Sunday, August 15, 1999

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Kafelnikov hates U.S., loves Yanks

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Russian tennis star Yevgeny Kafelnikov doesn't like America, having said, “Something makes me very negative about the United States.”

        With one notable exception: the New York Yankees. Kafelnikov began following baseball in 1994 and proclaims himself an avid Yankees fan.

        “I haven't been able to follow it lately, the Yankees,” he said. “I can't get too much TV coverage (on tour). Hopefully when I get in the New York area (for the U.S. Open) I will have more time.”

        He dutifully watched World Series games last year, even though they were on tape delay, but has yet to attend a game.

        “I will definitely try to do it this year,” he said. “I hope they move the ballpark somewhere to Manhattan.”

        ATTENDANCE: Attendance at Saturday afternoon's semifinal singles and matches was 10,416, bringing the total to 149,545. This is 5,286 ahead of last year.

        Every session except Monday evening, drew more than 10,000. The 11,635 who attended Tuesday's morning-afternoon session was a single session record.

        FASTEST SERVE: Pete Sampras has hit the fastest serve of the tournament thus far, having been clocked at 134 mph in his round-of-16 victory Thursday over Rainer Schuttler. Tim Henman is second, with a 133 mph serve, followed by Tommy Haas and Goran Ivanisevic at 128 and Carlos Moya at 127.

        Serves are clocked only on Center Court. The tournament has been recording serves there since 1991; the fastest on record is a 136 mph blast hit last year by Thomas Johansson. The top speed ever recorded was 149 mph by Greg Rusedski in March 1998 at Indian Wells, Calif.

        LOOSE LOCKER ROOM: Cordial, friendly and loose.

        That was the atmosphere in the locker room prior to the semifinal singles match Saturday between Sampras and Andre Agassi.

        “Pete and Andre were talking about Steffi Graf retiring and other current events,” former player and ESPN color commentator Luke Jensen said. “One of the trainers is a marathoner, and they were also talking about running.”

        Unlike early-week matches when the locker room is crowded, in the semifinals, only the two players and their coaches, along with requested trainers, are in the locker room.

        “It's nothing like when Jimmy Connors played Ivan Lendl for a championship,” Jensen said. “It was so intense that you didn't know if they would come to blows at any time.”

        Jensen offered his assessment of Agassi's play of late.

        “In my opinion, Andre is now a world-class athlete,” Jensen said. “He works out every day in the gym and runs sprints every night in the parking lot. He's now in superb physical condition.”

        TRABERT VISITS: Tony Trabert, one of Cincinnati's all-time great tennis players and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, attended Saturday's semifinals matches with his wife, Vicki, as a guest of tournament di rector Paul Flory.

        WINNING WOODIES: Winning Great American Insurance ATP Championship doubles titles is becoming a habit for the Australian duo of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

        For the fourth time since 1992, the Woodies reached the title match with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor, the defending champions.

        “What we're playing for is to make sure we are a part of history,” Woodforde said. “Thursday was encouraging. It proved what I've always believed, and that is we are one of the best teams.”

        In 1992, Woodforde and Woodbridge have won here in 1992, '95 and '97.

        Today, following the singles championship, the Woodies meet Jonas Bjorkman and Byron Black for the championship and the $155,400 and 370 points. The losers will split $81,600.

        GETTING AROUND: In an effort to learn more about handling transportation, Alex Grabowsky came to Cincinnati from Frankfurt, Germany to serve as a volunteer.

        Grabowski is amazed at what he's seen, especially the enthusiasm and dedication of the 1,000 plus volunteers.

        Neil Schmidt and Dave Schutte contributed to this report.

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