Clement marches on, upsetting No. 3 Hewitt

Frenchman ranked 57th takes out 2nd top-5 seed to reach semis

Tennis

August 05, 2006|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Arnaud Marcel Maurice Clement, whose middle names honor his two grandfathers and give him claim to some of the most traditional and beautiful of French names, did not expect what happened yesterday and, for a moment, could not believe it.

But it was true: The 57th-ranked Clement had beaten No. 3 seed Lleyton Hewitt, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, in the quarterfinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

"For me, this is the biggest victory," said Clement, who had lost to Hewitt in all seven of their previous meetings. "This is very, very special for me. We have similar games, but he always is a little bit better than me. ... Always he is a little bit better at the important moments."

But not yesterday.

Dressed in all white and wearing his signature flamboyant headband, the 11th-seeded Clement pulled off the beau geste (fine deed) by getting stronger as the match went on. His first-serve percentage in the second set went up to 57 percent, while Hewitt's went down to 39 percent. But, most important, in the second set he saved every break point.

At this tournament none of the top 5 seeds remains, which is why the new joke making the rounds here goes like this: "How is the Legg Mason Classic like a grape? They're both seedless."

Only No. 8 Andy Murray, who beat Mardy Fish, 6-2, 6-4, early in the day and No. 7 Dmitry Tursunov, who beat No. 14 Tim Henman, 6-3, 6-2, last night, are left from the top 10 seeds.

In today's semifinals, Marat Safin, a former world No. 1 who is now No. 92 in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings, is the best known. Safin, having beaten Wesley Moodie, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9), will face Clement, and Murray, the young Brit, who just hired Brad Gilbert as his coach, will play Tursunov.

"A lot of the big players are gone," Clement said. "Safin is still a big player. But this tournament is very open for sure and ... we all think we have a chance."

Despite the beautiful aspects of Clement's game, including a wonderful, ripping forehand volley, not many would have thought Clement, 28, had much of a chance against Hewitt, another former No. 1 on the comeback trail.

But Hewitt helped him.

"I had so many chances," Hewitt said. "I had 12 break-point chances on his first serve and four or five on his second. ... But I let him dictate play too much, and against the better players that is not going to be successful."

Hewitt's biggest disappointment was failing to win the first set. He started the match down 4-1, fought back and served for the opening set at 5-4. But he lost focus in that 10th game and the eventual tiebreak was all Clement.

"I lost momentum," Hewitt said. "I fought so hard to get back, and when I didn't serve it out at 5-4, it gave him extra wind. ... At 5-4 I played a loose game. A few more first serves would have helped."

As for Clement, Hewitt said the Frenchman had played well, but qualified the statement.

"I'm not so sure it was fantastic," he said. "But Arnaud ... rarely beats himself. You have to step up and I didn't."

For Clement, it was a wonderful day.

"In two days I have beat two players I have never beat before," said Clement, who upset No. 5 seed Dominik Hrbaty for the first time Thursday. "Who is next? If I play like this every match I'm happy."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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