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Action from Four Draws on Day Three
by Christopher Gerby

Appelmans/Oremans vs. Miyagi/Wild
Women's Doubles: First Round
Court 17

Sabine Appelmans and Miriam Oremans used to comprise one of the best doubles teams on the women's circuit. They've fallen on hard times, though, and got off to a sluggish start against Nana Miyagi and Linda Wild. With a rather obnoxious fan from Wild's hometown rooting on his neighbor, Appelmans and Oremans fell behind 1-3. Oremans blew a 15-40 lead in the fifth game, losing it on an errant backhand volley which she thought had landed on the sideline. Oremans argued to no avail and continued missing shots as she and her Belgian partner lost the set 6 games to 1 in virtually no time flat.

The Linda Wild fan left to go check out some other matches, to the relief of his wife, who was repeatedly chiding him about cheering at inappropriate times. His absence seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for Appelmans and Oremans. Miriam's net play was still off, but Sabine's lobs and passing shots helped stake her team to a 5-0 lead in the second set. Wild's wild supporter returned at that point and -- coincidence or not -- she and Miyagi went on their own run of games, narrowing the second set score to 4-5. Oremans was even shooting dirty looks at the exuberant fan. Appelmans opted for a bathroom break. She was unsure at first where the closest facilities would be, but once a linesman pointed her in the right direction, she broke into a brisk jog.

Appelmans returned before long, so I rather doubt it was a stalling tactic. The break may have been what Oremans needed to regain her composure, though. She served well, closing out the 6-4 set with a 15 hold. Miyagi and Wild have been good doubles players for a long time, though, and they were not about to fold. Linda was looking very pumped up (shouting "Come on!" after one victorious point) as she and Nana jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set. Game 6 was a mini-marathon, many points being determined by the Appelmans serve (which produced an ace, a double fault, and several winners). Appelmans put an athletic backhand volley down the middle to finally clinch the game after five deuces.

Miyagi/Wild still had a 4-2 lead and Oremans was still in unusually poor form at net. Miriam pushed a volley long on game point to trail 2-5. The supposed serve-and-volley specialist than had her serve broken at 15 to complete a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win for Nana Miyagi and Linda Wild. That's a new team -- and maybe just a short-term partnership -- but don't be surprised if they win a couple more rounds. Oremans was largely to blame for this result, but when the match was on the line in the third set, Miyagi and Wild came up with some very solid stuff.

Dominique van Roost vs. Rita Grande
Women's Singles: Second Round
Court 7

While Appelmans was finishing her match on Court 17, her countrywoman Dominique van Roost was getting started on Court 7. Van Roost had a 3-2 lead, including a break, when I arrived. Grande got that back back immediately, though, drilling a forehand winner down the line for 3-3. Van Roost broke right back for 4-3, however, spinning around and pumping her fist as a Grande forehand sailed long on break point. That sixth game was starting to look like a mere hiccup -- Van Roost held at 15 and broke at 15. The #13 seed had used her deep, flat groundstrokes to finish off a 6-3 win of the opening set.

Grande's a pretty good player, but she looked overwhelmed and outclassed at this juncture. Van Roost stormed through two more games for an early lead in the second set. She was quickly broken for 1-2, however, losing that game on a double fault. That's the thing with Dominique van Roost: her terrific groundstrokes are frequently being undermined by erratic serving. Van Roost held serve to 3-3, though, and smacked a trio of winners in a convincing hold for 4-3. A double fault and a forehand error from Grande made it 15-40 in Game 8. Grande saved both of those break points, but Van Roost earned a third. Dominique then pinned Rita behind the baseline and forced a backhand error for the break. Van Roost pumped her fist again, leading 5-3.

