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Big guns fire fast on rainy day

New York: A host of heavyweights dodged rain drops and got down to work on Thursday, splashing into the third round of the US Open on a sodden day four of action. But one big gun rusted by the wet New York weather was fourth seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov. The Russian was given a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 beating by Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.

“I don’t know what went wrong,” said the stunned 28-year-old.“That’s the very exact question I am asking myself.”

Persistent and heavy rain drenched the Flushing Meadow grounds to delay the start of play for more than five hours, but when it finally got underway Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Andre Agassi, Martina Hingis and Venus Williams all wrapped up quick-fire wins in a glittering programme.

Capriati was first up to entertain a patient crowd who had waited as the heavens opened over the borough of Queens.

She did not disappoint, clattering Slovenian Tina Pisnik 6-4, 6-2 in powerful fashion.

The third seed was followed on court by fourth seed Lindsay Davenport, who reeled off four successive games to complete a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Hungary’s Petra Mandula after their match had been halted by rain on Wednesday.

Andre Agassi shuffled on to Arthur Ashe stadium court as soon as Davenport had packed her rackets away, and shuffled off again just 66 minutes later having inflicted a humiliating 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 defeat on fellow American Justin Gimelstob.

“Basing it on scoreline it was probably one of the easiest Grand Slam matches I have had,” said the twice former champion. “But you go out there with a lot of respect for your opponent and that is what brings about that standard of tennis on the court.”

Top seed Lleyton Hewitt continued his defence with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Israel’s Noam Okun. He next faces American James Blake, who beat Russian Nikolay Davydenko in four sets.

Women’s defending champion Venus Williams took just 54 minutes to sweep aside the challenge of Australia’s Alicia Molik 6-1, 6-2. Venus, second seed to younger sister Serena, looked in powerful form. “I like to, right off the bat, show her what I can do,” she said.

Ninth seed Martina Hingis, champion here in 1997, also showed what she can do, pounding Italian qualifier Antonella Serra Zanetti 6-4, 6-1.

Sixth seed Monica Seles had a close escape when she clawed her way back with some ferocious hitting to beat Barbara Schwartz, the Austrian thorn in her side in the Davis Cup earlier this year, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2.

Another defeat for American Seles, champion here in 1991 and 1992, looked on the cards but on this occasion Schwartz could not close out.

All the doubles matches on Thursday were cancelled as organisers received grim weather reports from the New York meteorological centre.

There had been fears that no play at all would be possible in the day session — the first time a session would have been wiped out at the Open since the 1988 men’s final — as dark clouds shrouded the New York site.

But as soon as the rain stopped the Open’s army of court workers got on their hands and knees, with towels in their hands, and scrubbed.

Within minutes the court had been dried and play was possible. The court workers will be stretched to the full over the next four days as rain and thunderstorms are predicted for the fourth and final Grand Slam event of the year.

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