As the Lines Get Blurred, Capriati Upsets Serena

Times Staff Writer

Serena Williams said she got an apology. She needed an instant rematch.

In a 2-hour, 6-minute slugfest filled with unforgettable winners and unimaginable mishits, balls that skidded off lines and caromed off the net tape, grunts and groans and gravity-defying gets, eighth-seeded Jennifer Capriati upset third-seeded Serena Williams, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, Tuesday night in the U.S. Open women’s quarterfinals.

Afterward, Williams suggested she was “cheated” and “robbed” after four critical calls went against her in the third set and television replays showed that Williams should have won all four points.

In the semifinals, Capriati, 28, who has won three major tennis titles but never the Open, will play sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva, who upset second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), in Tuesday’s other women’s quarterfinal.

The bad calls began for Williams in the first game of the third set. While serving at deuce, Williams hit a backhand that was a clear winner to everyone -- including the linesperson nearest the ball -- except chair umpire Mariana Alves of Portugal.


As the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd was roaring its approval of what should have been Williams’ advantage, the score was posted as Capriati’s advantage. When the crowd quieted and as Williams was about to serve, Alves announced, “advantage Capriati,” and an astounded Williams threw up her hands and mouthed, “What happened?”

Then Williams said to Alves: “That’s my point. That ball was in. It’s my advantage.”

Later Williams said she was trying to avoid a mistake her sister, Venus, had made at Wimbledon when the score was called wrongly, against Venus, and Venus didn’t immediately recognize the mistake and have it corrected.

“At first I thought it was another Wimbledon conspiracy,” Williams said. “I thought [Alves] just got the score wrong, and I wanted to clarify that I had won the point because I know my shots and I saw the ball. And I knew it was in. I said, ‘OK. Wait a minute now. I just want to make sure the score was right and it was my advantage.’ ”

Then Williams sprinted toward Alves yelling, “No, no, no, no, no. That was my point. What are you talking about? What’s going on? Excuse me? That ball was so in. What the heck is this?”

As Williams questioned Alves, she placed a tennis ball about an inch inside a line, indicating where she thought her own shot had landed. Alves told Williams she had overruled the line call, which occurred across the court, and also told Williams to calm down. Williams went on to have her serve broken in the game.

While she broke Capriati’s serve in the next game, Capriati broke again, an advantage she never gave up throughout the final set.

In the final game, when it took Capriati three match points to finally win, television replays showed two Williams groundstrokes that were called long hit the baseline. And on the 30-30 point, Capriati served a clear double fault. But Capriati’s second serve was not called long and Williams lost the point.

“I know my shots,” Williams said, “and I know when I make them and why I miss them. That’s why I never complain.”

In a statement, Brian Earley, U.S. Open tournament referee, said: “Regrettably, the replay on television showed that an incorrect overrule was made by the chair umpire. A mistake was made and I have discussed the call with the chair umpire, Ms. Alves. Ms. Alves is not scheduled to officiate another match during the 2004 U.S. Open.”

Afterward, the WTA said the chair umpire had issued an apology.

Still Capriati did a good job of reining in her game after the first set and playing hard-hitting but defensive tennis for the final two sets. She chose to take some pace off her balls and keep them safely in the court, content to let Williams make errors -- 57 unforced.

When Williams made her last mistake, a forehand hit wide, Capriati raised her arms and began crying.

The crowd had been firmly on Capriati’s side throughout the match. When USA Network television announcer Michael Barkann asked Capriati about the crucial overrule, she said, “I didn’t even, like, look at it. It was close. I was just going to what the umpire said.” The crowd began booing as Capriati said, “I don’t see what the big deal is. She won that game anyway.”

Except she didn’t.

Williams, though, also said she played like “an idiot,” and also accepted blame for the loss.

“I pretty much dug my own grave and got in, pretty much covered myself up with dirt,” Williams said.

Capriati, who is in her fourth Open semifinal, has never gotten further here. “I fought hard, and I prevailed because of that fight,” she said. “I think I played smartly at times, mixed up my shots, I just believed in myself.”

Her semifinal opponent, Dementieva, 22, overcame a pulled thigh muscle, an upset stomach exacerbated by the sun and humidity and a puffy first serve. It often was measured slower than 70 miles per hour as it drifted into the service box and caused Dementieva to commit 15 double faults.

Mauresmo, who would have guaranteed herself the No. 1 ranking in the world if she had won, couldn’t summon the nerve to punish Dementieva’s sickly serves or to take advantage of an opponent who spent the last changeovers putting ice bags underneath her arms and pouring cold water down her neck. Mauresmo, who has never won a major title, will still become No. 1 unless Lindsay Davenport wins the Open.



A look at the upper half of the bracket:


* Day: Dominik Hrbaty (22), Slovakia, vs. Tim Henman (5), Britain

* Evening: Roger Federer (1), Switzerland, vs. Andre Agassi (6)


The upper half of the bracket:

* Day: Shinobu Asagoe, Japan, vs. Lindsay Davenport (5)

* Day: Nadia Petrova (14), Russia, vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (9), Russia

Note: Jennifer Capriati and Elena Dementieva won quarterfinal matches Tuesday and will meet in the semifinals.


The lower half of the bracket:

* Tommy Haas (Germany) vs. Lleyton Hewitt (Australia)

* Joachim Johansson (Sweden) vs. Andy Roddick