- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

NEW YORK James Blake did what he could to wash away the ill will directed at Lleyton Hewitt by some spectators during a riveting U.S. Open rematch.
Blake had a tougher time withstanding the defending champion's relentless play.
His sneakers squeaking with each step, his darting eyes finding the right angles, Hewitt got past Blake 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 yesterday to reach the fourth round. It came a year to the day after another five-setter between the pair, one marked by a call-arguing tirade by Hewitt that was perceived as racist.
"We fought our hearts out. He came up with great shots, I came up with great shots. He came up with a few more," Blake said after playing in the third round of a major for the first time.
"The way we conducted ourselves I really like the fact that if any kid was watching, they could say, 'I want to be like either one of those two.'"
A tight match came down to Blake's three-point lapse in the sixth game of the last set. Blake made three straight errors (he had 86 total to Hewitt's 40), Hewitt snapped a forehand winner, and just like that, the top-seeded Australian had a 4-2 lead.
"To see us not give an inch the whole match for 3 hours it's something we can both be proud of," Hewitt said.
Unlike last year, there were no prolonged protests about officiating. Blake just shook his head when a scoreboard replay showed a shot of his that was called out but actually hit the line. Both players applauded great shots by the other, of which there were plenty: 113 winners, 60 by Blake, despite strong wind, occasional rain and a cloud cover that made it so dark the stadium lights were switched on at about 3 p.m.
The only boorish behavior came from the stands. There was cheering after faults by Hewitt Blake waved his hand, indicating he didn't want that type of support and in the fourth set, someone in the crowd yelled: "James, don't let him win. He's a racist."
When Hewitt, who eschewed his usual fist-pumping and loud self-encouragement, closed the thriller with his 15th ace, the players met at the net to shake hands. Blake told the Wimbledon champion, "You played great, man," and apologized for "fans that were speaking out negatively."
"That's something that I was somewhat embarrassed by, when a few fans did that," said the 25th-seeded Blake, whose rapidly improving game produced his first title two weeks ago at Legg Mason in D.C.
Hewitt, who said he didn't notice what the fans were saying, next plays No.14 Jiri Novak. He advanced when Marcelo Rios quit after losing the first two sets, citing a right knee injury and raising the retirements to a Grand Slam-record nine men.
Also into the fourth round is two-time champion Andre Agassi, who beat Ramon Delgado 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and has dropped 16 games so far. Agassi now faces Jan-Michael Gambill, who beat No.21 Gaston Gaudio 6-0, 6-2, 6-0.
Two-time defending champion Venus Williams beat Martina Muller 6-1, 6-2 to set up a fourth-round match against No.14 Chanda Rubin, while Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters and Amelie Mauresmo also won. Seles lost seven straight games after leading 5-1 in the second set but got by qualifier Yoon-Jeong Cho 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, and now plays Martina Hingis, another past Open champion. Hingis, who missed the French Open and Wimbledon after ankle surgery, beat Amanda Coetzer 6-3, 6-4 at night. Capriati followed with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over No.30 Meghann Shaughnessy.
Against Blake in the 2001 Open's second round, Hewitt complained after being called for two foot faults by a linesman. The Australian said to the chair umpire: "Look at him. Look at him and you tell me what the similarity is. Just get him off the court."
Some thought Hewitt was noting both the linesman and Blake are black. Hewitt later said he was pointing out the "similarity" in the fault calls.
Blake sought to play down what happened, saying he gave Hewitt the benefit of the doubt because the remarks came in the heat of battle.
Few equal Hewitt's intensity on court.
His athleticism and stick-with-it fierceness were captured perfectly on break point at 1-1 in the fourth set yesterday, when Blake hit a running backhand that usually would be a winner. But Hewitt reached behind his body, twisting so far he fell, to strike a backhand that kissed off the net tape and landed in.
With no chance to respond, Blake threw his racket at the bouncing ball and smiled appreciatively.
"That wears you down a little bit," Blake said. "He fights for every ball."
That shot gave Hewitt a chance to serve with a 2-1 lead and a real mental edge, because Blake hadn't broken him all match. But, typical of the afternoon's back-and-forth nature, Blake smacked a forehand down the line Hewitt applauded the winner to get a break point in the very next game, then converted on Hewitt's error.
With Blake down 3-2 in the fifth set and serving, he sent a forehand wide, a backhand wide and a forehand long to give Hewitt three break points. It was part of an 11-point streak for Hewitt.
"Sometimes it looks like you're missing easy balls, but that's because of the work he does," said Blake. "It makes you concentrate for five sets."

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