Dollops of Doubles on Day Four
by Christopher Gerby
Ivanisevic/Tarango vs. MacPhie/Zimonjic
Men's Doubles: First Round
A number of doubles matches became bleacher-filling
events on Thursday. The tournament debut of the "Bad
Boys" team -- Goran Ivanisevic and Jeff Tarango -- was
no exception. A couple guys from Mississippi showed up
early to secure a good seat. "We're Tarango fans," one of
them announced in a thick accent. "We're gonna do The
Wave." Seated in front of them were three middle-aged
women who'd come to see Ivanisevic, so the temperamental
lefties had quite a cheering section going before they
even arrived. While waiting for the players to appear,
the Mississippians had some fun with chair umpire Norm
Chryst, asking him to hook Tarango on a few calls just to
get Jeff riled up. The bald official jovially declined.
"We want a nice, smooth match here -- no shouting."
Tarango and Ivanisevic showed up on time, but had to wait
for their big-serving opponents, Brian MacPhie and Nenad
Zimonjic. When they finally took the court, Zimonjic
claimed they "lost track of time." Ivanisevic smiled and
replied, "You forgot you had doubles; thought it was day
off." As the teams warmed up, one of the Tarango fans
asked Chryst if he'd be doing play-by-play for them
during the match. "Yeah, I'll give you play by play," he
answered, in a tone suggesting he'd like to give 'em a
knuckle sandwich too. Norm probably should have known this
unusual doubles team (which ended up with a wholly
appropriate #13 seed) would draw a few fans with odd
senses of decorum.
The actual tennis got underway with Brian "The Hammer"
MacPhie holding serve at love. Ivanisevic double faulted
to open the next game and argued the call, albeit with a
smile on his face. The big Croat eventually won the game
on an ace, but MacPhie wasn't pleased about that non-call.
"If you let them start intimidating you on line calls,
it's gonna be a long day," he sternly warned Chryst. The
fans who were close enough to hear that comment oohed and
aahed. "Don't worry," one of the guys from Missisippi
reassured Chryst. "We got your back."
Zimonjic, a relative ATP Tour newcomer, double faulted to
surrender the match's first break. Tarango then held at
serve for a 3-1 lead, but MacPhie struck back for 2-3.
Ivanisevic lost that game by netting a volley and promptly
kicked the ball back into the net. He and Zimonjic then
exchanged holds for 4-3. The combination of Tarango's
below-average serving power and Ivanisevic's questionable
flair at the net helped MacPhie/Zimonjic break back for
4-4, MacPhie winning that eighth game on a big return
down the middle.
"The Hammer" held easily for 5-4, but the #13 seeds had
to feel relatively confident with Ivanisevic stepping up
to serve next. However, confidence has not been a word in
Goran's vocabulary this year. He couldn't buy a first
serve in Game 10. On set point, an Ivanisevic second
serve was clobbered by MacPhie. He drilled a return right
at Tarango, who reflexed a volley into the net to
complete a 6-4 loss of the set.
It was not the start Ivanisevic and Tarango were hoping
for, but they battled back in the second set. After each
player held serve once, Goran got a shank return to fall
for a clean winner, ending a love break of Zimonjic for a
3-2 lead. Ivanisevic held for 4-2 and MacPhie double
faulted away the next game for 5-2. Game 8 was another
service struggle for Tarango, who faced a break point.
However, three consecutive errors from MacPhie ended
the game and the set, 6-2. Jeff and Goran still weren't
quite showing the form which got them into the French
Open doubles final earlier this year, but they were right
back in the match at 1 set all.
Zimonjic is quickly making strides on the doubles
circuit and his huge first serve is the main reason. He
smacked an ace to close out a love hold for 1-0 in the
final set. Ivanisevic then faced double break point,
staving off one with a strong serve, but losing the
next when the streaky MacPhie ripped a forehand winner.
Zimonjic spanked a sharply angled volley winner to finish
MacPhie's hold for 3-0. The fan favorites were in trouble
now. After a week volley error in Game 4, Ivanisevic
turned his racquet upside down and started shaking it by
his ear, as if to hear if if was broken in some way. He
and Tarango did scrape together a hold for 1-3, but
Zimonjic blasted through another routine service game for
a 4-1 lead in the third set.
