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Capriati bothered by blimp in victory

Jennifer Capriati's finickiness reached new heights on Saturday: She wanted the blimp hanging over Arthur Ashe Stadium moved.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2003 10:23 IST

Jennifer Capriati's finickiness reached new heights Saturday: She wanted the blimp hanging over Arthur Ashe Stadium moved.

And that was simply one of her concerns during a tight match at the US Open. She also was bothered by her racket strings, opponent Emilie Loit's style and the weather.

The blimp? Capriati thought it was closer to the court than normal, and found the noise distracting. Still, the three-time major champion persevered, eventually found a comfort zone and pounded out a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 victory to reach the round of 16.

"When you're playing worse, everything sort of becomes louder than when you're playing well," the No. 6-seeded Capriati said. "If something is bothering me, I try to stop it or focus a little harder."

She switched outfits because temperatures dipped into the 60s Fahrenheit (upper teens Celsius), and she switched rackets to try to account for swirling wind and heavy humidity. And then there were the problems with her serve — Capriati was broken three straight times bridging the second and third sets.

But her powerful strokes eventually took their toll on the light-hitting Loit, a Frenchwoman ranked 49th who likes to mix speeds during a point. At least Capriati must have been thrilled to finish before the rain came.

She will make the Open quarterfinals for a third straight year if she can beat No. 11 Elena Dementieva, who got past Amy Frazier 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3) in another of the handful of matches completed before the first downpour of this Open made everyone put their rackets away.

Dementieva was joined by fellow Russians No. 7 Anastasia Myskina and unseeded Dinara Safina, the younger sister of 2000 Open champion Marat Safin. With Nadia Petrova and Elena Likhovtseva having won Friday, there are five Russians in the round of 16.

Without hitting a ball, Andy Roddick was a topic of conversation at the National Tennis Center on Saturday — and not because it was his 21st birthday.

Rather, it was because Croatian Ivan Ljubicic lit into Roddick for his on-court behavior after losing to the rising star Friday night in a tight four-setter that ended shortly after midnight.

As Ljubicic put it Saturday: "He is Andy Roddick, we are in the States, and if somebody says something bad about him, then it's a big boom. ...

"I'm sorry if he's expecting everybody's going to like him," Ljubicic added. "He thinks he's the best, the greatest, the most beautiful. But that's not the case."

According to Ljubicic, he was in his hotel room when he got a call from Roddick at 1:30 a.m. Roddick wanted to know why Ljubicic didn't speak to him privately instead of airing his views through the media.

Ljubicic said he told Roddick: "Andy, why do you care what others think about you?"

Roddick called the comments "sour grapes" on Friday, but neither he nor coach Brad Gilbert would talk to reporters about the matter Saturday.

Instead, Roddick issued a statement at night through the ATP Tour: "I had a good conversation with Ivan, both last night and again today. I think we both had the chance to clear the air, and I know that last night's incident is behind us."

James Blake came to Roddick's defense.

"Andy has proved himself over and over. He doesn't need to respond. He doesn't need to worry about this. What you saw out there was just his personality, Andy just being himself," said Blake, a Davis Cup teammate and pal of Roddick's since their days as juniors.

Roddick and Blake both play third-round matches Sunday, which is when Andre Agassi will finish his match against Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

The winner of Agassi-Kafelnikov will meet Taylor Dent, an unseeded American who won a five-set match for the first time in his career and earned his first trip to the fourth round of a major by knocking off No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 7-6 (9), 6-7 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Dent managed to win, thanks in large part to 26 aces and top-notch volleying, turning in the only upset of a seeded player Saturday at the US Open.

Agassi held a 6-3, 0-1 lead over Kafelnikov on Saturday when their match was postponed because of the 3-hour, 3-minute rain delay.

That's how long Sweden Jonas Bjorkman had to wait to convert match point in his 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Karol Kucera of Slovakia. As sprinkles started falling, Bjorkman slipped twice in the middle of a rally on match point — prompting the chair umpire to take the highly unusual step of stopping play during a point.

When they returned to the court after the delay, it took about 30 seconds for this sequence: fault, good serve, short rally, Kucera's forehand hits net and drops wide, Bjorkman pumps a fist to celebrate. Then they packed up their bags and left the court.

Making it into the fourth round before play was halted was 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt, who advanced when Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic quit because of muscle spams in his lower back while trailing 6-1, 3-0.

Hewitt next faces No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

"I would have liked to have kept going," Hewitt said. "I felt like I was in a pretty good routine out there today. I was hitting the ball cleanly. It was a big step up from my first two matches."

Another young American, Robby Ginepri, was ousted by 33-year-old Todd Martin 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4. Martin, the 1999 runner-up, next plays French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The third-seeded Spaniard was given a rousing ovation after flicking a passing shot through his legs with his back to the net during a 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 33 Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina.

Mary Pierce, owner of two Grand Slam titles but unseeded after a long string of injuries, reached the fourth round by beating Shinobu Asagoe of Japan 6-4, 6-1, while No. 29 Francesca Schiavone of Italy also won, defeating Tina Pisnik of Slovenia, 7-5, 7-6 (9).

French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne's match was moved to tiny Court 11 when the Grandstand was deemed unusable because an air blower leaked oil while drying rainwater. Henin-Hardenne beat Japan's Saori Obata 6-1, 6-2 as spectators sat in the aisles to catch the action.

Ljubicic didn't back down Saturday from what he said in his postmatch news conference 12 hours earlier — that Roddick does too much during matches to try to rile up the crowd or sway linesmen. And the Croat insisted he's not the only one on tour who feels that way.

"I mean, generally, I don't like him. I mean, not me, nobody in the locker room likes his acting on the court," Ljubicic said. A few players said they weren't sure why Ljubicic said what he did.

"Andy seems fine with me," Hewitt said. "I've never had a problem with anything he's done on court."

Said French Open runner-up Martin Verkerk: "I don't know what that's about. I like Roddick."

First Published: Aug 31, 2003 10:23 IST