No. 3 Capriati moves out of water-logged 2nd round

Davenport, Agassi win

Hewitt-Blake rematch set

U.S. Open

August 30, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Rain made the U.S. Open an iffy proposition yesterday. When Jennifer Capriati awakened in her hotel room in Manhattan, she could hear the downpour outside her windows.

If it would have been a sunny day, she would have jumped up, put herself together and been on her way to the National Tennis Center by 8:30 for her 11 a.m. match with Tina Pisnik. As it was, she lazed around and made it to the Queens facility in Flushing Meadows around 1 p.m.

"Even then," said Capriati, who took the court just after 3:30 and eventually won her match, 6-4, 6-2, "I wasn't sure we'd get my match in."

But the rain stopped and every available grounds person was rushed into duty on Arthur Ashe Stadium. They grabbed squeegees and towels and got down on their hands and knees in an all-out effort to dry the court.

As much as Capriati wanted to play, the United States Tennis Association no doubt wanted her to play more. Had a match not been played yesterday, all the tickets sold would have had to have been replaced with tickets for next year's Open.

What a relief, then, that the games went on.

Not only did Capriati play, but so did the rest of the singles competitors who were scheduled.

Fourth seed Lindsay Davenport completed her match, delayed from Wednesday night, and won, 6-4, 6-2. No. 1 men's seed Lleyton Hewitt won in straight sets, 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-1; No. 6 Andre Agassi swept away Justin Gimelstob, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1; and No. 25 James Blake won, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

The victories by Hewitt and Blake set up one of the most anticipated matchups of the third round. The two met last year in a match that Hewitt won in five sets.

Fans huddled under blankets and sipped hot coffee yesterday. Some were in shorts with rain jackets protecting their upper bodies. Umbrellas laid at their feet, ready, waiting.

It was hard on fans and players.

"We were sitting around the whole day, waiting," Pisnik said. "Then it was a rush. Five minutes warm up and then five minutes on the court. It was hard for both of us."

At the start, it seemed particularly hard for the tournament's No. 3 seed. Pisnik, 21 and playing in the second round here for only the second time, broke Capriati in her first service game and made a match of it through the first set.

Then, Capriati took over, powering the moisture-laden balls and Pisnik into submission.

Her only real problem before moving into the third round was a series of double faults, including one on her first match-point opportunity.

"I think it is obvious that they're an annoyance," Capriati said of her nine double faults. "But I've been practicing a lot more on them every day, just trying to practice serves, 20, 30 minutes, just so it becomes automatic.

"But, you know, even when I throw one in, I think I can get it right back. And I think it has improved a lot. I think because I know the really important points, I don't do it as much. It's more when it's OK to do it. That's when I just throw them in."

Capriati is working on such details. She has been the world No. 1. Last year she won two Grand Slams and made it to the semifinals in each of the other two.

This year, she has dropped to No. 3 behind Serena and Venus Williams, the Nos. 1 and 2 players, respectively. She did win the Australian Open in January, but has not won a tournament since.

It doesn't surprise her that her name is not the first mentioned when observers are talking about likely U.S. Open winners.

"When you think about the majors, I think my name pops up," she said. "But right now, it is the Williamses who are just, you know, the first ones everyone thinks of.

"I don't mind that. I haven't won a tournament in a long time, but I've always thought I've played better coming from behind. And I think I'm really close. No. 3 used to sound good. But now, I want to get my ranking higher and get even closer to moving up and maybe being No. 1 again."

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