Muller handles heat, Massu at Legg


WASHINGTON - The National Weather Service put out a heat advisory yesterday afternoon. The weather people were concerned about temperatures soaring into the 90s, but on the Stadium Court at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, there were two kinds of heat.

As the on-court thermometer climbed to 108 at the start of the match between Gilles Muller, the man from Luxembourg who made it to the finals here last year, and Nicolas Massu, the two-time Olympic gold-medallist, serves rocketed into the 140s.

They were big serves on both sides of the net and they mercifully shortened points, making play less taxing than it otherwise might have been.

Muller eventually won, 7-6 (2), 6-4 . Afterward, he said he felt fine, though it took him nearly an hour to pull himself together and appear for the post-match interview session.

He said he drank a lot of fluids before the match and used the iced towels provided between every change-over to cool his neck.

"Monday, I felt the heat more." he said. "Today, not feeling so much, maybe because the points were over quick with our big serves. But it's summer and you just have to get used to the heat."

Everyone did and some did it better than others.

James Blake, the 2002 winner who is on the comeback trail after a terrible 2004, started fast against No. 4 seed Radek Stepanek but then needed three sets to move on, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 .

"Three or four months ago, I know I wouldn't have won a match like this." said Blake, describing the conditions on court as hot, humid and no fun.

"This was a close match that could have gone either way. But I had the confidence to go for my shots in the third set and it turned out all right. It's great to pull through a match like this. The tide is turning."

Blake's victory means six of the top eight seeds are gone from this tournament, and a total of eight of the total 16 seeds have departed.

"The men's tour is so deep." Blake said. "It's rare to see the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the final - other than Roger [Federer], which makes what Roger is doing so impressive.

"Anyone can win on any given day. Andy Roddick can play someone you"ve never heard of and get an exciting match. That makes it exciting for me and I hope for the fans."

No. 1 seed Roddick will play Juan Ignacio Chela for a place in tomorrow's quarterfinals, and Luis Horna, who is ranked No. 62 and was the surprise winner against No. 5 Dominik Hrbaty, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), will play his third-round match against Robby Ginepri .

Ginepri won his 10th match in 11 outings yesterday, beating No. 12 seed Karol Beck, 6-3, 6-4.

No. 11 seed Greg Rusedski, ranked No. 37, took on qualifier Nathan Healey, ranked 243, and won in straight sets, 7-6 (2), 6-2.

In the last singles match on the Stadium Court, local favorite Paul Goldstein of Rockville faced No. 13 seed Paradorn Srichaphan.

No matter what happens from here, Goldstein will have achieved a career best ranking this morning, passing his previous mark of 69 achieved Aug. 7, 2000.

In today's third-round match against Arnaud Clement, Muller will have to get used to more than heat.

Clement, whose 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) victory over Richard Bloomfield of Great Britain stole the show yesterday, is a 27-year-old veteran. He is wily, devious and experienced.

Clement has been a top 10 player several times during his career and a top 20 player at the end of a season twice. He has also finished as runner-up in the Australian Open.


Second round

Gilles Muller def. Nicolas Massu (9), 7-6 (2), 6-4.

Bobby Reynolds def. Ricardo Mello (15), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Robby Ginepri def. Karol Beck (12), 6-3, 6-4.

Sebastien Grosjean (8) def. Alexander Popp, 6-2, 6-3.

Arnaud Clement, def. Richard Bloomfield, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7).

Juan Ignacio Chela (14) def. Brian Baker, 6-3, 6-3.

James Blake def. Radek Stepanek (4), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Greg Rusedski (11) def. Nathan Healey, 7-6 (2), 6-2.

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