Pioline first impresses, then knocks off Kuerten; 30-year-old reaches semifinals against Martin; Notebook


NEW YORK -- Cedric Pioline, 30 and unseeded, moved here, there and everywhere around the court. He matched every brilliant shot by No. 5-seed Gustavo Kuerten. He played such great tennis that even Kuerten had to go around the net and shake his hand in the middle of the third-set tiebreaker.

"I played unbelievable shot," said Pioline, who won the match, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (16-14), 7-6 (10-8). "I fall down at end. I stand up, and he was there, just like, 'Shake my hand.' I'm like, 'What's going on? You stop or what?' But no, he just wants to congratulate me on my shot."

Tomorrow, Pioline will face No. 7 Todd Martin, a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 winner last night over Slava Dosedel. The other men's semifinal will be between No. 2 Andre Agassi and No. 3 Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Kuerten, who is rapidly becoming a terrific all-court player, deserved a better result. He was broken just once in the match. But the good-natured Brazilian mustered a smile.

"We both hit unbelievable shots," he said. "It is a little frustrating. I maybe deserved to win like him. But if we don't have these moments, you cannot celebrate victory when it comes."

At the end of the night, just three points separated them. Pioline had won 167 to Kuerten's 164.

"I feel a bit older," said Pioline. "It was big physical effort, but I will be OK for Saturday."

Shapiro hospitalized

Baltimore's retired tennis pro Pam Shriver has been absent from this year's Open because of the illness of her husband, Joe Shapiro.

Shapiro, a cancer survivor, has been hospitalized for several weeks and remains in critical condition from a "very bad reaction to one of the medications he's been using" to control lymphoma, Shriver said from California.

"If anyone can get through this, Joe can," Shriver said. "He's a fighter."

This is the first Open Shriver has missed since 1977, the year before she made it the Open final, which she lost to Chris Evert.

Mixed award

No. 2 seeds Ai Sugiyama and Mahesh Bhupathi won the mixed doubles title yesterday, 6-4, 6-4, defeating Kimberly Po and Donald Johnson.

"I think Japanese girls are lucky for me," said Bhupathi, who won the 1997 French Open mixed title with Rika Hiraki.

"It's great playing with Mahesh," said Sugiyama. "He's everywhere at the net, and I'm comfortable on the baseline. It was fun, and the most important thing about mixed doubles is to enjoy."

The winners share $125,000.

Pub Date: 9/10/99

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