Agassi advances due to Dent#039;s misfortune

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

NEW YORK -- One world No. 1 got bumped for another.

It was a priority for the men to play at the U.S. Open on Tuesday and eventually Andre Agassi did, albeit intermittently.

After surviving two rain delays, Agassi defeated unseeded American Taylor Dent 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5, with Dent retiring because of tightness in his lower right hamstring in the fourth-round match. With the men's draw further behind, Open officials pushed back top-seeded Kim Clijsters' quarterfinal date with Amelie Mauresmo, later suspending it for the day all together.

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It's been quite a few days for Agassi.

First, the rain played against him. Then, it played in his favor. Agassi originally was going to have to play three straight days, but when his match was rained out Monday, it gave him an extra 24 hours to recover after playing both Saturday and Sunday.

He finished his third-round match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov on Sunday, a day after it was suspended by rain with Agassi up a set and down one game in the second.

Agassi, the oldest top-seeded man in the Open era, called it ''a mistake, an oversight in judgment'' that his Saturday match was not finished later that day.

''These conditions affect everybody,'' he said Tuesday. ''It's just a question of trying to get the most out of yourself. A lot of years of experience, but it's still difficult to do.''

Only three matches have been completed in three days. Several were in progress late Tuesday when the rain started again and play was officially halted for the night -- just before 11 p.m.

Commentator Ted Robinson compared the day to a ''childhood toothache.''

Agassi earned his 200th victory in Grand Slam play. If he wins the tournament, he'll tie Pete Sampras at 203, the third-most in the Open era behind Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.

''To see him injured is outright disappointing for everybody,'' Agassi said of Dent. ''It doesn't matter if it's my 200th or first match. That's not way you want it to end. It started to become apparent he was struggling with the leg. I was surprised he was unable to continue.''

The 22-year-old Dent said he aggravated his leg several days ago.

''If I wake up and it's feeling perfect tomorrow I'll be very angry, but I doubt that'll happen,'' he said.

As Agassi and Dent headed into their second delay, the tournament sound crew had a little fun, playing ''Here Comes the Rain Again'' by the Eurythmics.

Francesca Schiavone and Ai Sugiyama were sent home Monday night just before they were to start a first-set tiebreaker -- ''For me it was very lucky, because I was playing so bad. I was feeling so bad,'' Schiavone said.

They got sent home midway through again Tuesday, with No. 15 Sugiyama leading the 29th-seeded Schiavone 7-6 (5), 5-4. No. 7 Anastasia Myskina led Mary Pierce 7-6 (2), 2-0 in another match that was stopped in progress Monday and resumed for less than an hour Tuesday.

When play ended, French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero won the first set 6-2 against Todd Martin, No. 5 Guillermo Coria led Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 2-0, and 2001 Open champion Lleyton Hewitt trailed No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan 4-3 on serve in the first set.

Clijsters and No. 5 Mauresmo were sent home at 5 p.m. Three other singles matches were pushed back until Wednesday: No. 3 Lindsay Davenport vs. No. 24 Paola Suarez, No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 13 David Nalbandian, and No. 7 Carlos Moya vs. No. 22 Younes El Aynaoui. Eighty-seven of the 95 matches on Tuesday's schedule -- including all doubles, junior and senior draw matches -- were moved.

Unlike at Wimbledon, there are no tarps or tents for the courts when it rains.

''We've been talking about covers since the '80s,'' Martina Navratilova said. ''Yesterday they spent more time drying the courts than it rained. When are they going to learn? We have no say on it. Yesterday, it was two hours of play, six hours of drying. Fifteen minutes is enough after a drizzle.''

Organizers were contemplating all sorts of contingency plans to finish the event by Sunday. But with a serious backlog, there is a chance the men's final could be played on a Monday for the first time since 1987.

''It's obviously driving the players crazy. Everybody wants to see some tennis,'' John McEnroe said on TV. ''The sport is losing out right now. This is the United States Open, and we're sitting here twiddling our thumbs.''