Van Roost took a 40-30 lead in the next game and rared back for a big forehand on match point, but she sent it just wide. She would eventually face two break points in the game, with the 24-year-old Italian still fighting to stay alive. Grande doesn't really have the type of game to confound Van Roost, however, and one last forehand winner from the Belgian put an exclamation point on a 6-3, 6-3 win. Dominique van Roost has been quite impressive in her first two singles matches of the tournament, but it gets tougher from here. She'll have to play Mary Joe Fernandez next, with Venus Williams looming as the potential fourth round opponent.

Andrew Ilie vs. Markus Hipfl
Men's Singles: First Round
Court 11

If you read my Montreal match reports -- or if you've been paying relatively close attention to the pro tennis scene this year -- you know all about Andrew Ilie. The Romanian-born Australian is an endlessly entertaining collection of eccentricity, energy, talent, and attitude. He goes for broke on every point and conducts himself in a very enthusiastic manner. Ilie came out firing at the start of this match against little-known Markus Hipfl. He launched aces on the match's second and third points, with the latter clocking in at a very impressive 135 MPH. Ilie's not tall at all by tennis standards, but he is absolutely brimming with power, especially on his groundstrokes.

Hipfl was content to keep the ball in play and hope for errors. While the fans were gasping about Ilie's incredible racquet speed, Hipfl kept on winning his own service games. The Austrian broke for a 4-3 lead and held at love with an ace. Ilie fought back to 4-5 and got an elaborate, loud chant ("Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" was part of it) from some flag-wielding supporters during the change of ends. It did no good -- Hipfl once again closed out a love hold with an ace, clinching a 6-4 win of the set. Just 25 minutes later, Hipfl also had the second set in hand, having won it 6-1. Markus puts some spin on the ball and certainly places his shots well, but the lopsided score was mainly due to a steady barrage of Ilie errors. He wasn't missing by much, but he was missing far too often.

Hipfl held at love to open the third set and went up 2-0 when Ilie blasted yet another backhand just wide. Ilie stormed over to his chair, held two fingers close together, and said "this much wide" before throwing his towel. He was one frustrated Aussie. Hipfl, meanwhile, was pretty stoked about closing in on a straight sets win over a dangerous opponent. He shouted "Come on!" after holding for 3-0. Ilie finally changed his game plan, mixing in some off-pace shots just to get his teeth into some rallies. It didn't work, though -- Hipfl won his sixth and seventh consecutive games for a 6-4, 6-1, 5-0 lead. He'd come in ranked just #73 in the world, but he was one game away from closing out a startling rout.

Ilie came back out very quickly, midway through the changeover, seemingly in a hurry to get this debacle over with. He double faulted to 30-40 and faced match point. Then a funny thing happened: Ilie's fearless groundstrokes started finding their mark and the crowd really got fired up. Everyone -- Ilie included -- knew this match was virtually over, but Hipfl was the only one who didn't enjoy the display of explosive shot-making Andrew started to put on. Ilie twice saved match points with winners and blew kisses to the crowd after getting a big ovation the second time. He was showing off now, leaping high into the air while hitting remarkably fast strokes. He got the Ad with a second serve ace, bellowed a "Come on!" of his own and did an exaggerated muscle pose.

Ilie finally won that long sixth game with a laser of a backhand winner. He triumphantly thrust his arms into the air, shook his fist in a circle, and even performed Anna Kournikova's old "raise the roof" gesture! He'd played a pretty horrendous match, but he was having all kinds of fun now and really feeding off the positive feedback he was getting from the crowd. At 30-40 in the following game, Hipfl missed a backhand, surrendering a service break for the first time all afternoon. Andrew started shaking his fist again and what at first looked like a lark was becoming a genuine comeback. The flaky Aussie was down just one break in the third set.

