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U.S. OPEN NOTES

Tu Gets Win, Harkleroad the Attention

August 29, 2001|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — You felt like telling her that the aerobics studio--or in the interest of being more current, spin class--was not at the National Tennis Center.

There stood 16-year-old Ashley Harkleroad out on Court 11 on Tuesday at the U.S. Open, looking better suited for cycling along a Hermosa Beach bike path or begging for an autograph at a Backstreet Boys concert.

Now, sports reporters clad in jeans and tennis shoes are hardly fashion experts.

But from Gussie Moran to Anne White to Anna Kournikova, the fashion envelope has often been pushed in women's tennis. Harkleroad moved it ahead a little bit more, wearing a scanty two-piece outfit in several shades of blue, showing a fair amount of midriff.

Of course, it wasn't inspired by Dali. How about a certain apparel company based in Oregon? "I think it was a little revealing, but I like that sometimes," Harkleroad said. "So it was fine with me. And they [Nike] liked me wearing it, so that's why I wore it .... It was tight and short, but I like things like that and they liked it on me."

Such is the state of tennis and society that Harkleroad, the loser--instead of Meilen Tu, the winner--had a postmatch news conference with a room full of reporters.

Tu, who is from Porter Ranch, beat the wild-card entry, Harkleroad, 6-4, 2-6, 6-0, in the first round. The No. 93-ranked Tu will play defending champion Venus Williams in the second round.

It was Harkleroad's first main-draw match at the U.S. Open. "I think she [Tu] was a little nervous going into the match," Harkleroad said. "I would have been if I were playing a 16-year-old upcoming junior. But she handled it really well."

Harkleroad, whose nickname is Pebbles because she is from Flintstone, Ga., has embraced being called the next Kournikova and said she enjoyed the attention. After all, her agent, Jill Smoller, once worked with a high-profile client, Dennis Rodman.

The only thing she didn't enjoy was a series of questions from one reporter about her outfit. "I'm fine with it, except for him making fun of my outfit," she said.

"Everything besides that has been pretty nice."

*

The "charm" of the U.S. Open has always included the hamburger grills.

Players used to complain about the smoke drifting over to the courts, making an already difficult tournament more problematic.

On Tuesday night, a grease fire sent smoke pouring into in the upper reaches of Arthur Ashe Stadium during Jennifer Capriati's 6-2, 6-1 first-round victory over Amanda Hopmans of the Netherlands. Play was not stopped and the fire was put out within a few minutes. No injuries were reported.

"It was just weird," Capriati said. "The stadium started to get smoky. That was the only thing bothering me."

The grease fire started behind the upper-deck concourse entrance near one of the scoreboards at the Hamburger Hill stand. An usher said he and several associates helped put it out.

"We just had fire training yesterday, thanks to the USTA, who gave us directions," said Mike Hanousek of Woodbridge, N.J.

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