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The Names Change, but Result Is the Same

Two 'new' Americans, Davenport and Capriati, will oppose Belgians in U.S. Open semifinals.

September 05, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — If it seems as though we've been down this semifinal road at a Grand Slam tennis tournament before -- the Americans vs. the Belgians -- well, it's sort of true. This will be Wimbledon repeated.

Only the capable stand-ins, filling in for Serena and Venus Williams, happen to be Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport. The Belgians remain top-seeded Kim Clijsters and No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne.

The inclement weather dogging this tournament the last few days has created something new at the U.S. Open, a chance for the USTA to make up some of its lost profits washed away by the rain with a nighttime showpiece: Clijsters vs. Davenport and Henin-Hardenne vs. Capriati.

Henin-Hardenne, the French Open champion, is ready for her prime-time turn.

"I like to play in the big stadiums now," she said. "I was scared about this a year ago maybe because I wasn't used to it.... I am very impatient. I want to be there already."

The semifinals are worth anticipating because the quarterfinals Thursday night lacked suspense. Clijsters defeated No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo of France, 6-1, 6-4; Henin-Hardenne beat No. 7 Anastasia Myskina of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, in 63 minutes; No. 3 Davenport needed 57 minutes, winning, 6-4, 6-0, against Paola Suarez of Argentina; and No. 6 Capriati defeated Francesca Schiavone of Italy, 6-1, 6-3, in 67 minutes.

The Capriati-Schiavone and Henin-Hardenne-Myskina matches might have been closer, but the competitive balance may have been thrown off because Schiavone and Myskina had to finish off their fourth-round matches earlier in the day. Myskina beat Mary Pierce of France, 7-6 (2), 6-1.

Schiavone had much more work, and drama, in her comeback against No. 15 Ai Sugiyama of Japan, winning, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-2, in a match that had started Monday.

Sugiyama had been on the verge of winning several times, and led, 2-0, in the third set. But Schiavone kept fighting and seemed to come out of most of the delays with better concentration. The final odd twist was when an errant ball tossed by a ballboy clipped chair umpire Lynn Welch in the face, leading to another break for treatment. Then there was more rain.

"She looked like she was not feeling good," Schiavone said of Welch. "So I [was] scared. 'I said, 'Call the trainer.' "

A dejected Sugiyama said: "I was probably thinking too much, my brain was tired."

Schiavone's euphoria couldn't carry her through the Capriati match. The good news, for the public and TV executives, is the tournament now has a good chance to finish on time, barring another weather calamity.

But the hurried schedule didn't help the Italian player.

"But I know the television, a lot of things I can't control," she said. "But it's OK."

The players had been growing restless for the last three days at the National Tennis Center.

"I think another day off, we'd all be going crazy," Davenport said. "I mean, I just was dying to hit outdoors."

More had been expected from the Mauresmo-Clijsters match. They played three sets in the fourth round last year, with Mauresmo winning, but the Belgian, ranked No. 1 in the world, is a much-improved player.

"Then she didn't have the confidence she does now," Mauresmo told French reporters. "She's riding on that confidence."

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