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Tuesday, September 2, 2003
Updated: September 3, 2:10 PM ET
Record nearly set
for postponed matches

By Greg Garber

NEW YORK -- The way the planets were aligning, a record seemed possible even before the mist stopped on Tuesday night.

Kim Clijsters
Kim Clijsters didn't get to take the court at all on Tuesday.

On Sept. 4, 1993 - and, as it turned out, Sept. 5 -- Mats Wilander and Mikael Pernfors finished up their U.S. Open match at 2:26 a.m.

With eight men's round-of-16 matches to be played, plus four women's matches, as well, the USTA seemed prepared to challenge that hallowed mark.

After two days of dreary drizzle, tennis finally broke out all over the National Tennis Center -- and it was a dizzying flurry of blurring yellow balls. And then, after a grace period of a few hours, the mist came back. Soon, it had been upgraded to a full-blown downpour and the night was over; spectators were treated to the glorious feeling of hearing Gene Kelly singing in the rain.

So much for the record. Don't worry, it could fall Wednesday night -- weather permitting, of course. Rain again delayed the start of play Wednesday before No. 1 seed Clijsters and fifth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo took the court on a day when tournament officials scheduled a record 108 matches.

No. 1 seed Andre Agassi was the first (and only) player to escape to the clubhouse with a victory. He outlasted Taylor Dent 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5 on Center Court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. If you think that looks like a non-regulation, best-of-three-sets score, you're right. Dent retired after dropping his second set, suffering from tightness in his lower right hamstring.

The rest of the men's field wasn't so fortunate.

Next door at Louis Armstrong Stadium, No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero toyed with Todd Martin's serve and took the first set, 6-2. On the Grandstand Court, No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan were on serve with Srichaphan leading 4-3. Meanwhile on Court 11, it was No. 5 Guillermo Coria leading Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 2-0. The winner will get Agassi in the quarterfinals.

All four round-of-16 matches in the bottom half of the men's draw were postponed:

No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 13 David Nalbandian, No. 4 Andy Roddick vs. Xavier Malisse, No. 7 Carlos Moya vs. Younes El Aynaoui and No. 8 Rainer Schuettler vs. Sjeng Schalken.

In a sense, those athletes were lucky, compared to the four women vying to reach two quarterfinal berths opposite Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Consider the plight of No. 15 seed Ai Sugiyama. She and No. 29 Francesca Schiavone were tied at 6-all and heading into a tiebreaker when rain sent them home Monday night. On Tuesday night, Sugiyama hung on to win that tiebreaker 7-5 and led 5-4 in the second set with Schiavone serving when rain ended things again. Now, they will return for a third day in an attempt to finish.

As will No. 7 seed Anastasia Myskina and Mary Pierce. Myskina led Pierce 4-2 after Monday night, then won the tiebreaker 7-2 and was serving for a 3-0 second-set lead when the rain returned.

The two women's quarterfinals matches from the upper half of the draw scheduled for Tuesday were the last priority and, therefore, pushed to Wednesday: No. 1 Kim Clijsters vs. No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo and No. 3 Lindsay Davenport vs. No. 24 Paola Suarez.