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'I lost my legs'
Martin runs out of gas at Open
Posted: Sunday September 12, 1999 10:52 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Slowly but surely, at the end of the biggest match of his life, Todd Martin just ran out of gas.
After winning a couple of tiebreak sets on Sunday, Martin was one set away from his first Grand Slam championship, leading Andre Agassi two sets-to-one in the best-of-five final at the U.S. Open.
But then it all fell apart.
"The biggest problem was I lost my legs a little bit," he said. "When that happens, the serve is what goes. Then I started to try and force it."
This five-setter turned out to be one too many marathons for Martin, who spent long hours on the courts at the National Tennis Center for the last two weeks. It was evident on changeovers when Agassi sprinted to his chair and Martin strolled to his.
"I felt very good about the way I played," Martin said. "I can't be disappointed with what happened today or over the last two weeks."
Twice, Martin was stretched to five sets, and twice he played four-setters. And that was in the early rounds.
He has a history of injuries and ailments -- elbow, knee, ankle, among others. In the end, all the extra games and sets caught up with him. "It was cumulative," he said.
"I worked real hard to be up two sets to one. I knew I had to play well on my serve and better on his. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened.
"It was more than a tad short."
During the trophy ceremony, he turned to Agassi and said:
"Andre, you played great. You deserved it. I couldn't think of a better way to go out than to play a great match against a great champion."
Agassi returned the compliment:
"I was very worried. He gave me a lot to worry about. He was executing in ways that were giving me all sorts of problems. He played so well, I felt I was hanging by a thread much of the match."
Martin was nearly washed out of the Open in the very first round when qualifier Stephane Huet forced him to a fifth-set tiebreaker. It was hardly an encouraging start.
"If you asked me two weeks ago after I beat Stephane, I wasn't too pleased about being here," Martin said.
Gradually, that would change.
He went five sets against Greg Rusedski, losing the first two sets and then coming back from a 1-4 deficit in the fifth. He was on smelling salts during that match and afterward, needed to have his fluids replaced intravenously. His prospects were not great, but he kept finding a way to get through points and games. Then, suddenly, he was in the second final of his career, an opportunity that doesn't come along very often.
He played brilliant tennis for a while, especially in the second and third tiebreak sets. But he never could break Agassi, failing in eight attempts. And despite a blistering 23 aces, that failure eventually caught up with him.
"I didn't expect to go five sets without breaking his serve," Martin said.
His consolation prize was a runner-up check of $420,000. He would have preferred the handsome silver winner's trophy.
Asked if he had any goals for himself, Martin thought back of two brutal weeks.
"I have a goal of sleeping," he said.
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