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Rain scrambles Open schedule

Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick could rest on Thursday ? they were the only men already in the quarterfinals. First-round juniors singles matches were finally moved about 40 km north of Flushing Meadows.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2003 00:03 IST

Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick could rest Thursday — they were the only men already in the quarterfinals at a wet US Open.

The Open was limped through another rain-soaked day Wednesday, further backing up a schedule that could stretch the tournament into next week. Only one match was completed: Roddick's three-set victory over Xavier Malisse.

A total of four matches were completed Monday through Wednesday. Play was delayed again Thursday because even though the grounds were dry at 10 a.m., rain had started by the time the first match was supposed to begin at 11 a.m.

And things got worse: The Grandstand, one of three show courts at the National Tennis Center, was deemed unplayable Thursday because it couldn't be dried. The water level underneath the facility's lowest-lying court is so high that the surface feels soggy even when the water on top has been wiped away, grounds crew supervisor Joe Sexton said.

"We have to wait for the sun. If it sits in the sun for 12 hours, it could be playable again," Sexton said. Also, first-round juniors singles matches were moved to Sound Shore Indoor Tennis in Port Chester, New York, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Flushing Meadows.

On Wednesday, the start of play was delayed by nearly three hours because of a stubborn mist that left courts damp and unplayable. When the weather cleared long enough for a match to begin, top-seeded Kim Clijsters won three games from No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo in 10 minutes.

Then it started raining again.

About seven hours later, two men's matches reached court. No. 4 Roddick was up 6-3, 2-2 against Malisse and No. 12 Sjeng Schalken had a 5-1 jump on No. 8 Rainer Schuettler when the weather window closed and play was halted by still another rain delay.

They resumed long enough for Roddick to win 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5). Schalken and Schuettler returned to the court but never played another point. "I didn't think we'd get on the court tonight," Roddick said. "It's tough, frustrating. You want to get out there. You want to play."

At the end of Wednesday, the event was 174 matches behind where it was supposed to be, with 388 matches completed at a time when it was supposed to have finished 562. There were a record 110 matches on Thursday's schedule.

The biggest problem is on the men's side of the draw, where four fourth-round matches were suspended in progress and two never began. If the Open is to conclude as scheduled on Sunday with the men's final, it would require the men still stuck in the round-of-16 to play best-of-five matches on four straight days, a grueling schedule.

"I can't imagine playing three out of five sets two days in a row, let along three or four, which is what it's looking like," said third-seeded Lindsay Davenport, whose quarterfinal match against No. 24 Paola Suarez was among Wednesday's postponements. The women face an ambitious schedule of their own, with their quarterfinals scheduled for Thursday, semifinals Friday and final Saturday night.

"We continue to make our best effort to complete this tournament on time," said Arlen Kantarian, the US Tennis Association's chief executive for professional tennis. "That challenge, of course, has gotten all the more challenging. We are determined to make the best of a very difficult situation."

That said, Kantarian added that inclement weather Thursday would push the entire schedule back another day, meaning the men's final would be played Monday.

The last time the Open stretched past Sunday was 1987 when rainouts forced the final to Monday. Ivan Lendl needed 4 hours, 47 minutes to defeat Mats Wilander in four sets for the title. Perhaps the players most disrupted by the rain this week were No. 15 Ai Sugiyama and No. 29 Francesa Schiavone.

They began their fourth-round match Monday. It was halted in a first-set tiebreaker by rain. They returned long enough Tuesday for Sugiyama to win the first set and take a 5-4 lead in the second set before the match was interrupted by rain again.

They never played a point Wednesday and so their match remained in limbo, four days after it began. The other women's fourth-round match still incomplete has No. 7 Anastasia Myskina leading Mary Pierce 7-6 (2), 2-0.

The USTA hopes to finish those matches Thursday and then move the winners immediately into the quarterfinals Thursday night, with No. 6 Jennifer Capriati to face the Sugiyama-Schiavone winner and No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne to play the Myskina-Pierce winner.

The other women's quarters were scheduled to begin Thursday's program with the completion of Clijsters-Mauresmo and the start of Davenport-Suarez.