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U.S. OPEN NOTES

Hewitt Won't Slip Under Radar Now

September 07, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Not that he is complaining, but defending champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia has almost been the forgotten man of the U.S. Open since beating James Blake in the third round.

That won't be the problem today in the men's semifinals. The marquee matchup between the top-seeded Hewitt and No. 6 Andre Agassi will follow the opener between sentimental favorite Pete Sampras, 31, and final four newcomer Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. Sampras is 4-0 vs. Schalken, who turns 26 Sunday, but they have not played since 1998. Hewitt, 21, and Agassi, 32, have played twice in 2002, with Hewitt winning both times.

Their final at San Jose in February was considered one of the best men's finals of the season, accompanied by an interesting twist. Agassi's new coach was Darren Cahill, who had helped guide Hewitt to the U.S. Open title last year and the No. 1 spot. Hewitt leads their series, 4-2, and first played Agassi when the Australian was 16, in Adelaide. Hewitt hasn't forgotten it.

"It was nerve-wracking just being in the locker room," he said. "I had a couple of my mates in there with me. They were trying to keep me as relaxed as possible, but you keep looking over and Andre's sitting there."

Agassi is wary of this kind of talk. "When somebody tells me, 'I've been watching you my whole life,' I'm like, 'Please, stop right there.' I don't need to hear anymore, how long I've been playing."

Agassi's longtime rival Sampras is the one who has stolen most of the attention from the likes of Hewitt, and for good reason. Sampras' recent rejuvenation has been the talk of the Open, and he will be trying to reach his third consecutive final here.

"The first few matches he was a lot more tentative but had the firepower and the matchups to get through the first couple of matches," Agassi said. "I noticed him really start to execute his shot and not be scared to go for it."

*

Little did Bob Bryan know that he was going to hurt himself down the line when he discovered a new mixed doubles partner for his twin brother, Mike.

Bob hooked up with Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and arranged for his brother to play with Lisa Raymond. Friday, the four found themselves all on the same court--in the mixed doubles final. Raymond and Mike Bryan defeated Srebotnik and Bob Bryan, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (1).

*

The season-ending WTA Championships at Staples Center in November has established the Corina Morariu Courage Award. The official announcement will be made today. Morariu, 24, will be the first recipient. She was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2001, leaving the tour for chemotherapy treatment. In August, she returned to the tour, playing doubles at Carlsbad.

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