As it has been for most of the season, Ivanisevic's
serve was all over the place. One point, he'd serve an
ace. The next, he'd double fault. Game 6 featured both
ends of that spectrum and ended on a winning pass by
MacPhie. Before that ball even landed, Tarango took his
racquet with both hands and viciously slammed it to the
court. He wasn't blaming anyone or anything -- he was
just frustrated that the match was about to slip away.
On match point, MacPhie broke a string on his first serve
and had to grab a new racquet for the second serve. "No
pressure," one of the Tarango fans teased him. Brian put
that second serve in, though, and his partner executed a
drop volley winner to wrap up a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 upset
victory. That ending was a disappointment for most of the
fans, but surely a relief for Norm Chryst, who got the
controversy-free match he was hoping for.
Labat/Van Roost vs. Ellwood/Hiraki
Women's Doubles: First Round
This first round doubles match appeared to be as good
as over. Florencia Labat of Argentina and Dominique van
Roost of Belgium were just one game away from victory,
holding a 6-3, 5-3 edge over Annabel Ellwood and Rika
Hiraki. However, Hiraki (who paired with Labat for a while)
is one heck of a doubles player and she wasn't about to
pack it in. She held serve for 4-5 and flipped a running
backhand cross-court winner to finish a break of Van
Roost for 5-5. Ellwood, a young Australian whose brother
Ben also plays professionally, got through a close service
game for a 6-5 lead in the second set. Labat then held at
love, setting up a second set tiebreak. It was a good game
for the stylish lefty, but she's had a rough season. Labat
badly burned her right leg in a freak accident in early
'99 and was out of action for nearly three months.
Van Roost, content to play most points from the back of
the court, ripped a huge forehand winner for a 4-1 lead
in the tiebreak. However, a few points later she netted a
forehand to lose the mini-break advantage at 5-4. The
Belgian redeemed herself, handcuffing Hiraki with a
backhand and earning double match point at 6 points to 4.
However, Labat netted an easy volley on the first match
point. On the second, a volley from Hiraki clipped the
tape and dribbled over for 6-6. Labat then missed two
more volleys -- more difficult than the simple one she'd
blown on match point -- to lose the 'breaker 8-6 and force
a third set. That lucky net cord Hiraki got at 5-6 was
looking like a major turning point at this juncture.
Van Roost double faulted in the final set's opening game
and trailed 30-40, but Labat eventually won the game with
a delicate angle volley. Van Roost was acting as the
team captain, occasionally yelling "Yours!" when she
wanted Florencia to take a ball or "Out!" when she
thought one was about to float long. Her forceful play was
instrumental in breaking Hiraki's serve for a 2-0 lead.
Labat tacked on an easy hold for 3-0 and Ellwood played
horrendously in the following game (one of her second
serves bounced before even reaching the net) in a break
for 4-0. However, Labat netted another simple volley on
break point against Van Roost, getting the Australia/Japan
team on the board at 1-4.
Van Roost laced a forehand winner down the line to
complete a break back for 5-1. Labat/Van Roost had their
third match point in Game 7, but Labat sent a forehand
wide. Florencia knew she was costing her team dearly in the
late stages of this match and was saying some unhappy
things to herself in Spanish. She netted a forehand on
match point #4 in the next game, which was ultimately an
Ellwood hold for 3-5. Van Roost still had plenty of zip
on her groundstrokes, but she and Labat were having all
kinds of trouble putting this match away. On match point
#5, Labat was long with a swinging forehand volley.
Dominique finally put her foot down, though, ending the
6-3, 6-7, 6-3 tussle on a service winner. The match had
gone a set longer than it should have and Van Roost wasn't
eager to stick around. She gave her wristband to one fan
and autographed a picture for another before explaining
that she had to leave for her post-match massage.
Cocheteux/Schnyder vs. Huber/Sidot
Women's Doubles: First Round
Another women's doubles match joined in progress featured
a pair of new combinations. Barbara Schett and Patty
Schnyder played some great doubles together in '98 and
also had some success this year, but they broke up before
the US Open. Schett wound up seeded 12th with Mary
Pierce and Schnyder found herself in an unseeded
partnership with French lefty Amelie Cocheteux. Across
the net was another French lefty, Anne-Gaelle Sidot,
playing with hard-hitting Anke Huber. Anyone who watched
Sidot play Venus Williams in the second round of singles
knows the 20-year-old has some talent. It was apparently
shining through on the doubles court, as Huber and Sidot
held a commanding 6-4, 4-1 lead over Cocheteux and Schnyder.
