- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Little was ordinary about the start of the U.S. Open for third-seeded Tommy Haas, from being ordered to change out of a sleeveless shirt to three straight double faults in the fifth set.
On a day that past champions Pete Sampras and Serena Williams won and one-hit wonders Jelena Dokic and David Nalbandian lost all in straight sets Haas and his foil, David Sanchez, produced enough theater for a round's worth of matches.
Haas pulled out a 7-6 (1), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory yesterday that was a struggle for a player normally most comfortable on hard courts. If he can deal with right arm pain that's been hounding him, Haas could be a title threat.
Just how close did the 61st-ranked Sanchez come to pulling off the upset? He actually won more points: 156 to 155.
But their encounter will be remembered most for a prematch talking-to Haas received that put him in sartorial territory previously occupied by Anne White (remember the skintight nylon leotard at Wimbledon in 1985?) and Andre Agassi (remember the denim shorts and Day-Glo bicycle tights?).
Haas showed up for yesterday's first-round match wearing a white muscle shirt, that revealed his shoulders.
Gasp!
It wasn't nearly as provocative as the zip-down, stop-at-the-thighs black Lycra outfit Williams is wearing. Nonetheless, it caught the attention of chair umpire Norm Chryst. He alerted tournament referee Brian Earley, who turned on the TV, looked at Haas and ruled the shirt had to go.
Earley cited Article III, Section C of the Grand Slam rulebook: "Every player shall dress and present himself for play in a professional manner. Clean and customarily acceptable tennis attire shall be worn as determined by each respective Grand Slam."
"I was given the job of making a determination on the spot. I decided it wasn't 'customarily acceptable,'" Earley said. "It's a gut reaction."
Haas who said sleeves annoy him had polo shirts with him and wore those for the 3-hour, 23-minute match.
"On the women's tour, you see Serena and all those other ladies wearing tight stuff," Haas said. "It's something new, brings something else to the game."
Right now, men's tennis could use a bit of that if it's going to compete with a women's game that has more intriguing story lines and more-marketed personalities. The WTA Tour isn't shy about letting sex appeal help sell its product.
Or as Earley put it: "Women's attire has gone all over the place."
"There's no question we've been hearing a lot of not-so-flattering things about the men's game compared to the ladies'. Maybe it's an effort to do some different things," Sampras said. "That's not the way to do it in my opinion."
Told what happened to Haas, Williams said: "You're kidding!"
Earley noted Williams' outfit was approved for the Open a month ago. Earley wouldn't say whether Haas' shirt might have passed muster had it been submitted ahead of time nor whether Haas will be allowed to wear it for his second-round match.
Sampras might have been relieved to make it to the second round, an indication (as is his No.17 seeding) of how far he's fallen.
Here's how aware everyone is of the 13-time Grand Slam tournament champion's recent woes: Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" blared over the speakers as a form of encouragement when Sampras warmed up before his 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Albert Portas.
"You hear rumbling here and there. You can't let it faze you," Sampras said, referring to retirement talk. "I'm going to stop on my own terms, not when someone else thinks I should stop."
Williams also breezed, beating Dinara Safina 2000 Open champion Marat Safin's 16-year-old sister 6-0, 6-1 to reach the third round.
No.5 Dokic, a Wimbledon semifinalist two years ago who's never gone that far at a major again, put up little resistance and lost 6-3, 6-2 to Elena Bovina. No.16 Nalbandian, who had never won more than two matches at a Grand Slam event until making the Wimbledon final, was eliminated by Sargis Sargsian 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
It's been a trying 2002 for Haas, most significantly because his parents were hospitalized in June after they were hit by a car while riding a motorcycle. He skipped Wimbledon to be with them.
On court, he's had tendinitis in his right arm, which led him to skip the semifinals at an Open tuneup last week.
Still, Haas can't be discounted here. He's twice been a semifinalist at the Australian Open and reached the fourth round at the past two U.S. Opens.
Sanchez isn't exactly the caliber of player who should present problems. He has a 14-20 match record in 2002 and never has been past the quarterfinals at a tour-level event since turning pro in 1997.
Yet Sanchez moved out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. In doing so, he probably expended too much of what was a dwindling supply of energy. That was evident when he didn't bend low enough to get to Haas' forehand and whiffed on a shot, setting up a service break.
Haas seemingly took control by going up 6-5 in the final set, converting his fifth break point of the 11th game when Sanchez's shot caught the net tape and flew out. After the game, both players' cramping legs were massaged by trainers.
Haas then served for the match and quickly earned two match points at 40-15.
He double faulted to 40-30, walked to the other half of the baseline and double faulted to deuce, then double faulted to break point.
Ugh!
An overhead erased the break point, and Haas eventually held it together long enough to win.
"I was lucky to get through that," Haas said.


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