Sunday, August 31, 2003

Distracted Capriati wins in 3 sets

Bothered by blimp, racket, outfit, No. 6 seed reaches round of 16

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Jennifer Capriati's finickiness reached new heights Saturday: She wanted the blimp hanging over Arthur Ashe Stadium moved.

And that was simply one of her concerns during a tight match at the U.S. Open. She also was bothered by her racket strings, opponent Emilie Loit's style and the weather.

The blimp? Capriati thought it 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 to reach the round of 16.

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

She switched outfits because temperatures 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 away their rackets.

Andre Agassi will finish his match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov today. The winner of Agassi-Kafelnikov will meet Taylor Dent, an unseeded American who won a five-set match for the first time in his career and earned his first trip to the fourth round of a major by knocking off No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (9), 6-7 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4. Agassi held a 6-3, 0-1 lead over Kafelnikov when their match was postponed because of the 3-hour, 3-minute rain delay.

That's how long Jonas 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 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. Then they packed up their bags and left the court.

Making it into the fourth round before play was halted was 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt, who advanced when Radek Stepanek quit because of muscle spasms in his lower back while trailing 6-1, 3-0. Hewitt next faces No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Fernando Verdasco.

"I would have liked to have kept going," Hewitt said. "I felt like I was in a pretty good routine out there today. I was hitting the ball cleanly. It was a big step up from my first two matches."

U.S. Open at a glance

Men's seeded winners: No. 5 Guillermo Coria, No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan.

Men's seeded losers: No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez.

Women's seeded winners: No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 6 Jennifer Capriati, No. 7 Anastasia Myskina, No. 11 Elena Dementieva, No. 15 Ai Sugiyama, No. 29 Francesca Schiavone.

Television: 11 a.m., Ch. 12; 11:30 a.m., Ch. 7; 7 p.m., USA.

Today's key matches:

Day session (play begins at 11 a.m.)

• No. 1 Andre Agassi vs. No. 28 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, comp. of susp. match

• No. 4 Andy Roddick vs. Flavio Saretta

Night session (play begins at 7 p.m.)

• No. 2 Roger Federer vs. James Blake

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Saturday's Game: Cardinals 6, Reds 3
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Reds chatter
Reds Q&A
MLB power rankings
Marlins lose Lowell for the season
NL: Pavano's 10 K's spark Marlins
AL: Pettitte outpitches Pedro

Champions Tour rolling into town
Shootout looms in Tradition

Distracted Capriati wins in 3 sets
Roddick refrains from war of words

Youngsters combine to dominate Busch race
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