Sampras, Safin set to go again

Revitalized pair ready for rematch of last year's final in semi showdown

Notebook

U.S. Open

September 08, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - For Pete Sampras and Marat Safin, today's semifinal means more than just moving into tomorrow's final at the U.S. Open.

For Sampras, who is seeded No. 10, it means continuing his rebirth that he began at this tournament.

For Safin, the defending Open champ who had struggled since that victory, it means having a rebirth.

Before the tournament began, Sampras, winner of four U.S. Open crowns, was under siege about when he would retire and saw countless stories about how at the age of 30 his great career was all but finished.

"It has been a disappointing year," Sampras said, acknowledging his 0-for-17 tournament run. "To be honest about it, the criticism is well-deserved. But what I don't appreciate is the retirement talk. I think it's gotten a bit carried away. But it doesn't faze me too much. I'm still around."

He is around later than anyone imagined.

Now, he faces Safin, who "humbled" him here in the final a year ago.

"I have to forget about the way I played Pete in last year's final," Safin said. "I played too good. It was ridiculous. Every point I win, I say, `Wow, too good.' So, it's going to be different story. I will have to be more focused."

Whoever wins will find himself in another battle. In today's other semifinal, No. 4 Lleyton Hewitt will try to reach his first Grand Slam final against No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a two-time Grand Slam winner, who also wants to reach his first Open final.

"It's still a long way to win the title," said Kafelnikov, who is 1-4 against Hewitt. "But, to get through five steps and have two steps left to winning another major, I think this is great."

Roddick goes "ballistic"

For those who missed Thursday night's late match between Hewitt and No. 18 Andy Roddick, let's just say you should have stayed up.

At 4-5 in the fifth set, with Roddick beginning his service game to stay in the match, umpire Jorge Dias called Roddick's inside-out forehand cross court wide to give Hewitt the first point at 0-15. Roddick, who never fully regained his composure in Hewitt's 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win, went, as he said, "ballistic."

"I do feel I was robbed," Roddick said, and television replays seemed to support his belief that the ball was on the line.

"Who is to say I would have won anyway ... but I had been fighting so hard. He's probably one of the best fighters in the world and I'm hanging toe-to-toe. I had chances. I'm trying to hold serve. Guy overrules on a far sideline on a ball that was in at 4-5 in the fifth. That's just infuriating."

Roddick, 19, said he was sorry he lost his composure - he went so far as to call the umpire "an absolute moron." But he wasn't sure what he learned.

"I mean, I honestly don't think it will ever happen again at 4-5 in the fifth on a ball on the far sideline," he said.

Hewitt disagreed with Roddick's disapproval of the overrule.

"It happens," Hewitt said. "But you can't say someone can't overrule it because of what stage of the match it's in. It's up to the umpire."

Net cords

No. 14 seed Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett upset No. 2 seed Donald Johnson and Jared Palmer, 7-6 (9), 2-6, 6-3, to win the men's doubles title. ... The planned exhibition tonight between Boris Becker and John McEnroe has been canceled. Becker has a left foot injury.

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