Right after Game 7, a scowling Hipfl walked up to the chair umpire and asked him to reign in Ilie. Personally, I think Markus should have concentrated on his own tennis instead of complaining about his opponent's essentially harmless antics. The umpire bought the argument, though, and had a few words with Ilie, who looked truly hurt. "I'm not doing anything illegal. If I drop my pants, then maybe I'm doing something illegal -- something ugly too -- but I'm not doing anything illegal." Andrew then turned to Hipfl and said, "Come on, man. Be a good sport." That whole interlude killed Ilie's buzz. He lost the first two points of Game 8 and asked the umpire, "Is that better? I'm losing now." For bizarre emphasis, Ilie held his pinky finger up to his mouth -- an imitation of Dr. Evil from the "Austin Powers" movies.

Hipfl squandered a third match point, but raised his own arms in celebration when Ilie clobbered a forehand wide on match point #4. The crowd was still very much in Ilie's corner, though. He mouthed the words "thank you" and blew some more kisses. He did shake Hipfl's hand, but earnestly told him, "That's bull****." Ilie finished by making a big show of shaking the allegedly evil umpire's hand. "Thank you! Thank you! You're a good umpire!" He then signed a couple autographs and left to one more rousing hand from the crowd. Even in a hopelessly lackluster 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 defeat, the irrepressably irreverent Andrew Ilie gives the people their money's worth.

Gimelstob/Reneberg vs. Coupe/Koenig
Men's Doubles: First Round
Court 13

Justin Gimelstob is many things: a two-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion; a guy counted on to be one of the future stars of American tennis; a player who's generally more fired up than consistent. He's also a big kid from Jersey who's been coming to the U.S. Open for about as long as he can rememeber. The Open grounds seem to be crawling with Gimelstob relatives, friends, and acquaintances. For instance, before this match got started, I overheard a woman whose son is friends with Gimelstob tell a story about the time Justin made pasta for 14 people. It wasn't great pasta, but it was the effort that counted. That's a pretty fitting metaphor for Gimelstob's spotty young career, now that I think about.

Gimelstob's had more success in doubles than singles. His partner for most of 1999 -- Patrick Galbraith -- is out for the remainder of the season, so Justin ended up teaming with Richey Reneberg. They've partnered a few times this season, winning a title in Scottsdale, and they work quite well together, in spite of a considerable difference in age (Richey turns 34 in about a month) and height (Justin's a pretty towering 6 foot 5). They got the 15th seed here and looked very stong in the early going. Doubles specialists Brandon Coupe and Robbie Koenig quickly found themselves trailing 1-3, Koenig's serve having been the first broken.

Gimelstob was as fidgety as ever, constantly tugging at his shirt and mimicking groundstroke motions with his hand. He was serving big, though, and his partner was a wall at the net. Reneberg ripped a winning backhand to break Coupe for 4-1 and Gimelstob held at love for 5-1. Koenig held for 2-5, but he and Coupe still had not won a single point against serve. That changed when Reneberg double faulted early in Game 8. However, he struck a winning backhand volley to take the game and the set, 6-2. Gimelstob smiled and patted Reneberg on the back.

Coupe was broken again to open the second set and Gimelstob smacked another ace in another love hold for 2-0. In the third game, a Koenig serve clipped the tape and landed right in front of Gimelstob. He was sure it was a fault, but no call ever came. Justin collapsed to his knees and looked around, confused, asking which linesman was supposed to make that call. "I think they're on the wrong lines," he suggested. Koenig held at love for 1-2, but Gimelstob and Reneberg went back to dominating. Justin closed out yet another love hold with an ace for 4-2 and Reneberg hit some terrific winners (nearly running into the stands on one of them) in a break for 5-2.

Reneberg's serve isn't huge like Gimelstob's, but he recorded an ace for 30-0. Two points later, Richey knocked off a forehand volley to wrap up a 6-2, 6-2 win which took only about 50 minutes to play. Coupe and Koenig didn't offer much resistance -- Robbie was particularly off -- but it's not by accident that Gimelstob won all 16 of his service points. If form holds, the tournament will see a potentially very exciting third round bout pitting Gimelstob/Reneberg against the #1 seeds, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.