NEW YORK -- The U.S. Open has proved to be an unhealthy place for top tennis players this week.
First, No. 1 Pete Sampras withdrew before his first match with a herniated disk in his back. Now, No. 4 Patrick Rafter's injury has been diagnosed as a small tear in his right rotator cuff.
Rafter withdrew from the Open in the fifth set of his first-round match Tuesday night because of shoulder pain. A magnetic resonance imaging scan yesterday revealed the tear.
"It's tough for the tournament," Rafter said. "Especially with Pete playing such great tennis, and my form was pretty good, as well, coming into here."
Rest and rehabilitation have been prescribed. Rafter said he still hopes to play for Australia in the Davis Cup against Russia -- the finals are Sept. 24-26. Mark Philippoussis, Australia's other top singles player, is also hurt, with a knee injury incurred at Wimbledon.
Hingis likes big talk
Richard Williams, father of No. 3 seed Venus and No. 7 seed Serena, has predicted an all-Williams final on the women's side of the draw.
Last night, Venus kept her father's dream alive when she rolled through her second-round match, 6-4, 6-3, against Anne-Gaelle Sidot. Serena plays this afternoon.
"They always talk a lot," said Martina Hingis, the No. 1 seed, who also advanced with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Sarah Pitkowski. " But, I like that. It's more pressure on them. Whether they can handle it or not, now that's the question. Of course, the other players are pretty pumped up about that."
Hingis also was complimentary about the improvement in Venus' game: "She pretty much became an all-around player. She comes in, she has a good serve, good returns, good movement for her height, yeah. Very solid."
No. 24 Magnus Norman, who has won two tournaments in the last month, continues to play well and yesterday pulled off a mild upset. He beat No. 17 seed and Felix Mantilla, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
Pub Date: 9/02/99