posted on Sep, 11 2004 @ 09:25 AM
Elena Dementieva kept floating her funny serves, slow and spinning Frisbees more suited for table tennis than the hard courts at Flushing Meadows. And
at the end, that was barely enough.
In a match that was more entertaining than well played, Dementieva somehow outlasted Jennifer Capriati 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (5) Friday to set up all-Russian
women's final at the U.S. Open.
The Open is the only Grand Slam event that goes to a final set tiebreaker, and that's where this one went. Capriati won a stirring, 49-stroke exchange
early in the set, then let loose her only double-fault of the day to make it 6-all.
Dementieva won it on her second match point, and advanced to play Svetlana Kuznetsova for the championship Saturday. Earlier, Kuznetsova became the
first Russian woman to reach the Open final when she beat a limping Lindsay Davenport 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.
"Russians are here," Kuznetsova said after her win.
It will be the second all-Russian final at a major this year. Dementieva lost to Anastasia Myskina at the French Open, then Russian Maria Sharapova
The men's semis also will be Saturday, with No. 28 Joachim Johansson against Lleyton Hewitt and top-seeded Roger Federer taking on Tim Henman.
This marks the first time since 1988 that no Americans will be in the singles finals at this tournament.
Fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium clearly rooted for the New York-born Capriati at the start. As the match moved along, highlighted by that 49-stroke
exchange, the crowd was gasping, cheering and laughing - often all at once.
"It's not easy to play Jennifer in New York," Dementieva said.
Dementieva hung on with 58 mph serves and will get a chance to win her first major title. Capriati, winner of three Grand Slam events, fell to 0-4 in
semifinals at the Open and sobbed in the locker room, comforted by her mother.
After the match, it was announced Dementieva pulled out of her doubles match later Friday night because of exhaustion. She played with her aching left
thigh taped, and needed IV fluids after her three-set, tiebreaker victory over Amelie Mauresmo on Tuesday.
Both players did their best to psyche themselves up.
The sixth-seeded Dementieva shouted "Nyet!" after netting one of her shots, and later glared with ice-blue eyes at the chair umpire after a close -
but accurate - call went against her.
Unlike in the quarters against Serena Williams, the eighth-seeded Capriati did not get the benefit of any blown calls. Still, she had sharp words for
chair umpire Leanne White.
Early in the third set, White mistakenly announced the score at 30-all. When she corrected herself to say Dementieva led 40-15, Capriati approached
and shouted, "You can't change it now!"
Assured by White that she could fix it, Capriati fired off a comeback that she punctuated with an expletive.
Wiped out in only 17 minutes in the opening set, Capriati fought back in the second set. She was still down 2-1 and seated during a changeover when a
fan began shouting at her, perhaps offering advice.
"Shut up, I know what to do!" Capriati snapped back.
While she walked off after her defeat, Davenport hobbled her way out of the Open, losing a big lead and able to do little but watch Kuznetsova win.
Davenport needed time before the last set to get treatment for a strained left hip, which she hurt during warmups about three hours before this
"I was pretty bummed," she said. "I felt like I was playing from a disadvantage."
She came back on the court with tape high on her thigh, yet wore down after taking a 3-0 lead. Wincing and grimacing, she barely moved as the No. 9
Kuznetsova hit shots past her. The final point was an ace, and Davenport was caught standing still.
The loss snapped her 22-match winning streak and prevented her from rising to No. 1 in the WTA Tour rankings. Instead, Mauresmo will move up, just the
second woman to reach the top without having won a Grand Slam title.
The fifth-seeded Davenport, the 1998 Open champion, drew a big ovation as she limped to the locker room after the match while Kuznetsova received
At 28, Davenport was playing in her 16th Grand Slam semi and was trying to add another major title. She won at Wimbledon in 1999 and was the 2000
Australian Open champion.
Neither player had lost a set in this tournament until they traded one-sided victories.
In the second set, Davenport's injury worsened. And with the wind blowing at 17 mph - it was almost at 40 mph the day before - it caused her
Several times, Davenport had trouble adjusting when return shots got caught in a gust and moved either toward her or away at the last second.
"She seemed to play a lot better against the wind that I did," Davenport said.