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Making Their Names Known in Grand Style

Unheralded Spears and Reynolds upset seeded players to advance to the third round at the Australian Open.

January 20, 2005|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — There is almost a caste system at Grand Slam tournaments. Well-known winners are escorted to a theater-type interview room at the Australian Open, settling in front of a bank of TV cameras where every word is recorded by a professional transcriber.

The next tier end up in a small room with a handful of reporters.

And then players from the last group often wind up standing near the information desk, providing basic biographical details.

So, if you want to know how qualifier Bobby Reynolds and Abigail Spears fared today in the second round of the Australian Open, just look at where they ended up afterward.

Reynolds, who defeated No. 17-seeded Andrei Pavel of Romania, 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-2, made the journey from the information desk to the small interview room. Reynolds saved a set point in the tiebreaker.

Spears, of San Diego, also took out a seeded player, defeating No. 20 Tatiana Golovin of France, 7-5, 6-1, and also made it to the modest interview room. Golovin, who made a splash here last year by reaching the fourth round, did not seem 100%, still in recovery mode after a recent bout of shingles.

Neither Spears, 23, nor Reynolds, 22, had won a round at a Grand Slam before this tournament and today they reached the third round within an hour of each other.

Their victories were among the few surprises on a relatively routine day. Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport dropped her first set in the tournament but finished strongly, beating Michaela Pastikova of the Czech Republic, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

"She played really well," Davenport said. "I just wasn't ready to be at my best at the very beginning, and it definitely cost me against someone who came out playing very well, very aggressive and kind of caught me on my back foot."

Two other American women advanced: No. 25 Lisa Raymond beat Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic, 6-0, 6-1, and No. 8 Venus Williams had little trouble with teenager Shuai Peng of China, winning, 6-3, 6-1.

The 19-year-old from China had arrived in Melbourne with some momentum, having defeated Anastasia Myskina of Russia last week in Sydney. She broke Williams in the opening game, and had a 40-0 lead on her own serve in the next game but lost it, seeming to lose a measure of composure after arguing with the chair umpire over a line call at 40-30.

In the best match of the afternoon, 18-year-old Rafael Nadal of Spain, the Davis Cup standout in the final in December against the U.S., saved a match point in the fourth set and defeated No. 15 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, winning, 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in 3 hours 37 minutes.

Nadal is one of the few Spaniards not to be suffering from a post-Davis Cup malaise. He will next play Reynolds.

"I don't know where is him. What is his ranking, you know?" Nadal asked reporters.

Reynolds, from Marietta, Ga., is ranked No. 283, and came to Australia without even having a spot in the qualifying event, moving up through withdrawals and injuries.

"It still hasn't sunk in," Reynolds. "I imagine I'll wake up tomorrow and feel a little bit different.

"Last night I made a phone call to Qantas, changing my flight until tomorrow. I guess I've got to call back and tell them I need another flight on Sunday or Monday, at least. I'm just ecstatic right now to be in this position and take advantage of how I played today."

Though he prepared by hitting with Andy Roddick, who gave him some pointers on Pavel's game, Reynolds was amazed at having won in straight sets.

"To get the first set was huge for me," Reynolds said. "It gave me confidence that I could compete with him."

If not for a visa problem, Reynolds would have been a few thousands miles away playing a small tournament in Brazil. He was denied a work visa by Brazilian officials, he said, and decided to roll the dice by flying here.

In addition to reaching the third round, Reynolds and Spears have another thing in common: They both played collegiate tennis.

Reynolds spent three seasons at Vanderbilt and Spears played one season at UCLA. It was a difficult decision for her to leave the Bruins and Coach Stella Sampras behind.

"She wasn't happy," Spears said of Sampras.

Their relationship is fine now, Spears said. And she laughed when she told a story about one of the benefits of playing for Sampras. The team once took a trip to the home of Stella's brother, Pete, and she was just as excited to see his wardrobe as his Wimbledon trophies.

"We had pizza at his house. We saw his trophies and we had to go in his closet just to see his clothes and stuff," Spears said.

"That was pretty cool.... We were feeling ridiculous, so we just peeked in."

*

Playing her final singles match as a professional was Barbara Schett of Austria. Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia defeated Schett, 6-4, 6-0, in the second round.

The moment hit Schett in the final game.

"Not very emotional until she had match point, then suddenly I had tears in my eyes," Schett said. "I was like, 'Oh, my God. Where does that come from now?' "

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