Martin survives at Open

Wednesday, September 6th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

NEW YORK--Coming up with five-set magic once again, Todd Martin celebrated his uncanny survival from two sets down as if he had just won the U.S. Open title.

At 1:22 a.m., after 4 hours, 17 minutes of drama Tuesday night, Martin happily smashed his racket on the court and raced around the stadium slapping hands with hundreds of the hardy fans and friends who stayed to watch another remarkable comeback.

Martin's 6-7 (3), 6-7 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory over Carlos Moya came one year after a similar comeback from two sets down in the same fourth round against Greg Rusedski en route to the final.

The escape this time was no less remarkable, with Martin serving 24 aces and saving 17 of 18 break points.

"I feel terrible, but I feel great," Martin said. "I was feeling a little bushed (after the second set) but I got off to a good start in the third and kept going."

The racket Martin so delightedly destroyed was a twisted mess, and he said he would save it to sell for charity.

In the quarters, Martin will play another unseeded player, Sweden's Thomas Johansson, who eliminated Wayne Arthurs 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4.

The men's quarterfinals got under way Wednesday, with No. 9 Lleyton Hewitt eliminating unseeded Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

With his baseball cap turned backward, the 19-year-old Australian dominated and became the youngest quarterfinalist at any Grand Slam event since Andre Medvedev in the 1993 French Open.

Hewitt rode 18 aces and took advantage of 42 unforced errors by Clement, who knocked off top-seeded Andre Agassi last week.

The men's side took another hit when No. 3 Magnus Norman was beaten decisively by No. 14 Nicolas Kiefer, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-3.

With No. 1 Andre Agassi and No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten gone in the first three days, Norman was highest remaining seeded player. And he was enjoying the best of summers, leading the tour with 58 victories. He hardly looked the part against Kiefer, making 59 unforced errors.

"I was not sharp enough today," Norman said. "Normally, I have no problem. I would kill those shots. Today my rhythm wasn't there. My head wasn't really there. My body wasn't really there. He didn't make it easy for me, either."

Kiefer advanced to the quarterfinals against No. 6 Marat Safin, who battered No. 12 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Safin blistered 14 aces and made fast work of his practice partner, finishing Ferrero in 83 minutes, in sharp contrast to the five-set marathons he had survived in the previous two rounds.

"I didn't come here to make the fourth round," he said. "I came here to win. I have to fight to win this tournament. If I play the way I did today, I think I can do it."

Venus Williams had some gaps in her game that Martina Hingis will try to punch some more holes in.

Williams, seeded No. 3, and the top-seeded Hingis, advanced to the semifinals in vastly different fashion Tuesday and face another showdown for a berth in the finals.

Williams ran into big trouble against No. 8 Nathalie Tauziat, dropping her first set of the Open before prevailing 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 and extending her winning streak to 24 matches, longest of the season.

Then, Hingis continued her dominance of No. 6 Monica Seles 6-0, 7-5.

Seles simply couldn't match the power game of Hingis, a continuing problem for the former champion. The loss was her sixth straight against Hingis and left her at 2-11 lifetime.

Hingis cruised through the first set, winning it in just 13 minutes and losing just six points. It was the third straight set the two had played in which Seles failed to win a game.

Seles raised her level after that, but it was not enough to overcome 33 unforced errors that added up to another loss for her against a higher seeded player.

Williams was distraught about a performance that often seemed listless.

"I never get upset when I'm playing, but today I was," she said. "It was very strange. I don't play well when I'm upset. I don't feel I had my best performance, to say the least. In the end, the win is on the record. I move forward."

It took a big third set to do that.

"I really didn't do anything much better," she said. "I just made a few more shots, maybe a little more determined."

Tauziat thought she exposed Williams a bit and that she may be vulnerable.

"I think if she (is to) win the tournament, she needs to improve her level," she said. "I don't think she is going to win if she plays like this."

It will be the third time in four years Hingis and Williams have played at the Open. Hingis beat Williams for the championship in 1997 and again in the semifinals last year. She holds a 9-6 career edge over Williams.


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