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Revival Act Keeps Rolling

Tennis: Resurgent Sampras topples third-seeded Haas in four sets to reach U.S. Open quarterfinals.

September 04, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — This was the place where it all began for Pete Sampras 12 years ago, so it certainly makes sense that the U.S. Open has become a source of rejuvenation since Wimbledon has not been restorative lately.

Loud, noisy, disruptive New York and a cool, calm champion are turning into quite the odd couple. It's happening again, a re-Pete, of sorts.

Greg Rusedski certainly didn't understand when he lost to Sampras in the third round and criticized him, saying he had lost a step and a half, and that he would not put money on him beating Tommy Haas of Germany.

Sampras, a finalist here last year, reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in 2002, serving 27 aces and defeating the third-seeded Haas, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5, in 3 hours 5 minutes on Tuesday at the U.S. Open. The 17th-seeded Sampras will face No. 11 Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

"I hope it's a nightmare for [Roddick]," Sampras said, smiling. "He's the future of the game, especially in the U.S. It's kind of an older veteran playing against the younger guy."

The glee he had in beating Rusedski on Monday was replaced by quiet, almost subdued focus. Against Haas, the serve saved Sampras, who admitted he was tiring quickly under heavy conditions and matches on consecutive days.

Naturally, Sampras was asked about Rusedski's critical comments. Had the 31-year-old, as Rusedski suggested, lost a step and a half?

"Against [Rusedski] I don't need to be a step and a half quicker," Sampras said. His match was the fitting finale of a long day, and longer night, of All-American surprises, seeming like an assembly line of surprises.

There was Chanda Rubin playing the best match against Venus Williams.

Rubin had two break points in the 11th game of the third set, but the second-seeded and two-time defending champion survived the fourth-round match, beating No. 14 Rubin, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, in 1 hour 53 minutes.

Williams, who had not lost a set here since the semifinals in 2000, was highly displeased. She went out and practiced with her father Richard for about 20 minutes after her match.

"I was thinking a little bit, this is how I used to play back in '98, back in the day," Williams said. "I don't like to go backward to those times."

Rubin is one of the few players who doesn't appear to be intimidated against either Venus or Serena. In fact, Rubin stopped Serena's 21-match winning streak by defeating her at Manhattan Beach last month on her way to the title.

And there was Andy Roddick's aching body holding together for another day. Roddick, who was suffering from inflammation of the left foot, needed treatment from the trainer after losing the first set against Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina.

Then, as it often happens with Roddick, he turned into a new player and something of a character, urging on the crowd, arguing with the chair umpire and, most important, making the shot of the tournament.

It came in the second set and changed the tenor of the match, unraveling Chela's psyche. In the seventh game, Roddick chased down a drop shot, raced back to retrieve a lob, quickly changing directions to do it, and finally won the point with a backhand passing shot down the line. He dropped his racket and used his frenzied momentum to propel himself in the stands, yelling and high-fiving a couple of fans.

"I don't really remember it too well because it was all reaction," said Roddick, who won, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. "It wasn't like I was in control of anything out there. I think it helped turn things around."

Then there was No. 4 Lindsay Davenport, who was thrilled to reach the semifinals, after missing nearly nine months because of an injured knee and surgery.

Davenport defeated unseeded Elena Bovina of Russia, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2, in the quarterfinals, winning seven consecutive games at one point, and will play No. 1 Serena Williams. But she wasn't ready to look ahead.

"The last few weeks I was really happy to be playing," Davenport said. "I got away from the fact how far I really have come."

And, finally, there was No. 6 Monica Seles, who defeated wild-card entry Martina Hingis of Switzerland, 6-4, 6-2, in the fourth round, and will play Venus Williams in the quarterfinals tonight.

But, as evidenced by Tuesday, Venus is not playing the best tennis in her family. That honor goes to Serena, who had 12 aces in an impressive 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal victory against No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

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