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ESPN puts Washington back in the spotlight
BY Charles Bricker
May 26 2003
The Sun-Sentinel

It has been four years since he retired and seven years since he played his last match at the French Open, but Mal Washington looked right at home Saturday as he made the rounds and shook hands at the practice courts.

More important, he was made to feel right at home by a succession of players, who greeted him like a long lost cousin.

Armed with a new TV deal and planning to intensify its tennis coverage, ESPN brought Washington here as one of its studio analysts. The sports network had failed to sign Jim Courier, who has some on-air charisma to go with four Grand Slam titles, and made Washington the second choice.

Washington, who has no major titles but who reached the final at Wimbledon in 1996, gives them just as much credence, however. He's fluid, incisive and opinionated. Plus, he has kept up with the game.

For 15 minutes he ran down a succession of players who he thinks can win the French, and at the top of his list was Andre Agassi. When reminded that Agassi has played only six clay court matches this spring, Washington quickly countered: "And won five of them.''

And then there was one

On a day that started and ended with rain, the last American hope in the qualifying, Kevin Kim, was beaten by Giovanni Lapentti 6-1, 6-4.

Only one of 14 U.S. players made it through the men's and women's qualifying tournaments and into the main draw.

Alex Kim, 22, of Delray Beach, got into his first French Open after three years as a pro by beating No. 21 seed Ivo Heuberger 6-3, 6-4 on Friday. He's 1-4 in only five main draw ATP Tour matches this season.

Kim is a Korean-American who played four years at Stanford University and won one NCAA singles title.

Red clay, blue language

Australians Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt, the world No. 1, took 12 balls out to the stadium court for an early Saturday afternoon practice, and after an hour of slamming balls at each other and into the stands in anger there was just one playable ball left.

"We popped eight of them,'' said Jason Stoltenberg, Hewitt's coach. One was in a puddle of water left over from the morning rain, and two others were lost in the stands.

At 6-6, they played a tiebreak and, after Philippoussis blew a shot and slammed the ball in the direction of Versailles, they were down to one. There was a lot of swearing, but not at each other, and when it was over they laughed it off as they shook hands.

Four drop out

Andrei Pavel of Romania (elbow) and Rafael Nadal of Spain (wrist) pulled out of the tournament, joining Marat Safin of Russia and Robby Ginepri of Marietta, Ga., who had withdrawn earlier. The spots were filled by four "lucky losers'' in the qualifying -- the highest ranked players to lose in the final qualifying round.
 
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