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Dollops of Doubles on Day Four
by Christopher Gerby

Ivanisevic/Tarango vs. MacPhie/Zimonjic
Men's Doubles: First Round
Court 7

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
Court 15

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
Court 9

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 for 4-5.

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
Court 15

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.