WASHINGTON - It had seemed as if it would be an easy match. Alex Corretja, the No. 2 seed at the Legg Mason tournament, was rolling, when all at once his first-set 4-0 lead began to wane.
Paradorn "The Thai Fighter" Srichaphan was finding his game and the match was getting tighter One more break and they'd be back on serve and here at 5-3, he had Corretja down 0-40 on his serve.
"He forced me to be mentally very focused," said Corretja, who would go on to save four break points in that game to win the set and the match, 6-3, 6-1. "It was a good match for me and much more difficult than the final score showed."
The victory puts Corretja in today's quarterfinals against veteran Wayne Arthurs, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Frenchman Jerome Golmard.
Also in today's quarterfinals are No.3 seed Nicholas Kiefer (who won, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, over Lorenzo Manta), No. 6 seed Byron Black (a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Ivan Ljubicic) and, to the delight of the crowd here at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center, Andy Roddick.
Roddick, 17 and unseeded, is being touted as possibly this country's next great player. He advanced to his first quarterfinal with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 victory over No. 9 seed Karol Kucera.
"I'm not thinking about the quarterfinals or the semifinals, said Roddick. "I'm just playing each match as it comes. But it's been a pretty good day for me. I learned just before my match that I'll be playing in the main draw at the U.S. Open"
Roddick is In his first year on the ATP Tour and after three wins in three days here has a 4-3 pro record. A native of Boca Raton Fla., he began making headlines in January when he became the first American since Butch Buchholz in 1959 to win the Australian Open junior title.
He made his pro debut at Delray Beach in February and a month later managed his first career win by beating Fernando Vicente in the first round at the Ericsson Open in Miami. He played current American star Andre Agassi in the next 2 round there and found himself overwhelmed by the situation and the five-time Grand Slam winner, 6-2, 6-3.
Today, Roddick will find out how much he has matured over they summer, as his quarterfinal opponent will be Agassi, the No. 1 seed here who defeated local favorite Paul Goldstein of Rockville, 6 3 6-2.
"I was calmer in my match against Kucera and I kept myself mentally together in the tiebreak Roddick said. "In a tough breaker that's the first time I held it together. It felt good.
"I don't think I'll be as intimidated as much as I was when I played him the first time. I got to know him a little bit on the Davis Cup team. He worked with me on my returns. But, he's still top one, two or three player of all time so...
Corretja, 26, has been the silent contender here. He has gone about his work in a professional manner, overlooked by almost everyone. Most eyes have been focused on Agassi and girlfriend Steffi Graf, Jan-Michael Gambill, one of People Magazine's "Most Beautiful People" and, until he was upset Wednesday, Mark Phillippoussis, who spent more time signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans as a People Magazine selection for its "Sexiest Men Alive list.
All Corretja has done is win back-to-back two-set matches here to improve his match record to 39-10. as he plays methodically toward his goal - the finals.
" I am rested and I am in good physical condition and it shows, said Corretja. "I have 100 percent of victories (he's won two of his last three matches and led his Spanish teammates to the Davis Cup finals with a victory over the U.S.). I win everything I play.
" I am here. I have come to win. It would be nice to win here in the big city of Washington."