- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2003

NEW YORK — Forget for a moment that Taylor Dent faced a match point against No.15-seeded Fernando Gonzalez. Or that Dent had to overcome two significant trends in his career: never having won a five-set match or reached the fourth round at a major.

Dent managed to win, thanks in large part to 26 aces and top-notch volleying, turning in the only upset of a seeded player yesterday at the U.S. Open.

And yet it was about the most matter-of-fact happening on a wet and wacky day at the National Tennis Center. The total daily attendance was a record 57,115, and everywhere those fans went, something odd seemed to happen.

• Jennifer Capriati complained about the blimp hanging over Arthur Ashe Stadium.

• After 4 hours of action, Jonas Bjorkman had to wait out a three-hour rain delay to play one point and finish his victory.

cAfter a set and a game, Andre Agassi’s match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov was put off for about 24 hours.

cFrench Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne’s match was moved to tiny Court 11 when the Grandstand was deemed unusable because an air blower leaked oil while drying rainwater.

• Ivan Ljubicic held a news conference to discuss his comments at a news conference the night before, when he criticized Andy Roddick’s on-court behavior.

Ljubicic said he didn’t think he needed to apologize for ripping Roddick about his on-court behavior after losing to the rising star Friday night in a tight four-setter that ended shortly after midnight. As Ljubicic put it: “He is Andy Roddick, we are in the States, and if somebody says something bad about him, then it’s a big boom. …

“I’m sorry if he’s expecting everybody’s going to like him,” Ljubicic added. “He thinks he’s the best, the greatest, the most beautiful. But that’s not the case.”

According to Ljubicic, he was in his hotel room when he got a call from Roddick at 1:30a.m. Roddick wanted to know why Ljubicic didn’t speak to him privately instead of airing his views through the media.

Ljubicic said he told Roddick, “Andy, why do you care what others think about you?”

Roddick called the comments “sour grapes” on Friday, but neither he nor coach Brad Gilbert would talk to reporters about the matter. Instead, Roddick issued a statement at night through the ATP Tour: “I had a good conversation with Ivan, both last night and again today. I think we both had the chance to clear the air, and I know that last night’s incident is behind us.”

Meanwhile, Capriati thought the blimp was closer to the court than normal, and found the noise distracting. Still, the three-time major champion persevered, eventually found a comfort zone and pounded out a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 victory over Emilie Loit to reach the round of 16.

“When you’re playing worse, everything sort of becomes louder than when you’re playing well,” No.6-seeded Capriati said. “If something is bothering me, I try to stop it or focus a little harder.”

She switched outfits because the temperature dipped into the 60s, and she switched rackets to try to account for swirling wind and heavy humidity. And then there were the problems with her serve — Capriati was broken three straight times bridging the second and third sets. But her powerful strokes eventually took their toll on the light-hitting Loit, a Frenchwoman ranked 49th who likes to mix speeds during a point.

At least Capriati must have been thrilled to finish before the rain came. She will make the Open quarterfinals for a third straight year if she can beat No.11 Elena Dementieva, who got past Amy Frazier 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3) in another of the handful of matches completed before the first downpour of this Open made everyone put their rackets away.

Dementieva was joined by fellow Russians No.7 Anastasia Myskina and unseeded Dinara Safina, younger sister of 2000 Open champion Marat Safin. With Nadia Petrova and Elena Likhovtseva having won Friday, there are five Russians in the round of 16.

Agassi was leading Kafelnikov 6-3, 0-1 when their match was stopped. They didn’t resume because it would have delayed the start of the night session; they’ll continue today. The winner will face the unseeded Dent, who beat Chile’s Gonzalez 7-6 (9), 6-7 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4. The 22-year-old son of former top 20 player Phil Dent won points on 111 of 170 trips to the net.

Another young American, Robby Ginepri, was ousted by 33-year-old Todd Martin 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4.

“I’m pretty excited. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet. I’m just kind of trying to stay focused, getting ready for Agassi or Kafelnikov,” Dent said. “It was a fun match. The Chileans were going crazy, and as soon as I had a run going, hit a couple of good shots, the New York crowd was going crazy.”

Gonzalez only converted four of 19 break points, including when he put a forehand into the net on match point with Dent serving while down 5-4 in the fourth set.

The Chilean never got within a point of victory again. Bjorkman had to wait to convert match point in his 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Karol Kucera. As sprinkles started falling, Bjorkman slipped twice in the middle of a rally on match point — prompting the chair umpire to take the highly unusual step of stopping play during a point. When they returned to the court after the three-hour delay, it took about 30 seconds for this sequence: fault, good serve, short rally, Kucera’s forehand hits net and drops wide, Bjorkman pumps a fist to celebrate.

Bjorkman next faces No.5 Guillermo Coria, who like Henin-Hardenne had to switch court assignments because of the oil spill. Henin-Hardenne beat Saori Obata 6-1, 6-2 as spectators sat in the aisles to catch the action.

Mary Pierce reached the fourth round by beating Shinobu Asagoe 6-4, 6-1. Making it into the men’s fourth round before the rain came: 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt advanced when Radek Stepanek quit because of muscle spams in his lower back while trailing 6-1, 3-0. Hewitt next faces No.11 Paradorn Srichaphan.

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