French Open champion Mary Pierce pulled out of the U.S. Open on Monday, unable to overcome recurring pain from a shoulder injury that sidelined her most of the summer.
Pierce, seeded No. 4, asked for a medical timeout trailing 5-4 in the first set against No. 10 Anke Huber. After the trainer massaged her right shoulder, she returned to center court to serve. But she double-faulted on set point, giving Huber the set, 6-4.
Pierce immediately walked to the chair and retired from the match.
“The day before yesterday, after my match with Lisa Raymond, I was 100 percent,” Pierce said. “In doubles it got sore and it was sore today. Every serve I hit it got worse.”
Pierce won the French Open in June, beating Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Conchita Martinez in the last three matches. Since then, she has played just two matches, losing in the second round at Wimbledon before taking the rest of the summer off because of an irritated rotator cuff.
“I saw it right in the first service game,” Huber said. “It’s hard to play when you see her not 100 percent.”
A Twi-Night Five-Setter
Play began today in hot, muggy conditions similar to Sunday when two rain delays stretched matches well into the night. The most compelling match came when No. 3 Magnus Norman finished on his knees, barely surviving a marathon in which he beat Max Mirnyi 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (9).
From the time the first ball was struck to the final point in the fifth-set tiebreaker, Mirnyi and Norman spent 4 hours, 6 minutes on the court throwing haymakers at one another, and another four hours waiting for the weather to clear.
It was compelling tennis, perhaps the first match that reached that level in this year’s final Grand Slam event.
“It was unbelievable. I have no words for it,” said an exhausted Norman, who lost the first two sets. “I got through, that’s the important thing. I’m just happy I won.”
Earlier in the evening, Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati faced off in a resumption of what many thought might have been one of the great rivalries in women’s tennis if off-court problems had not interrupted their careers.
So much has happened to them since their magical semifinal at the Open in 1991. But for one night, at least, Seles took Capriati back in time, defeating her 6-3, 6-4.
Nine years ago, they were kids—Capriati 15 and Seles 17—and viewed as the future of American women’s tennis. Seles captured a third-set tiebreaker that day and went on to win the championship, beating Martina Navratilova.
“I really don’t think about that much anymore,” Capriati said. “I think it’s kind of annoying a little bit, to tell you the truth.”
Seles recalls it more warmly.
“I think it’s the first time in women’s tennis you had such hard hitters,” she said. “It changed the face of women’s tennis.”
On an unpleasant night that left them both drenched, there were few reminders of the tennis they once played at center court.
“She came out really strong,” Capriati said, “just from the first ball. She was just hitting them full speed. She served really well. It was tough for me to break every time. That put a little more pressure on my serve.
“I think it was pretty close. We had a lot of close games there. It could have gone either way.”
A year ago, they played in the round of 16. After Capriati lost, she finished the day in tears, trying to bury her troubled past.
“I think she’s found some peace,” Seles said. “I think she’s changed a lot in a year. It’s great to see that. I’m probably the same. I’m pretty even through the hard times and through the good times.”
Venus Catapults Ahead
Venus Williams extended her winning streak to 23 matches with a 6-2, 6-2 rubout of Magui Serna. It took the third-seeded Williams just 53 minutes to move into the quarterfinals, where she will meet No. 8 Nathalie Tauziat, who eliminated former champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-3, 6-2. It was Tauziat’s first victory over Sanchez-Vicario after 11 consecutive losses
Her victory over Serna was in sharp contrast to Williams’ last win, when she was forced to a first-set tiebreaker by Meghann Shaughnessy.
“In the first couple of rounds, I didn’t feel I was playing very well,” Williams said. “I was happy actually to get a nice match. She actually came out and played very well. I feel very warmed up now. I feel more in a groove and more ready to compete.”
On the men’s side, No. 6 Marat Safin survived the longest day of tennis, beginning at 11 a.m. then sitting through the sudden disappearance of his game as well as two long rain delays before finally prevailing over Sebastien Grosjean 6-4, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 3-6, 7-6 (5).
Safin was up two sets when he suddenly found himself in trouble.
“I was a little bit tired,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘One more set.’ I didn’t expect it to change that quickly because it was 6-1, 6-3 in half an hour or less. I don’t know. I just lost my concentration. It was very fast.”
Safin started the match dressed all in black and ended it some 6½ hours later all in white, wearing borrowed pants and socks after the two rain delays, the first one 1 hour, 19 minutes, then after 28 minutes of play another delay of 1 hour, 40 minutes, this one in the midst of a fifth-set tiebreaker.
When play resumed, Safin completed his delayed victory, built on 25 aces and achieved despite 64 unforced errors.
“Finally, I made it,” he said. “I am happy.”
No. 12 Juan Carlos Ferrero also waited out the rain for his 7-5, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-6 (6) victory over Roger Federer.
“I think I had a little bit of luck in the tiebreak,” he said. “It’s no great days for the tennis when is rain.”
Sunday’s other winners included No. 14 Nicolas Kiefer, a 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Sjeng Schalken,and Wayne Arthurs, who defeated Richard Fromberg 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.