Capriati advances in U.S. Open

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jennifer Capriati naps almost every day, so spending an hour snoozing on a sofa in the players' lounge really was no big deal.

That took care of one rain delay. There were two others.

After spending much of the day waiting on the weather, the sixth-seeded Capriati finally finished her fourth-round match against No. 11 Elena Dementieva at the U.S. Open at 8:22 p.m. Monday, almost seven hours after it began.

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She defeated the hard-serving Russian 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals.

The only other match to be completed on the first day of the tournament's second week was French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne's 6-0, 6-3 win against Dinara Safina that began at 10:29 p.m.

Capriati's match was first delayed an hour from its scheduled start time of 12:45 p.m. Once the players took the court, the three-time major champion Capriati and 2001 Open semifinalist Dementieva played for just 13 minutes, enough time for Capriati to go up 4-0.

Play was then suspended for almost 4 1/2 hours. The next time they came out, the players stayed on the court for 36 minutes before more rain prompted the chair umpire to stop action, drawing boos from the few thousand fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Capriati led 6-2, 3-2.

They came back about an hour later -- with Capriati having changed from a teal top to red -- and got it done.

Henin-Hardenne, in the Open quarterfinals for the first time, was pumped and it showed. She returned the toughest of serves for winners and chased down balls that seemed destined to get by her. She served and volleyed and pumped her fists.

''It's been a long day, difficult,'' Henin-Hardenne said. ''I was patient. I was a little bit nervous to finish the match and the crowd was getting excited, so it wasn't easy.

''It's late but we did it, so that's good.''

Fans began to cheer every point for Safina, who got three straight games in the last set.

In all, 69 matches were postponed before they began: all four in men's singles and some in the doubles, junior and senior tournaments. The last time an entire day at the Open was rained out was Sept. 4, 1988.

In other women's action, No. 7 Anastasia Myskina led Mary Pierce 4-2 in the first set when the rain started again at 11:34 p.m. and players were sent home for the night. Francesca Schiavone and Ai Sugiyama were about to start a first-set tiebreaker when they left the court.

Those who had to wait until Tuesday to play were top-ranked Andre Agassi against unseeded American Taylor Dent, No. 5 Guillermo Coria against Jonas Bjorkman, American Todd Martin vs. French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Thai star Paradorn Srichaphan against 2001 Open champion Lleyton Hewitt.

''It was relaxing day for me,'' Martin said. ''Sleeping in, spending some time with my family. I played backgammon with Tom Gullickson. Everybody's in the same boat. Everybody's looking to waste some time.''

Agassi has been affected twice by the weather. On Sunday, the top-ranked Agassi finished his third-round match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov that had been suspended the day before after one set and one game.

The 33-year-old Agassi, the oldest top-seeded man in the Open era, spent part of Monday wandering the halls of the main stadium with young son, Jaden, in his arms. Wimbledon champion Roger Federer played chess against Max Mirnyi and then hit tennis balls to scattered fans in the stands.

When Capriati was on the court, she went for everything. And why not? She knew another delay could be just around the corner.

''I should motivate myself like this more often,'' she said with a grin.

Once finally done, she threw both arms up in the air, uttering a long 'Whoo' under her breath.

''I just hung in there,'' she said. ''I didn't think it was going to go all day long like this.''