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."

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home