could to wash away the ill will directed at Lleyton Hewitt by some spectators during a U.S. Open rematch.

Blake had a tougher time withstanding the defending champion's relentless play.

His sneakers squeaking with each step, his eyes finding the right angles, Hewitt got past the 21-year-old from Tampa 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 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, a match marked by a call-arguing tirade by Hewitt that was perceived as racist.

"That 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. "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."'

A tight match came down to Blake's three-point lapse during the sixth game of the last set. Blake made three consecutive unforced errors (he had 86 to Hewitt's 40). Hewitt snapped a forehand winner, and just like that, the No.1 seed had a 4-2 lead.

"To see us not give an inch the whole match for 31/2 hours, it's something we can both be proud of," Hewitt said.

Unlike last year, there were no prolonged protests about the officiating. Blake, a Harvard graduate, just shook his head when a scoreboard replay showed his shot called out actually hit the line.

Each applauded great shots by the other, of which there were plenty: 113 winners, 60 by Blake, despite strong winds, occasional rain and cloud cover that made it so dark the stadium lights were turned 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 fourth set, someone in the crowd yelled, "James, don't let him win. He's a racist."

When Hewitt ended it with his 15th ace, the players met at the net to shake hands. Blake told Hewitt, "You played great, man," and apologized for "fans that were speaking out negatively."

"That's something that I was somewhat embarrassed by," the 25th-seeded Blake said.

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, citing a right knee injury.

Against Blake in the Open's second round last year, Hewitt complained after being called for two foot faults by a black linesman and requested the official be removed. He told the chair umpire, "Look at him. Look at him and you tell me what the similarity is. Just get him off the court."

Some believed Hewitt was noting the linesman and Blake are black. Hewitt later said he was pointing out the "similarity" in the fault calls.

Few equal Hewitt's intensity on court.

That athleticism and stick-with-it fierceness were captured perfectly on break point at 1-1 in the fourth set Saturday, when Blake hit a running backhand that usually would be a winner. But Hewitt reached behind his body, twisting so far he fell, to strike a backhand that kissed off the net tape and landed in. With no chance to respond, Blake threw his racket at the bouncing ball and smiled.

Blake sought to play down what happened, saying he gave Hewitt the benefit of the doubt because the remarks came in the heat of battle.

With Blake down 3-2 in the fifth set and serving, he sent a forehand wide, a backhand wide and a forehand long to give Hewitt three break points. It was part of an 11-point streak for Hewitt that tilted the match his way.

"He puts pressure on you. Sometimes it looks like you're missing easy balls, but that's because of the work he does," Blake said.

Also into the fourth round is two-time champion Andre Agassi, who beat Ramon Delgado 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and has lost only 16 games during the tournament. Agassi faces Jan-Michael Gambill next.

Two-time defending champion Venus Williams beat Martina Muller to set up a fourth-round match against No. 14 Chanda Rubin, while Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters and Amelie Mauresmo also won.

Seles overcame a second-set swoon and a windy day to advance to the fourth round with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 victory over qualifier Yoon-Jeong Cho.

Williams, the two-time defending champion, beat Muller 6-1, 6-2 in 41 minutes.

"It seemed to go a little quickly," Williams said. "But I guess that's a nice thing."

Seles almost had the same experience. She was within two points of winning, leading 5-1, 0-30 in the second set. Then Cho took the next four points to start a seven-game win streak that gave her a 1-0 lead in the third set.

"My brain went away from the court," the sixth-seeded Seles said.

It was a reversal of Seles' previous match, when she was within two points of losing to Barbara Schwartz in the second set before winning a tiebreaker and easily taking the third set.

Williams, seeded second, faces 14th-seeded Chanda Rubin, who beat No. 21 Lisa Raymond 7-6 (7-2), 6-4. In beating Muller, Williams' serve topped out at 116 mph.

Capriati rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 30 Meghann Shaughnessy.

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