Women say enjoy beauty of game, too

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK - With Anna Kournikova roaming the United States Tennis Center as a reporter for USA Network, the world media has been in search of the next "babe." Even before the Open began, the New York Daily News ran a spread, "Babes of the Open," featuring Ashley Harkleroad, Maria Sharapova, Alexandra Stevenson, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Daniela Hantuchova as "Court Cuties."

The search has drawn a mixed response from a number of tour women.

On center court Tuesday night, No. 6 seed Jennifer Capriati showed up in a sparkling dark blue dress with stars and a red splash on its bodice.

"I heard the troops loved it," she said. "It's just for the night [matches]. I'll wear it and feel like Wonder Woman, maybe."

Harkleroad says all she remembers about last year's Open - her first - was "me in my nice little [form-fitting] outfit."

This week, she wore relatively conservative little black dresses before losing in the second round, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, yesterday to No. 13 seed Vera Zvonareva.

"I like to wear cute outfits and stuff like that," she said. "I am just 18."

But when Jelena Dokic, dressed prettily in pink, was asked about the search, she was not amused.

"I think people should stop looking for a babe," said Dokic, 20. " ... We're here for the tennis and I think we should stick to that."

Kournikova, however, makes that hard to do. She showed up yesterday for her first USA assignment in a maroon, form-fitting, swimsuit-like top with spaghetti straps and a below-the-hipbone-hugging pair of mini-shorts.

Federer on pace

Wimbledon champion Roger Federer knows what it takes to get through a Grand Slam tournament. He said the only trouble is that you have to hang around long enough to do it.

Yesterday, the No. 2 men's seed at the U.S. Open started slowly in his first-round match. But Federer said he felt good despite losing the first set and, by the time Jose Acasuso retired at 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 2-0 due to cramping, he had found his rhythm and his patience and was ready to play as long as necessary to advance.

"Even though I lost the first set, I felt I was serving good," he said. "What worried me was the second set, that first game. I served a couple double faults. Just a little impatient. Luckily for me, I bounced back."

Muscles exposed

A year ago, Tommy Haas caused a stir here when he showed up for his match wearing a sleeveless T-shirt that wasn't allowed by the U.S. Tennis Association. Apparently, form-fitting outfits for women were considered "customary" attire, but sleeveless shirts for men were not.

Yesterday, Carlos Moya and James Blake showed up for their match in sleeveless shirts, as they have throughout the season, and nothing was said.

Extra time an option

The Associated Press reported that the USTA has considered expanding the tournament to 15 days.

That could be done by beginning a day earlier, on a Sunday, or finishing a day later, on a Monday. Even if adopted, the change wouldn't be instituted before 2005.

Feature matches

Men today

Andre Agassi (1) vs. Andreas Vinciguerra

Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) vs. Jurgen Melzer

Women today

Justine Henin-Hardenne (2) vs. Silvija Talaja

Jennifer Capriati (6) vs. Martina Sucha

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