Norman, No. 2 in the race at the moment, took his first step back toward the top spot he briefly held last spring, beating Paul Goldstein 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
It was a sweet performance, filled with fine touch shots, long rallies, quick sprints, and a nice blend of groundstrokes and volleys. Aficionados of the sport could appreciate the way Norman and Goldstein set up points, challenged each other, and played in a way weekenders would love to emulate. It was a match that fans could relate to far more than the thunderous serving of Sampras.
For those few thousand fans who bothered to watch in mostly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, Norman gave them a show, hustling to chase down shots and eliciting the kind of oohs and aahs that are regularly heard when a player like Agassi or Sampras or Rafter play.
“I’m very confident,” said Norman, who is seeded for the first time at the open—No. 3—and is coming off a victory in a tuneup tournament. “I feel very honored to play on the center court today. It’s great to be appreciated more in the States than maybe somewhere else.”
For all the top players in action, it was a day of routine second-round victories.
No. 1 Hingis breezed crushed Kristina Brandi 6-1, 6-1; No. 3 Williams beat Kveta Hrdlickova 6-1, 6-1 in 48 minutes; No. 6 Seles beat Anne Kremer 6-3, 6-4; No. 8 Nathalie Tauziat beat Maria Alejandra Vento 6-3, 6-1; No. 9 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario beat Sonya Jeyaseelan 6-4, 6-1; No. 11 Sandrine Testud beat Iroda Tulyaganova 6-4, 6-3; and No. 15 Capriati advanced 6-2, 6-2 against Henrieta Nagyova.
Among the men, No. 6 Marat Safin beat Thierry Guardiola 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4; No. 10 Cedric Pioline beat Sargis Sargsian 6-3, 6-3, 6-1; and No. 15 Philippoussis downed Albert Portas 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.