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French Kiss-Off for Hewitt; Kuerten Falls Too

Tennis: Top-ranked Australian draws ire of crowd in loss to Canas, while defending champ exits more graciously.

June 03, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — One man waved to the crowd, relinquishing his stage with a smile, ending his two-year reign at the French Open by blowing a kiss. The French responded by showing Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten a little love on the way out the door.

About half an hour earlier, the world's top player exited with baggage, a loss and a chorus of Parisian boos. He had tossed his racket a few times, and in fairness, so did his opponent, but Australian Lleyton Hewitt drew their ire, by, heaven forbid, taking a healthy whack at the courtside red geraniums, a French no-no.

Where have all the flowers gone?

A better question: Where did all the top male players go on Sunday?

Not only did the top-seeded Hewitt and two-time defending champion Kuerten depart, but so did No. 3 Tommy Haas of Germany, dismissed by Andrei Pavel of Romania, 6-1, 7-6 (9), 6-4, in another fourth-round match.

Clay-court veteran Albert Costa of Spain never allowed the seventh-seeded Kuerten to get comfortable, winning, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

"I had a lot of doubts about coming here," said Kuerten, who had hip surgery in February. "I made a good run.... I think I'm pretty close to my best level again, so that makes me more happy on the court."

The highest-seeded player left in the upper half of the draw is No. 15 Guillermo Canas of Argentina, who beat Hewitt in a marathon, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (13), 6-4, 6-3, in 4 hours 14 minutes, as the Australian dropped the final six games.

It was a busy day at Roland Garros, so much so that defending champion Jennifer Capriati requested to be moved to Court 1 because matches were running long. Capriati avenged an earlier defeat this year to Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.

"It was a very difficult match for me, just so much more mentally and physically," said Capriati, who won the fourth-round match, 6-4, 6-4. "She's a tough player to play."

Advancing in straight sets were No. 2 Venus Williams, No. 6 Monica Seles and No. 7 Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia.

There were three upsets--2000 champion Mary Pierce of France defeated No. 9 Silvia Farina Elia of Italy, 6-1, 6-2; Clarisa Fernandez of Argentina beat No. 11 Elena Dementieva of Russia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, and Paola Suarez of Argentina outlasted No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo of France, winning, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.

When asked how she could stop this from happening again here, Mauresmo, a first-round loser here last year, said, "Clear my brain, have a brain graft. With an empty brain, perhaps it would be better."

Confidence-wise, No. 3 Serena Williams is at the other end. She started slowly and finished in top form, defeating Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.

"I don't get scared," Williams said. "It's definitely not an emotion I feel on the court."

Once again, she was asked about Indian Wells. Last year, Serena was treated harshly by the crowd in the final there and did not come back in 2002. Nor did Venus, who had withdrawn from a semifinal against Serena about five minutes beforehand because of an injured knee, drawing the ire of the spectators.

"Obviously you're saying I'm a Christian, I should turn the other cheek," Serena said. "Obviously, Jesus did that and stuff. We've been oppressed a long time. We've been turning our cheek a lot. I'm just not ready now."

For the first time, she left the door open, ever so slightly, saying: "Maybe next year."

In the quarterfinals, Capriati will play Dokic, Serena Williams will face Pierce, Seles will meet Venus Williams and, in an all-Argentine match, Fernandez will face Suarez.

"Whatever the result, I think this is going to be something beautiful for Argentina," Suarez said.

It was that kind of day for Argentina, starting with a World Cup victory, two women reaching the quarterfinals and finishing with Canas knocking off No. 1.

Canas defeated Hewitt for the first time in six matches, and showed uncommon stamina and resilience. In the third round, he needed five sets to defeat Carlos Moya of Spain. The 24-year-old Canas has been on the court 8 hours 42 minutes his last two matches.

"He's pretty strong," Hewitt said. "There's times where you think he's looking a bit tired and then he bounces back pretty well."

The emotional high point of the passion-filled match was the second-set tiebreaker. Canas won it, 15-13, fighting off five set points. Hewitt staved off five set points before the tiebreaker and four more in the tiebreaker when Canas won it with a forehand winner. In all, the set lasted 91 minutes.

"I don't know if it's the most unbelievable, but the most exciting tiebreak I ever played," said Canas, who avenged a five-set fourth-round loss to Hewitt here last year.

Hewitt looked to push it to five sets, leading, 3-0, in the fourth, but unraveled in a litany of errors. He had 105 unforced errors and double faulted 15 times.

Canas had some insight into why the crowd booed Hewitt. They aren't close, Canas said, but they have practiced together.

"We play many times in the last year," Canas said. "I think [Hewitt] is nice guy off the court. I think, maybe [he] is a little bit tough inside of the court. But everybody know this."

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