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Saddlebrook Resort helps pros prep for U.S. Open


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 2000

WESLEY CHAPEL- After a couple of lean years, Saddlebrook Resort in Pasco County has re-established itself as a prime training facility for some of the world's top pros.

The resort lost two high-profile players in recent years when Pete Sampras moved to Los Angeles and Jim Courier moved to South Florida, but it has lured several big names in the past few months.

The list includes top-ranked Martina Hingis, Magnus Norman, U.S. Open finalist Greg Rusedski, Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic and Australian Open finalist Marcelo Rios. They join Jennifer Capriati, a longtime resident.

Many of them are at Saddlebrook this week to prepare for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday. The attraction is the resort's two hard courts that are replicas of the U.S. Open courts. Players also are supplied with official U.S. Open balls at the resort.

"It's so relaxed here," Norman said. "And they have the best facilities and a lot of times the best players."

KUERTEN READY: Gustavo Kuerten, better known as a clay-court player, is emerging as a serious contender for the U.S. Open. He leads the ATP Tour Champions Race after winning Sunday in Indianapolis.

In fact, Kuerten, who has advanced past the third round once in three appearances at Flushing Meadow, said he has the U.S. Open figured out.

"Big serves when you need it. Be patient sometimes," he said. "When I need to go for the shots, I've got to go for my shots."

AGASSI NOT SEEING DOUBLE: Andre Agassi played doubles in Washington last week, reaching the final with Sargis Sargsian. But don't look for Agassi to become a regular in the doubles draw.

"It's too draining and too tiring when you are trying to accomplish something at the singles level," said Agassi, who lost the doubles title match to Tampa's Jared Palmer and partner Alex O'Brien. "I think anybody who does it is a heck of a lot better than I am."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Todd Martin, who seems to be playing well again after battling a series of injuries: "The one wonderful thing I've taken from the first seven months of the year is I still want to play desperately. I still enjoy every aspect -- except getting my tail kicked."

CHANGE ISN'T ALWAYS GOOD: In defeating Serena Williams Sunday in Toronto, Hingis got a rare win over one of the game's power hitters, who typically have given her trouble.

The problem was Hingis had tried to change her game to offset the power of pros such as Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.

"When you're the No. 1 player and you start trying to change your game to fit other people's games, you lose confidence," Saddlebrook head professional Jimmy Brown said Friday. "Right now, she doesn't believe she can beat them. When you start trying to switch around things you do well, it screws you up because you lose the confidence you had. I think she's been working on a couple of things and it's maybe taken her out of her game and her style."

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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