RODDICK earns first Grand Slam seeding

Tuesday, August 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Thanks to the U.S. Open's expanded seeding system, young American Andy Roddick will be seeded in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

Roddick drew the No. 18 slot Monday when the U.S. Open released seedings for 32 men and 32 women, double last year's total. Gustavo Kuerten and Martina Hingis are seeded No. 1.

The 18-year-old Roddick won his first hardcourt title Sunday at Washington.

The expansion to 32 seeded players in each draw for all Grand Slam events was announced in June. It makes early round upsets less likely and gives top players a better chance to advance, which pleases sponsors and TV networks.

As in the past, seedings were based on tour rankings for the year's final major tournament, which begins next Monday.

Wimbledon and the French Open decided in June to adopt a seeding formula favoring players who are better on those events' playing surfaces. But the U.S. Tennis Association will hold off on such a change for the U.S. Open until at least next year, spokesman Joe Favorito said.

``At this time there's no definitive system that makes sense for all four Grand Slams,'' Favorito said.

Anna Kournikova, seeded 19th, withdrew Monday because of a foot injury that has sidelined her most of the year. Unseeded Mary Pierce, a two-time quarterfinalist, pulled out because of a lower back injury.

Kuerten is seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open for the first time. The Brazilian, bothered by soreness in his right side, quit seven games into Sunday's final against Patrick Rafter at a tournament in Indianapolis, but said he expects to ready for the Open.

Two-time champion Andre Agassi is seeded second, followed by 2000 champion Marat Safin. Pete Sampras is 10th, his lowest seeding since winning the first of his four U.S. Open titles in 1990.

Hingis is seeded No. 1 for a fourth straight year even though she hasn't won a Grand Slam title since January 1999. She won her only U.S. Open title in 1997.

Jennifer Capriati, who won this year's Australian and French Open titles, is seeded a career-best second. Lindsay Davenport is third, while Wimbledon champion Venus Williams is fourth and sister Serena is 10th.

With all top players entered, seeded players can't face an opponent ranked higher than 33rd until at least the third round. Previously, the No. 1 player conceivably could draw No. 17 in the first round.

The U.S. Open had seeded 16 men every year since 1972 and 16 women every year since 1978.

``There are more than 16 great players in tennis on both sides,'' Favorito said. ``And with 32 seeds, you can still have first-round upsets. It's a very workable number.''

Seeded players now represent 25 percent of each 128-player draw.