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TENNIS NOTES

Matched Set but No Match Win

March 18, 2004|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

Everything should have been perfect Wednesday for the Bryan twins of Camarillo at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament at Indian Wells.

The No. 1 doubles team in the world, the left-handed Bob and the right-handed Mike, were playing a big match in the biggest tennis tournament in their home area against a big-time team, Frenchmen Sebastian Grosjean and Arnaud Clement.

The crowd was larger than normal for outside-court doubles, and even though temperatures were well above 100 degrees, probably closer to 115 on the court, an estimated 1,000 fans had come to see the Southern California boys who have made good.

They were dressed like, well, twins -- matching shorts and shirts and socks and shoes -- right down to wristbands on their racket hands, Bob on the left and Mike on the right. Their rackets were even strung with matching yellow-tinted nylon. The only spoiler was Bob, who flaunted some individuality by wearing a watch on his right hand and a black rope necklace.

Oh, there was one other spoiler: The French team, which won, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

This was an early departure for the Bryan twins, who had appeared in six straight finals, had started the year 21-2 and hadn't lost since the final of the Australian Open. They are currently the American Davis Cup doubles team, and Patrick McEnroe, who captains the Davis Cup team, also picks the Olympic squad, likely to be the Bryans.

This one loss, unusual as it was, is not likely to make a difference to the Bryan status.

"Those six finals we made," Bob Bryan said, "we had to pull out a lot of close matches. Today, that caught up to us."

They lost the first game when Mike had his serve broken, and that was also unusual, as well as key to the match.

"We usually start with an easy service game from Bob," Mike said. "But the sun was so tough on that side that I started, and we messed up."

One of the big advantages the Bryans have is that, other than tiebreakers, neither has to serve facing into the sun because one is right-handed and the other left-handed.

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The American women's doubles picture, while more muddled than the men for future events such as the Olympics, had a better day with the victory of Lindsay Davenport and Corina Morariu, who beat another American, Meghann Shaughnessy, and Russian Nadia Petrova, 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.

Davenport-Morariu is only one of the possibilities to play Olympic doubles in Athens. Among the others are Martina Navratilova-Lisa Raymond, who were seeded third but lost in the second round here, and the defending Olympic champion Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Davenport-Morariu aren't seeded here but made it to the quarterfinals with Wednesday's victory.

*

Andre Agassi got some headlines in England on Wednesday with news that a judge there had ordered him to pay the equivalent of $50,000 for income he earned through endorsements there for companies such as Nike and head Sports. His business handlers say that Agassi should be able to recover the money through deductions on his United States taxes.

This assessment was over and above the taxes already taken out of prize-money checks in sports such as tennis and golf in England. The main buzz on the story centered on whether this ruling would establish a precedent for other sports stars such as Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters, whose foreign endorsements can be sizable.

*

Agassi was asked here about his next tour stop, the tennis masters Series event in Miami. He won it last year and said that it is one of his favorite events, for one special reason -- he has won it more than his wife did, marking the only event in which he has an edge on Steffi Graf.

"Two years ago, I thought I had passed her there," he said. "I was sort of celebrating it around her. She was congratulating me, only to find out a few days later I hadn't passed her, I just tied her. She didn't have the heart to tell me, which I appreciated."

As a follow-up, he was asked: "Do you have any of her other records in your sights?"

Agassi laughed. "I'm shooting for 22 Slams," he said.

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