Corretja outlasts Pozzi in Classic

No. 5 seed advances to match against Goldstein, a winner over Damm

August 19, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- If No. 5 seed Alex Corretja looked less than dominating yesterday in his second-round match at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, he had no trouble explaining it.

An allergy sufferer since he was 6, the Spaniard has endured a summer of misery. Allergic to everything from anti-inflammatories to carpet dust and various foods, Corretja has curtailed his schedule, and he was playing only his second hard-court match of the season.

Fighting rust on his game and heat that he said "may be hotter than the heat in Spain," he needed 2 hours, 34 minutes to out-duel a determined Gianluca Pozzi, 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-5.

The victory moves him into the third round today against Rockville's Paul Goldstein.

Goldstein, the recent Pan American Games gold medal winner, rallied before a packed Grandstand Court crowd last night for a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Martin Damm.

"The electricity on the court rivaled stadium court at the U.S. Open," said Goldstein. "You don't get to compete like that very often. The stands were packed, standing room only at the top. I credit the fans for not getting down on me when I was down a set and a break."

Goldstein, No. 97 in the ATP Tour standings, said all he knows about Corretja is what he has seen on television.

"He's a world champ, a first- class player and first-class individual," said Goldstein, 21. "From what I've seen, he doesn't give an inch. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

As popular as Goldstein's victory was, that's how unpopular Ramon Delgado's victory over No. 13 seed Michael Chang was later in the evening.

Delgado pulled off the upset, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, in part thanks to a controversial call late in the third set. Chang had been down 4-1, but was in the midst of a rally that had the crowd in his corner. He was back to 4-3, when Delgado cashed a break point opportunity with a baseline forehand. From the stand's perspective and Chang's, the ball was long by a good five inches. But there was no overrule from the umpire, and the match, for all intents was over.

For winning, Delgado will next face No. 4 seed Todd Martin.

No. 2 seed Andre Agassi, whosematch was supposed to have begun around 7 p.m., didn't get on the Stadium Court until after 9 p.m. Agassi, however, unlike those who went before him, moved swiftly into the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over qualifier Mikael Tillstrom.

No. 3 Tim Henman defeated Peter Wessels in a later match, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5.

There has never been very much give in Corretja, who is known for never giving up on a point. But he has had to at least slow down since his allergies started acting up at the French Open in May.

On the red clay at Roland Garros, he was rolling through the draw, but on the morning he was to play his quarterfinal match against Fernando Meligeni, he woke up with red eyes, an itchy chest and red bumps and blotches on his hands.

"I lost, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0, and you know that's not normal," Corretja said. "I feel much better now than I did then, or even a month ago in Stuttgart. But I am allergic to millions of things."

In Stuttgart, Germany, he made it to the semifinals before everything caught up to him and he was forced into the hospital for several days.

"I pulled a [stomach] muscle," he said. "And then I took medication for it and I was allergic to the medication. I felt really terrible. I know now it's better that when I hurt myself, that I take nothing. Right now, I am just taking a few little things to try to keep everything under control.

"You know, it is not easy, when you are traveling all the time. The dust, the food. If I was home, my mom would cook for me and everything would be fine."

A week ago, in his first hard-court match, he lost to Chang in a tough three-setter in Cincinnati. He said he was appreciative of that time spent on court, and felt the same about the length of his match yesterday.

"Right now, I don't care about what any other player in this tournament is doing," he said. "I don't even know who I play next. All I want to do is find my rhythm."

Pozzi kept him on court working on it. Pozzi, ranked No. 81, was equal to Corretja through the first 12 games of the first set, and he had a 3-0 lead in the tie-breaker before Corretja rallied. Pozzi also rolled through the second set, blazing cross court passing shots at will past a tired Corretja.

"And match point," Pozzi said. "my forehand was right on the line. The line judge, she was wrong."

But he had missed his chance. With the games equal at 5-5 in the third, Pozzi burst to a 15-40 lead on Corretja's serve, only to see him come back -- with the help of a net cord. From there, Corretja won five of the next seven points to take the win.

"Pozzi hit a lot of soft stuff that forced me to move around the court and create all the power," said Corretja. "That's OK, I want to be fit again and in rhythm. And I won. I don't think I was lucky out there. I think, maybe, one or two times in 100 matches a player gets lucky, so I never use that word in regard to on-court outcomes.

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