Russians invade men's semifinals

Friday, September 7, 2001

NEW YORK -- In Russia they call it "Super Subbota."

Yevgeny Kafelnikov advanced to Super Saturday at the U.S. Open, joining countryman Marat Safin to give Russia two Grand Slam semifinalists for the first time.

"Would be even better if we both are in the final," Kafelnikov said Thursday after eliminating top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten 6-4, 6-0, 6-3.

The No. 7-seeded Kafelnikov will next play the winner of Thursday night's late match between American Andy Roddick and Australian Lleyton Hewitt.

Defending champion Safin, seeded third, advanced Wednesday and will play Pete Sampras in the other semifinal.

The matches will be on TV back in Moscow, Kafelnikov said.

"It's unfortunately pay channel," he said. "You got to pay to watch it. ... I'm sure it's worth it."

Kafelnikov, who also reached the semifinals two years ago, struggled to five-set wins in the first two rounds but seems to be finding his form on his favorite surface. He gradually broke down Kuerten, and from 4-4 in the first set Kafelnikov won 11 consecutive games.

"From the first point on he start smoking backhands, forehands, like he always does," Kafelnikov said. "But to my credit, I was able to keep up with him on the baseline. Once I did that, I started to believe in myself a lot more."

On set point in the opening set, Kafelnikov dropped a backhand just inside the corner, then happily sprinted to his chair. In the second set the normally dour Russian strayed from his normal tactics to play serve-and-volley, knocked off a winner at the net and walked back to the baseline beaming.

The victory was especially sweet for Kafelnikov because he has lost three times in the French Open quarterfinals to Kuerten, who went on to win the tournament each time, including this year.

"For every question he made to me, I had an answer," Kafelnikov said. "That's something that I'm proud of."

Kuerten again came up short in his bid to win a major title on a surface other than clay. He looked increasingly listless as the match progressed and received treatment from a trainer, but said his problem was simply lethargy.

"I didn't have any energy to step up and play my best," the Brazilian said. "I didn't find myself comfortable running and playing one or two points well back-to-back. ...

"I feel disappointed and frustrated," he added before cracking a smile. "But also maybe tonight I can have a good dinner, drink one beer, go out. If I win, I didn't have this chance."

Kuerten's defeat means that for the second year in a row, no man will win multiple Grand Slam titles. Australian Open champion Andre Agassi lost to Sampras on Wednesday, and Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic was eliminated in the third round.

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