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'Quite a moment'
Martin rallies for five-set victory
Posted: Wednesday September 08, 1999 10:56 AM
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Seventh seed Todd Martin pulled a Lazarus act late on Tuesday night as he rose from the dead to stun ninth seed Greg Rusedski and claim the last quarterfinal berth at the U.S. Open.
Looking to be on his way to a surprisingly swift straight-sets loss, Martin, spurred on by the couple of thousand fans who stuck around past midnight, dug down deep and pulled out a thrilling 5-7, 0-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the 1997 Open runner-up in one minute more than three hours.
"I thought I was done," admitted Martin after his amazing turnaround in the first marquee meeting between seeded players in the men's tournament.
Rusesdski was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but a suddenly energized Martin broke the Canadian-born Briton, dominated the ensuing tie-break and got stronger as the contest wore on, winning 20 of the last 21 points in the fifth set to record his fifth career comeback from two sets down.
Martin will next face surprise quarterfinalist Slava Dosedel, the 95th-ranked Czech who upset 41st-ranked countryman Jiri Novak 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to earn the round of eight slot that almost surely would have been claimed by injured four-time champion Pete Sampras.
"If Pete Sampras was playing against me today I would have had less chances," quipped the delighted Czech.
Whether it was one of the great Grand Slam comebacks by Martin or an incredible choke by Rusedski will be debated. But what is not open for debate is that what looked to be a disappointingly lopsided affair turned out to be a terrific contest.
"I know a lot of them [the fans] went home after my pathetic performance in the first two sets. I'm glad some of them stuck around," said Martin, who seemed to feed off the energy of the late night crowd -- except for the one fan shouting "Go Canada."
Martin, who later complained of feeling ill during the match, lost nine straight games from 5-4 in the first set to hand the rocket-serving Rusedski the first two sets.
The 29-year-old American -- who had been past the fourth round only once at the Open, reaching the 1994 semifinals -- battled back in the third set. But Rusedski, just four days past his 26th birthday, had the match on his racket in the ninth game when the reversal of fortune began to take shape.
After the match-saving service break, it was Rusedski who had to force the tiebreak.
Leading 5-3 in the breaker, Martin followed a huge service winner with a blazing return winner and suddenly found himself in a fourth set.
"I figured my U.S. Open was done but I wanted to redeem myself for the way I played the first couple of sets," Martin said.
An early break in the fourth set brought an uncharacteristic show of emotion from the usually staid Martin, while Rusedski was clearly rattled and started whining to the chair umpire that Martin was taking too long between points.
During a changeover Martin responded by saying: "I'm not feeling too well, Greg."
But at the end, although Martin could barely move and required intravenous fluids, it was Rusedski who was feeling sick.
"When I needed to during those big moments I didn't raise my game, I just went down," the ninth seed lamented.
"It's extremely disappointing. I'm obviously upset because I should have been in the quarterfinals."
When the American ended the fourth set with his 12th and 13th aces, the crowd was on its feet, howling for their new hero and chanting "Let's go Todd."
But Rusedski scored the first break of the fifth set and held for a 4-1 lead and it seemed Martin had come a long way for nothing.
Then a remarkable thing happened as the seventh seed suddenly could do no wrong and Rusedski didn't seem to know what hit him.
Martin reeled off 18 straight points to get to 5-4, 30-0. A double fault halted the streak but Martin followed with consecutive blistering service winners, thrust his arms into the air and let out a triumphant yell before collapsing into his chair.
"I don't know if it was the crowd or the smelling salts that was picking me up more, but the crowd was great," an emotional Martin said.
"It was exciting, quite a moment."
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