| The ground crew out in full force at the Arthur Ashe Stadium court during a rain delay at Flushing Meadow on Monday. (AP)
New York: French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne and three-time Grand Slam winner Jennifer Capriati weathered scattered showers and two rain interruptions each to reach the US Open quarter finals on Monday night.
On a day when rain postponed four men’s fourth-round matches and suspended two women’s fourth-round matches in the first set, Henin-Hardenne and Capriati dodged the downpours long enough to book a date into the final eight.
Belgian second seed Henin-Hardenne ousted Russian teen Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 to reach her first US Open quarter final. The Belgian waffled after winning the first 11 games before finally putting away Safina after 57 minutes.
“It was a little frustrating,” Henin-Hardenne said. “Two or three times we had to stop. But we finally played. We got it in. It was late. But it’s over. It’s the first time I’m in the quarters. That’s great. But I want more.”
Sixth seed Capriati defeated Russian 11th seed Elena Dementieva 6-2, 7-5 to reach her third consecutive US Open quarter final, ignoring a fine mist through the last points to avoid yet another lengthy delay.
“At the end it was a little slippery on the lines but I didn’t want to stop,” Capriati said. “I just was being extra careful with the way I was moving and being conscious of my feet, not slipping or falling.
“The night goes on and you just want to get it finished. At the end it was starting to come again and I just said, no, please stay away.”
Scattered showers played havoc with the schedule at the year’s final Grand Slam event, delaying the start by over two hours and halting play twice more for several hours before finally convincing officials to relent.
World No. 1 Andre Agassi’s match with fellow American Taylor Dent was postponed. Agassi worked out briefly with coach Darren Cahill and Dent before play began but played with son Jaden Gil for most of the wet afternoon.
“It’s just part of the game,” Cahill said. “Andre just relaxed, talked to people, hung out. He’s not upset by waiting.”
Also postponed were matches between Spanish third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero and US veteran Todd Martin, Argentine fifth seed Guillermo Coria and Swede Jonas Bjorkman and Australian sixth seed Lleyton Hewitt’s showdown with Paradorn Srichaphan.
“It’s difficult,” Srichaphan said. “You never really know when you’re going to play. There’s nothing really you can do. You just have to be prepared.”
Japanese 15th seed Ai Sugiyama was level 6-6 entering a tie-breaker with Italy’s Francesca Schiavone when their match was halted. Schiavone won the first game in six minutes and was at deuce in the second when rain struck. Upon resumption, Sugiyama won two points to level 1-1 before water poured once more, setting the stage for the final drenching later.
Russian seventh seed Anastasia Myskina led France’s Mary Pierce 4-2 when their match was halted. Henin-hardenne awaits the winner.
Henin-Hardenne and Safina warmed up twice when rain sent them off the court. After the second time, Henin-Hardenne begged officials to let them start. In the end, a match she couldn’t wait to start became one she struggled to end.
Safina lost the first 11 games, but 2000 US Open men’s winner Marat Safin’s little sister bounced back at the finish. “She started coming back at 1-5 and the crowd was behind her. They wanted more tennis,” Henin-Hardenne said. “I got a little nervous trying to finish. I lost my aggressiveness at the end but I came through. It has been a long day.”
Capriati, who awaits the Sugiyama-Schiavone winner, started late due to the first rain, then took a 4-0 lead after 13 minutes when rain returned.
“It was very tough,” Capriati said. “After the first and second times, I was all right. But then the third, and I didn’t know if it was going to happen again, it was just getting pretty annoying. I was just getting tired.
“It’s hard to play matches like that once you actually do get out there because your rhythm is broken. You are worrying if you are going to get the match in. So it’s very difficult.”