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Roddick Beats Rain and Malisse

The fourth-seeded player wins the only completed match of the day to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Play could extend until Monday.

September 04, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Are you ready for some Monday Night Tennis?

U.S. Open officials finally acknowledged such a possibility Wednesday after another near rainout. Of the hundred-plus matches scheduled, one was completed.

Fourth-seeded Andy Roddick and Xavier Malisse of Belgium started their fourth-round match at 9:14 p.m. EDT on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and No. 8 Rainer Schuettler of Germany and No. 12 Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands went on in Louis Armstrong Stadium 20 minutes later.

And, finally, more than a few games of tennis was played. Roddick was leading, 6-3, 2-2, when the rains came -- again -- and caused the match to be stopped. Schalken was ahead, 5-1, when his match was halted.

Roddick-Malisse resumed at 11:01 and had a brief scary moment in the seventh game of the second set. Malisse was broken at 30, but Roddick slipped and nearly fell. Malisse lost the point, netting a forehand, and tossed his racket at his equipment bag.

Against all odds, the match was completed with Roddick winning, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5), in 2 hours 7 minutes. Though he dropped just three points on his serve in the first two sets, Roddick was forced to save two set points in the third. He plays the winner of the Schalken-Schuettler match.

Said Roddick, in an on-court TV interview: "The balls were huge. They were like watermelons. So it's tough to get it to go anywhere. It was tough."

Conditions were even worse on the other court. Schalken and Schuettler sat in their chairs, draped with towels to stay warm, and never resumed.

"Rainer and I both agreed that you have to start the match in dry conditions," Schalken said in the locker room. "It was tough for the referee because it needs to be played, this match."

The inclement weather has actually helped him. "I wasn't feel that well [Tuesday]," he said of his virus. "Now I feel good again."

Because of the schedule backlog, an extra session will be added, the women's semifinals pushed to Friday night, with an 8 o'clock start. Additionally, if the foul weather continues and no matches are played today, then the men's final might move to Monday, said Arlen Kantarian, the USTA's chief executive of professional tennis.

The burden has become sizable. Roddick and Andre Agassi are in the only ones in the quarterfinals. Two fourth-round women's matches, which started Monday, have yet to be completed. Mary Pierce of France vs. No. 7 Anastasia Myskina of Russia and No. 15 Ai Sugiyama of Japan vs. Francesca Schiavone of Italy have almost turned into a cricket test series.

The winners of both matches could be faced with playing twice today, the first one during the day and the quarterfinal at night.

Open officials have come under criticism in some quarters, in particular from Martina Navratilova, for their perceived mishandling of different situations during the last few days. Perhaps Navratilova's words got through. Kantarian said he and others were in meetings Wednesday with the WTA and the ATP, among others.

"We're always looking to improve the communication with the players, the ATP, the WTA Tour," tournament director Jim Curley said. "Do you always get it 100% correct? No. But it's our goal to approach that level."

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