Kafelnikov wins and shows heart, and Paes/Palmer are upset in quarterfinal action
by Ed Toombs
Friday, Aug. 6, 1999
A lengthy afternoon rain delay threatened to play havoc with the schedule, but finally all the quarterfinals were completed. Here we will look at the Kafelnikov win over Martin, and the elimination of top doubles seeds Paes/Palmer by unseeded Adams/de Jager: please see Chris Gerby's report for reports on other matches.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3) def. Todd Martin (6), 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4
Previous head to head: Kafelnikov leads 5-1
It's always hard to figure out the big, moody man from Sochi, Russia, Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Having played some of the best tennis of his career in the fall and winter to reach number one, he proceeded to turn in a convincing imitation of a Sunday hacker, lose seven matches in a row, and drop from the top spot with such embarrassing displays that the ATP boss Mark Miles felt obliged to scold Yevgeny publicly. Last week, however, Kafelnikov was quoted in Europe as saying he wanted the number one spot back. We thought that his performance at the Montréal Super Nine would give us a clue as to whether he was serious about this expressed desire.
It would seem Yevgeny means it! He has reached the semifinals of the du Maurier Open, showing a lot of heart to subdue the big-hitting Todd Martin on the super-quick Court One. Martin has been one of the tour's most consistent players over the last ten months, and is again a force on tour in the top ten.
The first set established the tone of the match. Martin and Kafelnikov both boomed heavy serves that were hard to return on the slick surface. Martin worked his way to the net often and scored with sharp volleys, while Kafelnikov counterpunched with precision. The two marched on serve to the tie-break. Martin took first blood by taking a 3-1 lead in the breaker, but surrendered the advantage when an accurate backhand down the line winner gave Yevgeny a 5-3 lead. At 5-4 Kafelnikov was in the position to win the set if he could hold serve twice, but a forehand error by the Russian allowed Todd to square the score at 5-5. Both players held serve for the next six tense points. At 8-8 Martin was the first to blink, committing a costly double fault on a long second serve. Kafelnikov cashed in the set point with a big first serve, and when Martin's return fell long the tight first set tie-break went to Yevgeny, 10-8.
Undaunted, the tall American took the early second set advantage, breaking Kafelnikov at love with blistering returns and backhand passing shots. The next game saw Martin surrender the advantage in a game marred by a foot fault controversy. On the first point Todd was called for a foot fault and mocked the linesman: he asked, "What do you want me to do, serve like this?" -- a question accompanied by a comical pantomime in which Todd stood two feet behind the line, feigned striking the ball, and leaped high over the line. But the line judge not only stuck to his guns, he further infuriated Martin by calling another foot fault at 15-40. The normally mild-mannered American was beside himself. The line judge claimed Martin's front toe was sneaking across the service line (Todd always stands very close to the line on serve). But Todd appealed angrily to the chair umpire Steve Ullrich, claiming he knew exactly what he was doing and there was nothing wrong with it. To Martin's displeasure, Ullrich backed the line judge. Martin went on the win the point on his second serve when Kafelnikov sent his return into the net, much to the joy of the fans, who sympathized with Martin in this incident. However, there was still one break point remaining, and alas for Martin he lost it on a legitimate double fault -- no foot fault this time -- and Yevgeny was back on even terms, 2-2. Martin angrily flung his racquet against the back fence, and addressed sharp words to Ullrich throughout the next changeover.
The rest of the second set continued on serve, and another tie-break was in order, this time going Martin's way. Todd took the lead for good in the breaker at 2-2 on Kafelnikov's serve when Yevgeny sent a routine backhand wide of the sideline. Martin was solid the rest of the way, converting his first set point on a service winner to take the tie-break 7-3 and force a deciding set.
