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Rain fails to dent Agassi march
- Elements play spoilsport again l Two singles a day likely to clear huge backlog

New York: Persistent rain washed out play at the US Open for a second successive day on Tuesday with only Andre Agassi recording a win at a drenched Flushing Meadows.

Kim Clijsters seized a 3-0 lead over French fifth seed Amelie Mauresmo on Wednesday before drizzling rain suspended their quarter final match after only 10 minutes. Showers interrupted the year’s final Grand Slam tournament for the third day in a row.

Agassi’s 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 fourth-round victory over Taylor Dent — secured when Dent quit with a thigh injury — was his 200th Grand Slam match win and the only contest out of 95 scheduled to be completed on Day IX of the tournament.

Drizzle and showers all day once again played havoc with the tennis and heaped yet more misery on organisers who are now desperate for a dry spell.

Competitors could now be forced to play two singles matches in a day to beat the backlog.

“I never say never,” tournament referee Brian Earley told reporters. “The rule of thumb is one singles match a day, but that wouldn’t mean we wouldn’t (finish) a match and then go on to play a second in the (same) day.”

With the start of play delayed on Tuesday for seven hours, it raised the spectre of the tournament going into a third week.

The last time the men’s final was played on the third Monday of the championships was in 1987, when Ivan Lendl beat Mats Wilander.

“The only contingency plan that is well-defined is the one for a possible washout on (the final Sunday) ... we typically would hold the (men’s) final on Monday late afternoon instead,” said Arlen Kantarian, chief executive of the United States Tennis Association professional division.

Kantarian, however, insisted there was still hope for a regular conclusion for the tournament.

“With the number of courts we have, with a degree of good weather, we can play catch-up pretty quickly,” Kantarian said.

“Obviously that’s dependant on having one full day and one full night session ... but with that we can catch up in almost a day and a half.”

The forecast for the week was not too bright, however.

A number of other matches also got on court deep into the night when the rain briefly abated but none finished.

In men’s fourth round clashes, Juan Carlos Ferrero won the first set of his match against Todd Martin 6-2, Paradorn Srichaphan led Lleyton Hewitt 4-3 while Guillermo Coria led Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 2-0.

In two women’s remaining fourth round matches held over from Monday’s washout, Anastasia Myskina led Mary Pierce 7-6, 2-0 and Ai Sugiyama led Francesca Schiavone 7-6, 5-4.

Just Agassi prevailed and only then after struggling with swirling drizzle and an explosive Dent.

A torn thigh muscle ultimately destroyed Dent’s chances of upsetting the world number one after their match had finally got underway seven hours late. Dent retired when, hobbling, he lost the third set.

“It’s a shame,” 22-year-old Dent said. “But it’s nothing serious I am sure ... hopefully I will be out there and kicking some more butts quite soon.”

Agassi was pleased to advance but would have preferred a more satisfactory victory. “You never wish for a retirement,” Agassi said. “It is disappointing for everyone. You know, both players don’t like it, the fans don’t like it ... it doesn’t matter if it is my 200th or my first (win) ... it’s not how you want to see it end.

Meanwhile, a ceremony to honour recently-retired Michael Chang at the US Open was postponed on Tuesday because of rains.

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