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New Wave Rolls Up, Makes a Big Splash

Tennis: Teenagers Dent, Fish advance with upsets.


INDIAN WELLS — There is no catchy nickname yet for the teen trio of up-and-comers, Taylor Dent, Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick.

The Replacements?

Then again, these things take time. Forced nicknames can be like an unforced error on match point. In any event, the three are doing it the right way, getting the results first and letting others worry about the hype. So far, the spin has mostly featured Roddick's accomplishments.

That has begun to change in the last two weeks.

The subtle shift became clearer Tuesday at the Tennis Masters Series. Dent, a 19-year-old from Newport Beach with an impressive tennis pedigree, defeated Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, 6-3, 6-0, in the first round. Hours later, Fish, another 19-year-old, beat 15th-seeded Mark Philippoussis of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

In the second round today, Dent will play top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil and Fish will face Nicolas Kiefer of Germany. But, for at least another day, the two wild-card entrants held center stage, giving some hope to those looking for American successors to Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

The best thing about Fish and Dent is that they are not bothered by those questions.

"It's good pressure," Fish said. "It's a lot of fun to try to be the next Pete or Andre or Todd [Martin] or Michael [Chang]. All those guys are so good. There's a lot of weight to carry. I don't know if anyone can ever bring out a group like those guys did, especially Pete and Andre because they won so many Grand Slams. I don't know if there will ever be a pack of Americans that can do that."

It is helpful to have the other two youngsters on the radar, Fish ventured.

"If it was by yourself, it would be a lot tougher," he said. "Because they are pushing you. Andy is ahead of the pack right now. He's done the best in the challenger level and the tour level. We're just trying to catch him. He set the bar really high, really quick. We're trying to catch up to him. But it's good. It's fun."

Fish could have folded after squandering two match points in the 12th game of the second set, double-faulting on the first and pushing a backhand long on the second. He learned something last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he served for the match in the second set against Thomas Enqvist, lost it, but rallied in the third.

"It was just an off day," said Philippoussis, who was bothered by inactivity after hurting his knee. "I had no feel out there. I had no idea what to do when I got to the ball. It was just a really ugly match. I think with any other person or any other player, I would have lost three and three. It was ugly out there."

Dent's victory was much smoother. Ferreira had not played since the Australian Open, when he broke a finger on his left hand, and Dent has been invigorated by a recent coaching change, reaching a two-year agreement with former pro Eliot Teltscher last month.

Previously, he had worked with his father, Phil, an Australian Open finalist in 1974. But Taylor approached Teltscher looking for a change, and Teltscher left his coaching position with the USTA.

"It was hard," Dent said of the decision. "The father-son relationship is a good thing. We had a great relationship, but for me to get to the next level I just needed to mature."

Fish used to be coached by his father too, and moved on a few years ago. Dent said the constant closeness made things difficult on the court.

"I thought I should be getting some support from him, instead of him coming down on me," he said. "I overreacted and he overreacted. It's just a funny situation."

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