Fri, Sep 02, 2005 - Page 24 News List

Top players battle wind to advance at US Open

TRICKYGusts of wind presented an added challenge at Flushing Meadows, with the lissome Maria Sharapova joking that she felt she might blow right off the court

AFP , NEW YORK

Taylor Dent of the US serves to Lars Burgsmuller of Germany at the US Open tennis tournament in New York on Wednesday. Dent won the match 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

PHOTO: AP

French Open champion Rafael Nadal reached the third round of the US Open tennis championships on here Wednesday with a tough 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over tenacious US teenager Scoville Jenkins.

In a night match delayed for more than an hour by rain, the second-seeded Spaniard found himself on the defensive against Jenkins, a wild card playing in just his fifth ATP Tour level event and second Grand Slam.

"I am very happy to be in the third round. This is my best result here," Nadal said, but he showed little of his usual flair, combatting Jenkins and the tricky winds with a largely defensive approach.

After breaking Jenkins in the fifth and seventh games of the third Nadal served for the match, but Jenkins stretched out the proceedings with a break for 5-3, forcing Nadal to play two more games to advance.

The difficult winds were a theme all day, providing more trouble to most of the seeded players in action than their opponents.

Maria Sharapova, the women's top seed, needed just 49 minutes to subdue 48th-ranked Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar 6-1, 6-0 and reach the third round.

Belgium's Kim Clijsters, seeded fourth but tipped by many as the favorite to lift her first Grand Slam trophy, struggled more in the swirling winds on Arthur Ashe Stadium, but emerged with a 7-5, 6-0 second-round victory over unseeded Colombian Fabiola Zuluaga.

Australian Open champion Serena Williams, seeded eighth, got past Colombian Catalin Castano 6-2, 6-2 to move within one match of meeting her sister, Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the fourth round as 10th-seeded Venus also advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Russian Maria Kirilenko.

Lleyton Hewitt, the third seed from Australia, was the first to taste the difficult conditions on the Arthur Ashe Stadium in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 first-round win over Spain's Albert Costa on Wednesday morning.

"I think I just handled the conditions so much better than he did today," said Hewitt, who is hoping a return to the scene of his first Grand Slam triumph can see an end to his Major title drought. "I don't think those kind of conditions suit his game at all."

Hewitt, who followed up his 2001 US Open title with a victory at Wimbledon the following year, hasn't added a Grand Slam crown to his resume since.

He came close here last year, losing in the final to Swiss world No. 1 Roger Federer.

Against Costa, who is a shadow of the player he was when he claimed the 2002 French Open title, Hewitt fended off both break points he faced in the opening set and didn't give the Spaniard another look at his serve.

The lissome Sharapova joked that she felt she might blow right off the court and into the nearby Unisphere, the giant globe built erected for the 1964 World's Fair that is a landmark at the National Tennis Center.

"I said it's better I had a piece of cake yesterday -- I would have been in that globe somewhere," Sharapova said.

"I'm glad I gained a few pounds," she said.

Sharapova could afford to laugh after polishing off Randriantefy, who handed her the victory with two of her five double faults on the final two points of the match. Sharapova advanced to a meeting with Germany's Julia Schruff, who beat American Lisa Raymond 6-3, 6-3.

Clijsters, on the other hand, had some trouble getting to grips with the blustery conditions.

The 22-year-old former world No. 1, who is seeking her first career Grand Slam title, raced to a 4-0 lead only to lose the next five games. She steadied the ship, winning the remaining nine.

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