The backward–cap kids took centre stage at the U.S. Open, and for more than 31/2 hours Australian Andy Roddick and American Lleyton Hewitt matched wits, aces and effort, applauding each other's best shots. Then Roddick lost his cool – and the match..
Hewitt edged Roddick 6–7 (5), 6–3, 6–4, 3–6, 6–4 early today to advance to the semifinals.
There were only four service breaks, including one in the final game after Roddick became irate at an overrule by chair umpire Jorge Dias.
On the first point of the game, Roddick hit a crosscourt forehand that a linesman called good but Dias overruled, even though the ball landed on the sideline farthest from his chair.
"It was straight on the line!" Roddick screamed at Dias. "How can you overrule the far side of the court? What is wrong with you? You can't overrule it at 4–5 in the fifth set. What are you? Are you an absolute moron?"
Five points later, Hewitt hit a backhand passing shot for a winner on the first match point and collapsed in jubilation.
Roddick shook hands with Hewitt and then Dias, and declined to discuss his tirade or the ruling during an on–court interview.
"Lleyton was a great competitor," Roddick said, his voice breaking. "He was too good for me tonight. But I'll be back."
At the outset the crowd was large but largely subdued, and many left before the finish, but those who remained were rewarded with a wild finish at 12:41am EDT.
Hewitt, 20, ended the 19–year–old Roddick's bid to become the youngest men's Open champion. The No. 4–seeded Australian advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive year, and on Saturday he'll play No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who advanced by routing a curiously listless Gustavo Kuerten, the No. 1 seed, 6–4, 6–0, 6–3.
That gave Russia two semifinalists in a Grand Slam event for the first time. Defending champion Marat Safin advanced Wednesday and will play Sampras in a rematch of last year's final.
In the mixed doubles final, Todd Woodbridge and Rennae Stubbs defeated Leander Paes and Lisa Raymond 6–4, 5–7 (11–9) to take their first Grand Slam title together.
The women's much–anticipated semifinals are Friday. No. 1 Martina Hingis plays No. 10 Serena Williams in a matchup of former champions, and defending champion Venus Williams, seeded fourth, plays No. 2 Jennifer Capriati in the second match.
As with Sampras–Agassi, Roddick–Hewitt offered contrasting styles. The big–swinging Roddick tried to belt winners, and the undersized Hewitt tried to run them down, his squeaking sneakers audible in the upper deck.
The match was also similar to Sampras–Agassi because of the dominant serving. Roddick smacked 21 aces and was broken three times. Hewitt slammed 15 aces and was broken only once.
There were only scattered jeers for Hewitt when he walked on court, a sign he has moved beyond last week's ill–advised, perhaps racially tinged comments during a tirade in a match.
The first set was reminiscent of Wednesday's thriller, with no break points as the players progressed to a tiebreaker. Hewitt then made three consecutive forehand errors, two on potential putaways, and Roddick closed out the set with a 136–mph ace.
He froze in his follow–through, relishing the moment as the crowd roared.
The first break point came early in the second set, and Roddick double–faulted into the net, then angrily slammed his racket to the court. The gift gave Hewitt a 2–0 lead, and he easily held serve the rest of the set.
Hewitt broke again in the third set for a 4–3 lead. In the next game Roddick chased an angled volley off the court, lunged and fell, landing on his right side and skidding into the cyclops machine that judges serves. He rose slowly, then bent over in pain but continued. Hewitt closed out the set with an ace.
Roddick earned his first break of the match and a 2–0 lead in the fourth set when Hewitt double–faulted. Hewitt was unable to convert to break points in the final game of the set, and Roddick closed it out with a service winner to even the match at two sets apiece.
Both players easily held serve as the fifth set progressed and the number of winners, errors and wild exchanges mounted.
"I'm missing every other shot and I'm still in five sets," Roddick shouted after dumping a backhand into the net. A few games later, he lost the composure that has helped him soar into the top 20 this year.
Kafelnikov, who also reached the Open semifinals two years ago, struggled to five–set wins in the first two rounds but seems to be finding his form on his favorite surface. He gradually grinded down Kuerten, and from 4–4 in the first set Kafelnikov won 11 consecutive games.
"From the first point on he start smoking backhands, forehands, like he always does," Kafelnikov said. "But to my credit, I was able to keep up with him on the baseline. Once I did that, I started to believe in myself a lot more."
Kuerten, a three–time French Open champion, again came up short in his bid to win a major title on a surface other than clay. He received treatment from a trainer but said his problem was simply lethargy.
"I didn't have any energy to step up and play my best," the Brazilian said. "I didn't find myself comfortable running and playing one or two points well back–to–back. ...
"I feel disappointed and frustrated," he added before cracking a smile. "But also maybe tonight I can have a good dinner, drink one beer, go out. If I win, I didn't have this chance."
Kuerten's defeat means that for the second year in a row, no man will win multiple Grand Slam titles. Australian Open champion Agassi lost to Sampras on Wednesday, and Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic was eliminated in the third round.
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