Sidot isn't necessarily dependable, though. She double
faulted twice in the set's sixth game, giving away one of
her team's breaks for 4-2. Huber blew an easy forehand
volley to open the seventh game and blurted out, "Ha!"
She probably wasn't laughing inside, though, particuarly
when Sidot sent a forehand return long to end Schnyder's
hold for 3-4. Then it was the German's turn to drop serve,
burying an overhead smash in the net to make it 4-4. The
match was being played in good spirits -- plenty of smiles
and relaxed attitudes -- but quality doubles it was not.
Cocheteux (clad in a daringly short skirt) made a couple
key errors in Game 9, essentially breaking her own serve
Momentum was swinging all over the place, but Sidot
looked to settle matters, slamming back-to-back aces for a
40-0 lead. However, she and Huber squandered the first
two match points. Would this one gradually slip into a
third set like the Labat/Van Roost vs. Ellwood/Hiraki
match? Nope -- Anke Huber knocked off a winning forehand
volley to nail shut a 6-4, 6-4 victory. It was a nice
way to close it out, but don't look for Huber and Sidot
to get on much of a run in the doubles competition.
They'll be underdogs in the second round, facing the
aforementioned Pierce/Schett team.
Fabiola Zuluaga vs. Elena Dementieva
Women's Singles: Second Round
In the first round of the '99 US Open, Russian teenager
Elena Dementieva faced Christina Papadaki, the only
world-class tennis player from Greece. In the second
round, she was across the net from Fabiola Zuluaga, the
lone tennis star from Colombia. Zuluaga has climbed to
#47 in the rankings and become a heroine (no pun intended)
in a country which would love to be known for something
other than drug trafficking and coffee. To say that the
crowd on Court 15 was pro-Zuluaga would be an
understatement. Cheers of "Fabiola! Fabiola!" started as
soon as the players arrived. Cheers could be heard after
nearly every point won by Zuluaga, whereas impressive
winners off the Dementieva racquet met with silence.
The first four games were all service breaks. Both
players were just going for a little too much on their
groundstrokes. Even Martina Hingis has raved about
Dementieva's rocket forehand (after Dementieva tested
Hingis at this year's Australian Open), but hitting that
shot with all her might seems to be Elena's only game
plan. That won't serve her well against steady, experienced
opponents, but it was enough to take an early 4-2 lead
against Zuluaga. The Colombian held serve for 3-4, though,
and Dementieva ended the eighth game with two double
faults and a wild forehand error. Dementieva was losing
her way and Zuluaga was getting better by the minute.
Serving more consistently and finding the range on her
groundstrokes, Zuluaga held at love for 5-4 and broke
Dementieva yet again to take the set 6-4.
Zuluaga drilled a winning backhand down the line to
complete her second consecutive love hold. She got to
deuce in the next game, but started missing again.
Dementieva held there, broke for 2-1, and held again for
a 3-1 lead in the second set. The tall blonde was striking
the ball with real purpose now and carried that break
advantage to 5-3. Dementieva opened Game 9 with a
spectacular backhand winner on the full run, steering the
ball down the line even though she was off balance. She
got to 15-40 by blasting one of her trademark forehands
down the other sideline. Facing double set point, Zuluaga
netted a defensive backhand.
The 6-3 set was a good one for Dementieva, but her
opponent's supporters were undaunted. They sang a very
melodic "Viva Colombia" fight song during the changeover.
The singing theoretically should have inspired Zuluaga,
but maybe it made her nervous. Her level of play
continued downhill, with a torrent of errors dragging
her down 0-3 in the final set. Zuluaga seems to like
playing close to the lines, but that approach can yield
ugly results when a player is tight and/or tired.
Dementieva, meanwhile, was taking full advantage. She
absolutely killed a forehand winner to finish a break for
4-0 and hit another to secure a 5-0 lead. Zuluaga looked
drained and dazed, but she got back on track with a love
hold for 1-5. This was still Dementieva's match to win or
lose. She got to match point in Game 7 and launched a
forehand error wide, but recovered with two winning
forehands in a row to close out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 upset. It
marks the serious youngster's first appearance in the
third round of a Grand Slam. That forehand makes
Dementieva dangerous, but she won't be able to afford
such a sloppy start against her next opponent, the
multi-talented Conchita Martinez.