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Capriati, Henin reach quarters on rainy day

In a rain-interrupted match that ended more than 6 hours after it began, Jennifer Capriati reached the US Open quarterfinals for the third straight year on Monday by beating Elena Dementieva.

india Updated: Sep 02, 2003 09:41 IST

In a rain-interrupted match that ended more than 6 hours after it began, sixth-seeded Jennifer Capriati reached the US Open quarterfinals for the third straight year Monday by beating No. 11 Elena Dementieva 6-2, 7-5.

French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, meanwhile, beat Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 in 57 minutes to make the Open's round of eight for the first time.

All four scheduled men's fourth-round matches were postponed because of downpours, but organizers tried to fit in the women's action.

After Henin-Hardenne and Safina, the younger sister of 2000 Open champion Marat Safin, warmed up, tournament referee Brian Earley made them sit while he inspected the court. With the No. 2-seeded Henin-Hardenne urging him to let them play, Earley did.

"It's been a long day," Henin-Hardenne said. "Tomorrow I have a day to rest, so that's going to be perfect."

Fewer than 50 fans were on hand at the Grandstand Court when No. 7 Anstasia Myskina and two-time Grand Slam title winner Mary Pierce began their encounter a little after 11 p.m. (0300 GMT). No. 15 Ai Sugiyama and No. 29 Francesca Schiavone also played late.

But more than 60 matches — including the doubles, junior and senior tournaments — were postponed without a shot being hit. The last time an entire day at the Open was rained out was Sept. 4, 1988.

Because of the lack of play, people who had tickets for the day or night session can exchange them for day sessions Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday — or for 2004 seats.

Among the matches put off until Tuesday: top-ranked Andre Agassi against unseeded American Taylor Dent, and No. 5 Guillermo Coria against Jonas Bjorkman. The winners of those matches will meet in the quarterfinals.

Agassi complained after his third-round meeting with Yevgeny Kafelnikov was the only singles match postponed Saturday because of rain. Agassi was angered that the players weren't consulted, and that Dent's match against Fernando Gonzalez went on as scheduled. Now Agassi will have plenty of rest before facing Dent.

Capriati had time to relax Monday, even catching some Zs during one of the delays. "When I want to sleep I can sleep," she said. "I'm used to taking naps. I take a nap every day."

Once they did get on the court, Capriati, a three-time major champion, and Dementieva, a 2000 Open semifinalist, were given 10 minutes to warm up, twice what's normally allotted. And then they finally started, only to be ushered off the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium after 13 minutes — enough time for Capriati to go up 4-0.

A break of nearly 4 1/2 hours followed. Then they played another 36 minutes until sprinkles prompted the chair umpire to stop action, drawing boos from the few thousand fans in the stadium. Capriati led 6-2, 3-2.

After about another hour, play resumed. This time, Capriati finished the job.

The players immediately traded breaks of service, and then Capriati let Dementieva take a 5-4 lead in the second set by getting broken at love with an errant forehand.

Capriati was rushing even more than she usually does, and that caused some mistakes. But then she also straightened out her game in a hurry, slapping herself on the thigh for encouragement. She broke back to 5-5, then held to 6-5 with help from her only ace (at 108 mph).

At this point, rain was trickling down, and Capriati was eager to get home. She chewed on her towel during the changeover, then moved to the baseline, ready to receive serve. Dementieva sat as long as allowed, making Capriati wait alone on court.

A beautiful backhand topspin lob got Capriati within two points of victory, and she wrapped it up with a good deep forehand and then a backhand passing shot. In the end, they played for 1 hour, 12 minutes.

Capriati finished with a 28-14 edge in winners, and Dementieva hurt herself with seven double-faults, with some serves landing a few feet out.

"It was just getting pretty annoying. I was getting tired," Capriati said Monday. "It's hard to play matches like that once you're out there because your rhythm is off."

While she snoozed, other players killed time by reading or playing video games. Agassi could be seen wandering in the halls of the main stadium with his young son in his arms, while Wimbledon champion Roger Federer played chess against Max Mirnyi and then hit tennis balls to scattered fans in the stands.

Led by No. 1 Agassi and No. 2 Federer, all of the top eight seeded men reached the round of 16 at the US Open for the first time since 1981.

First Published: Sep 02, 2003 09:41 IST