In the final set, Yevgeny obtained the only break he needed at 2-2. In this game the key point, and perhaps the turning point of the match, came at 30-30. Martin was in a commanding position at the net and appeared ready to meet a Kafelnikov forehand with a winning volley, but the Russian's shot clipped the top of the net, hopped over Martin's racquet, and landed in. This created a break point, on which Martin made an unforced backhand error to surrender the break. It was the only opening Kafelnikov needed, as he closed out the match by unwaveringly holding his serve to the end: a tiring Martin seemed unable to threaten the Russian's dominant serve. Yevgeny won his final two service games at love, and took match point with a big serve that the fading Martin could not handle. Make the final: 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
Kafelnikov survived a mighty challenge and seemed focused and positive, a contrast from the moody head-hanging we had seen from him in recent months. Yevgeny faces an even tougher test in the semifinals, in the person of the in-form 2nd seed, Andre Agassi. Kafelnikov has beaten Agassi three of the five times they played, including their most recent encounter in Davis Cup last year. However, on current form most pundits favour the kid from Las Vegas. Agassi crushed the French racquet artiste Fabrice Santoro in his quarterfinal today, 6-0, 6-3, and looks like the man to beat at the du Marier Open now.
David Adams/John-Laffnie de Jager def. Leander Paes/Jared Palmer, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4)
The South Africans finally got to top seeds Paes and Palmer! The top seeds had been narrow winners over the South African pair of Norval/Ullett yesterday, but another pair from that nation did in the favourites in a nailbiter on Court One.
Paes/Palmer got off to a fast start, and broke Adams in game 2 of the first set to gain the upper hand early. Both Leander and Jared returned superbly and Palmer ripped a backhand return up the middle and
on the baseline for the break. But the Adams/de Jager tandem broke back in the 5th
game on Paes' serve. This was a poor game by Paes: the world's top doubles player
missed three makeable volleys in the game, including on break point. With the teams even, Palmer's serve was broken in game eleven, and the South Africans closed out the first set, 7-5.
There was a three-hour rain delay at the beginning of the second set, and
the skies were so gray that we thought the day's play might be wiped out. But the dark clouds finally passed
over in late afternoon, and play resumed. The Indo-American duo got the only break of the set by taking the serve of Adams again, in the 10th game, when Palmer hit a big return at Adams's feet
on break point, and the match was even.
There were no breaks in the third, but some great doubles and a funny moment. Paes was disputing a call with a linesman, and asked two questions of him: "Why don't you
call what you see? And what are you wearing
sunglasses for?" Good question, since it was twilight and the lights had
already been turned on. The linesman looked embarrassed and took them
off, but only a couple of minutes later so it wasn't so obvious....
Here is the breakdown of the third set tie-break:
- 0-0 (JP) - JP service winner
- 0-1 (DA) - JP lobs, DA runs it down & hits winning overhead from the
- 1-1 (DA) - JdJ hits forehand long
- 2-1 (LP) - double fault (argghhh)
- 2-2 (LP) - DA runs down another defensive lob and hits another overhead
winner from the baseline!
- 3-2 (JdJ) - DA bests LP in a reflex volley exchange at net
- 4-2 (JdJ) - JdJ hits bh volley winner
- 2-5 (JP) - LP poaches, hits fh volley winner
- 3-5 (JP) - Another LP volley winner
- 5-4 (DA) - JP mishits 2nd serve fh return, flies long
- 6-4 (DA) - LP nets forehand from baseline
So a few errors at the end made the
difference (Paes' double fault at 2-1 up a mini-break hurt, they never
retook the lead after that...). But it was a great match and the South
Africans were pretty solid in the clutch.
So the unseeded Adams/de Jager pair, already winners at Rotterdam and finalists at
two other tournaments this year, move on to play Bjorkman/Rafter in the semifinals.
Rafter had to have some treatment on his shoulder at the end of an evening that saw him
play five sets of tennis, losing the singles and winning the doubles. But he thinks he'll
be ready for the doubles semis tomorrow.
As for Paes, he heads on to Cincinnati where he will apparently be reunited with regular
partner Mahesh Bhupathi, now healed from pulled abdominal muscles suffered at Wimbledon.
To follow their progress and other news relating to Indian tennis, you can check out
the excellent Tennis India site maintained by
our friend R. Jayakrishnan.