Age-defying Sampras marches onward

17th seed ousts No. 3 Haas, earns quarterfinal spot vs. hard-hitting Roddick

U.S. Open

September 04, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Pete Sampras went onto Arthur Ashe Stadium Court last night and painted an illusion that No. 3 seed Tommy Haas could not penetrate.

Sampras, playing his storied serve-and-volley game as if he were 10 years younger, upset Haas, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5, to move into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open at the USTA National Tennis Center.

"Given the year I've had, these are big matches," said Sampras, who has not won a tournament since Wimbledon 2000 and not been this far in a Grand Slam tournament since this time last year. "But I still have the game. It's not as consistent as it once was, but I feel I can do it."

The win makes Sampras 20-0 in night matches here and sets up a showdown tomorrow night with No. 11 seed Andy Roddick, the 20-year-old American phenom who won in exuberant fashion against Juan Ignacio Chela, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in Louis Armstrong Stadium.

For Sampras, it will be his 11th trip to the quarterfinals here, while Roddick will be experiencing the round of eight for only the second time.

Filled with joy over the prospect of playing his "idol," Roddick described the coming match as "a dream come true."

Sampras, obviously delighted to still be playing, deadpanned: "I hope it's a nightmare for him." And then he laughed.

"Andy is the future of the game," Sampras said. "But this is the U.S. Open. It takes stamina to win here and you do whatever it takes to win. You dig deep and do whatever you have to do. Thursday, it'll kind of be the old guy against the young guy, so it's a good matchup. I'm looking forward to it."

Last night, most people were worried about what Sampras would have to do to get his body through its second match in two days, but it was the young Roddick who needed the trainer.

His back hurt, but he served at 139 mph. And his foot was so badly inflamed he needed a 10-minute medical timeout to have it patched, padded, sprayed and wrapped.

It was shortly after his foot repair at the start of the second set that his opponent, Chela, ran him from one end of Queens to the other on a single point. The idea was to make Roddick's foot hurt more.

But Roddick turned into Superman.

He recovered from being pulled far right of the court and then far left. He turned and tracked down a drop shot, scrambled to recover a lob, sprinted for another drop and finally run at full speed to catch up to a ball that had bounced toward the grandstands.

He caught up to it, returned it for a winner and continued into the stands of Louis Armstrong Stadium to high-five joyous fans.

It was the beginning of the end for the Argentine.

"I started pretty slow," said Roddick. "If it had happened to me last year, I don't know if I could have come back and won three sets like I did tonight."

Gustavo Kuerten, the former No. 1 player who has missed much of the year because of hip surgery and was unseeded here, saw his run end under a warm sun yesterday. Kuerten started very slowly and could not overcome a two-set deficit losing, 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), to No. 24 seed Sjeng Schalken.

Schalken will next meet first-time quarterfinalist Fernando Gonzalez, a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Arnaud Clement.

No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 20 Younes El Aynaoui will meet today to determine who will advance to the semifinals in their bracket. Tonight, No. 32 Max Mirmyi will take on No. 6 Andre Agassi to find out who will meet the Hewitt-El Aynaoui winner.

Weather has made the road to this U.S. Open crown harder. Some players went to bed Monday knowing they'd have to play yesterday and faced playing and winning five matches in seven days to claim the title.

For the young, like Roddick and Haas, it may not have seemed daunting. For men like Kuerten, recovering from surgery, and Sampras, coping with age, it is another story. After Greg Rusedski beat Sampras Monday, he said bluntly the workload would be too much for the 12-time Grand Slam champ.

But it didn't look like too much last night and when it was over, Sampras said only his legs felt a little heavy.

"Now I have a day to rest," he said and scoffed at Rusedski, who also said he was a step and a half slow. "Against him, I don't really need to be a step and a half quicker."

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