Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A U.S. Open To Remember Part II

Wednesday Night Quarterfinals To Remember

With the American men continuing to win, it setup a possible dream quarterfinal between Agassi and Blake. When Blake cameback from a set and 5-3 down against Tommy Robredo to win in four sets, the match-up most wanted to see was set. While it was way hyped, nobody could predict the night of tennis that was in store.

First, Lindsay Davenport took on Russian Elena Dementieva. Though the match was error-filled, it didn't lack drama. Particularly in the final set when Dementieva twice broke Davenport but couldn't hold on. Trying to serve it out, the enigmatic server doublefaulted to send the match to a tiebreak.

In a seesaw breaker, Dementieva went from leading 5-2 to trailing Davenport 6-5. Facing a Davenport second serve on match point, the 23-year-old '04 Open finalist ripped a clean forehand winner to stay alive. On the very next point, in an extended rally, she used a perfect drop shot winner to reach match point. As if that wasn't daring enough, in another lengthy rally, she ripped a backhand crosscourt winner on match point to survive the two and a half hour quarterfinal.

With the crowd still buzzing, Agassi and Blake took center stage past 10 PM. But what ensued was a quicker and stronger Blake pushing his childhood idol all over the baseline. He easily took the first two sets and seemed in complete control up a break in the third set. Three games away from winning, Blake tensed up and Agassi took full advantage. More aggressive, he took it to Blake and started dictating points. He won the final four games to take the set and get the crowd back into the match.

When he ripped an unreal forehand return winner down the line in the opening game of the fourth to break Blake, fans erupted. But Blake regained some momentum breaking back a few games later, putting notice that it could be his night. However, a relentless Agassi broke Blake twice and claimed the set 6-3. Suddenly, a match that looked like it wouldn't live up to the hype was in a final set.

Agassi-Blake Final Act A Classic

Past midnight, fans that stayed were full of energy ready to see a classic unfold. Right before their eyes, it did. When a rejuvenated Blake broke Agassi, it looked like he would prevail. But after Agassi served notice in a Blake service game, fans knew they were in for something special.

With Blake serving for a spot in the semifinals, a determined Agassi pounced. With Blake three points away, Agassi ripped a forehand return inside the line for a winner. Then he stepped around a second serve and slugged a forehand right at Blake jamming him into an error. When he reached break point, the hustling Agassi kept a rally alive and watched Blake go for too much, floating a forehand wide. The match was leveled. When both players held, it would fittingly go to a tiebreaker.

In a scene eerily reminiscent to the last great quarterfinal Agassi played at Ashe against Pete Sampras four years earlier, fans gave them a standing ovation before the tiebreak began. When it did, both players got into extended rallies, going for broke to win points. Blake took control early and was two points away. But Agassi stormed back to earn the first match point when Blake missed a forehand down the line. Undeterred by the miss, Blake ripped an Agassi second serve down the line with the same forehand to square it at six, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Sudden death. What would happen? Only two more unreal points that ended on winners. With much riding on the line, as they traded shot for shot moving each other around, Agassi hit a dropshot. Blake ran it down and hit into Agassi, who somehow had enough room for a perfect backhand winner down the line. With the crowd on its feet, he ended the match with another forehand return down the line on a Blake second serve.

The two hour 51-minute match was over. Both hugged at the net and said words of encouragement. Blake admitted if he was going to lose, he didn't mind that it was to a legend. He had nothing to be ashamed of, having played admirably and still was the biggest story of this epic tournament. But in the end, Agassi took his bows and advanced to a final four showdown with Ginepri.

Ginepri Outlasts Coria To Reach Final Four

Ginepri came off a terrific quarterfinal of his own, besting Guillermo Coria to win his third straight five setter. The match featured some great rallies, producing several spectacular points including a dropshot by Coria, which Ginepri countered with his own only to see Coria finish off the point. Each slapped five out of mutual respect when it ended. This was in the fifth set no less.

Remarkably, Coria fought off five match points in two games against Ginepri, even dodging one when he hit an overhead that hit the let cord and went over, making Ginepri cringe in disbelief. Unfortunately for Coria, his achilles heel was his serve. When he doublefaulted twice in a row, the match was over. Ginepri had advanced.

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