Down 2 sets, Martin rallies past Rusedski; He escapes 4-1 hole in fifth; McEnroe a Cup captain?; Notebook; U.S. Open


NEW YORK -- Todd Martin, sweat dripping from his face despite his attempts to mop it off, looked up at the U.S. Open scoreboard last night. Martin, the No. 7 seed, had lost eight consecutive games, his verve and his energy.

But Martin didn't fold against No. 9 seed Greg Rusedski of Britain. Giving up isn't Martin's style.

Despite the creeping fatigue and onslaught of booming serves from Rusedski, Martin pressed on under humidity-laden skies for another three sets, finally pulling out an improbable, 5-7, 0-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-4 victory.

"I lost that match today, Todd didn't win that match today," Rusedski said.

It was Martin's fifth career comeback from two sets down and his 15th five-set victory.

"I made a couple good shots [in the third set], and he missed a couple of shots, and if that hadn't happened, it would have been over a while ago," Martin said.

Instead, the sparse late-night crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium began chanting, "Martin! Martin!" and seemingly revived the 29-year-old American.

After winning the tiebreaker, Martin broke Rusedski for a 2-1 lead in the fourth set. Martin rode the break to even the match and send it to a decisive fifth set.

This from a man who needed four bottles of intravenous fluids injected the day before to fight off a stomach virus.

The two held serve until Martin didn't run down a lob in time to return it, giving Rusedski a service break in the fourth game.

But Rusedski dropped his next service game, prompting the crowd to chant, "Let's go, Todd."

Martin won the next 12 points, eventually closing out the match after three hours, six minutes.

Tomorrow he will face Czech Slava Dosedel, who beat Jiri Novak, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5.

Injured Norman retires

On the ninth day of the Open, a seventh man retired from play.

Magnus Norman, the hottest player on the men's tour, having won 21 of his past 23 matches, handed No. 5 Gustavo Kuerten a place in the quarterfinals when he was forced to quit, after Kuerten had just taken the first set 7-6 (7-4).

"I felt like a click in the back when I was going to return the serve at 30-40, the break point," he said. "I felt like just unbelievable pain in the back I never felt like this before."

Norman said doctors' initial diagnosis is a strain.

Kuerten, the 1997 French Open champion, is in the quarterfinals in his third consecutive Grand Slam and for the first time here. He next plays Cedric Pioline, a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victor over No. 14 seed Tommy Haas.

Captain McEnroe?

Retired pro John McEnroe has said for years that he'd like to captain the Davis Cup team. The U.S. Tennis Association is expected to make the official announcement today in a news conference.

Tom Gullikson, captain for the past five years, has been criticized for sitting top-ranked Pete Sampras in favor of Jim Courier and Martin during the Davis Cup semifinals, which the United States lost to Australia.

McEnroe, 40, has played on five Davis Cup teams, including the 1992 squad, when he played doubles with Sampras. He lobbied Gullikson earlier this year for a doubles spot on the team. There is speculation he could play doubles as well as be captain of next year's team.

The Orange County Register contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/08/99

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