Hewitt heads charge of youth over experience

Australian sensation squares up to Sampras while Martin aims to withstand big-serving Safin

The old crooner Tony Bennett will open the show with "America The Beautiful" prior to tomorrow's men's singles final at the United States Open here, and Bennett will not be the only ageing American on the court if Pete Sampras and Todd Martin have anything to do with it. But the championships may be remembered for a major breakthrough by a new generation, headed by Lleyton Hewitt, 19, and Marat Safin, 20.

The old crooner Tony Bennett will open the show with "America The Beautiful" prior to tomorrow's men's singles final at the United States Open here, and Bennett will not be the only ageing American on the court if Pete Sampras and Todd Martin have anything to do with it. But the championships may be remembered for a major breakthrough by a new generation, headed by Lleyton Hewitt, 19, and Marat Safin, 20.

Today's semi-finals promise a fine balance of youth and experience: a potentially fascinating dual between Hewitt, the Australian action man, and the 29-year-old Sampras, winner of a record 13 Grand Slam titles; and a test of Safin's temperament as the powerful Russian attempts to break the 30-year-old Martin's resilience.

Martin, the runner-up to Andre Agassi last year after recovering from two sets to love down against Greg Rusedski in the fourth round, has had another amazing tournament. He had to save a match point against Spain's Carlos Moya after hauling himself back from 0-2 in the fourth round this time.

In the quarter-finals on Thursday, Martin defeated Sweden's Thomas Johansson, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, after two hours and 32 minutes, which was equivalent to a night off for the Michigan giant.

Although the match contained its share of errors (28 by Martin, 24 by Johansson), these were erased by a bonanza of winning shots. Johansson's 49 (including 23 aces) would have discouraged a lesser opponent, but Martin's 40 winners (18 double-faults) were born of an irresistible determination to keep his show on the road.

"I thought I played a good game in the fourth set to break him," Johansson said, "but, when I had 4-3, he started to play a lot better. He put pressure on me on almost every point."

Martin, an unseeded hero, was asked if, after finding himself a break down in the fourth, he had wondered if he had another five-setter left in him. "I was more curious whether he had any errors left in him," he said of Johansson. "He played a great third set, and at least half, if not more, of a great fourth set. Finally I made up my mind to make him see me a bit more."

At 6ft 6in and 205lb, Martin is not exactly invisible. "I just came to the net a little bit more," he explained. "Putting that extra pressure on him at least changed the rhythm of the match, and maybe also took some of his ball-striking away. I was trying to scrap some ugly points, too. That's part of the game, and it's part of the reason why I've been able to do well here this week."

Safin is 6ft 4in and 180lb, so there is no question that his collision with Martin represents the heavyweight contest of the fortnight: big serves, powerful points. "Against Marat, there's nothing but to expect that," Martin said. "It's a little bit more like grass-court tennis. You understand there's going to be some love games on the other side of the net, but you also understand that if you hang in there, you might be able to create some opportunities for yourself."

It will be interesting to see if there is any sparring, given that the pair have never played each other before. "Playing Todd is going to give me a lot of headaches," the sixth-seeded Safin said. "He has a big serve, gives no rhythm at all, plays very fast and has a very good volley. He's a very talented guy, a big fighter. He can play till midnight. I can't do that."

Sampras breaks records, Safin breaks rackets - 48 last year, 35 so far this season. "You know how much I paid already this year [in fines]? Close to $10,000 [£7,100]. For $10,000, you know what I can do?"

There are times when breaking a racket does nothing to relieve Safin's frustration, when his suspect temperament overwhelms his talent. "Sometimes," he said, "I'm trying to push myself because I can play one set, and the next set I don't know what I'm doing. I need to push myself, because otherwise I'm completely blocked on the court.

"I'm pushing myself to move, to get angry, to get into the game. I get angry in five-set matches. I'm playing, and I'm stopping. I'm playing, and I don't know what I'm doing. But when I'm playing good, I don't have to do this."

Hewitt, the ninth seed, knows that his two-sets win against Sampras on the grass at Queen's the week before Wimbledon is best set aside from his thoughts in preparing for today's contest over the Grand Slam distance. Sensibly, he takes encouragement from his overall progress this year. "As soon as I got in the top 10, I think I really started to believe that I can match it with a lot of these top players," he said. "This is just another step in my career. So far so good in this tournament."

In Sydney, Patrick Rafter wants to end his feud with his team-mate Mark Philippoussis and would even volunteer to share a room with him at the Olympic village. The two have hardly spoken to each other since Rafter criticised Philippoussis for pulling out of July's Davis Cup semi-final against Brazil. But, with the Games a week away, Rafter wants to bury the hatchet.

"I'm very happy to call it quits," Rafter said. "If I see him, I'll be very happy to go up and say 'g'day'. I don't want to make it uncomfortable for him... I'm very happy to sit down and talk and just try and be in a really good team atmosphere."

Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?