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They played past midnight, a thrill-a-minute match of ``Can you top this?'' that deserved to be worth more than a spot in the U.S. Open final.

Both fighting leg cramps, both conjuring up one spectacular shot after another, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Jennifer Capriati were about as even as can be.

In the end, Henin-Hardenne emerged with the victory, scrambling back to win their semifinal 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) after Capriati served for the match twice.


``When I came off the court, I felt the whole world was coming down on me, and that my heart was being ripped out,'' Capriati said. ``It hurts.''

How close was it? Each player won 127 points.

``I gave everything I had. I was cramping. Serving was very hard. I did my best. I could have lost this match. I am very happy,'' Henin-Hardenne said.

``It's very late. I need a good sleep.''

After leaving the court, she was given IV fluids to treat dehydration that caused cramping her left leg, pain that had her doubling over between points in the third set. Capriati propped her legs up on her chair during the last changeover to stretch.

The WTA Tour said Henin-Hardenne will be evaluated Saturday, when she's supposed to will play an all-Belgian final against No. 1 Kim Clijsters, who dominated a dispirited Lindsay Davenport 6-2, 6-3 in the first semifinal.

The matchup is a rematch of the French Open final, which Henin-Hardenne won.

No matter how eager the countrywomen are to claim a first U.S. Open title, it's hard to imagine a championship match that will provide the theater and shotmaking that Henin-Hardenne and Capriati produced.

There was the stab lob Capriati came up with to thwart a smash and set up a winner that put her a point away from winning the first set. There was the crosscourt backhand passing shot from an impossible angle that Henin-Hardenne used to break in the first game of the third set.

There was Capriati's running, across-her-body forehand winner down the line to set up a break point that she converted for a 3-1 edge in the deciding set.

And, in the end, there was the pretty forehand passing shot hit by Henin-Hardenne that Capriati could only put into the net on the final point.

Henin-Hardenne dropped to the ground and covered her head, before rising to go to the net. Capriati gave her a halfhearted handshake.

``I gave it all I had. She did, too. For whatever reason, I didn't win,'' Capriati said. ``It's not the end of the world. Worse things can happen. Before, I might have been more devastated. Now, instead of looking at myself as a failure, I look it as I gave it all I had. I am only human. ...

``You can get such joy from winning, but there's also the other side of it.''

It might be tough for Capriati, a master of comebacks, to recover from this loss. She served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, and again at 5-3 in the third. She was two points away from victory more than half a dozen times but couldn't clinch it.

The women's final four was moved to Friday night for the first time because of a week full of rain delayed the schedule. Arthur Ashe Stadium was about half-full, but the partisan fans did their best to spur on Capriati in a match that lasted 3 hours, 3 minutes. It could have finished much earlier.

Henin-Hardenne broke to 5-4 in the second set on another spectacular point. She hit a short shot, and Capriati made a long run to get it, flicking up a desperation backhand lob that landed just inside the baseline. Henin-Hardenne somehow got to that, turned and hit a desperation lob of her own that also barely landed in. Switching directions to give chase with her back to the net, Capriati put her racket on the ball, but it landed out.

That was part of a six-game run that gave Henin-Hardenne the second set and a 1-0 lead in the third.

``I had the match in my hands,'' Capriati said. ``It was my match to win. I beat myself.''

She was a bit out of sorts at the outset, too, vehemently arguing a call in the third game that TV replays appeared to show was correct. ``It was this far out! This far out!'' Capriati yelled, holding her index fingers a few inches apart.

Capriati lost her serve in that game and the fifth of the match to fall behind 4-1, the second break coming on a superb forehand return winner by Henin-Hardenne. But Capriati got her first break point of the match in the ensuing game and converted it when Henin-Hardenne jerked a forehand long.

That opened a run of five straight games for Capriati to end the first set, but not without more fireworks.

With Henin-Hardenne serving and ahead 4-3 at deuce, Capriati thought one of the Belgian's shots during a long rally landed out. When the point ended with a Henin-Hardenne drop shot, Capriati kicked the ball, then pointed at her eyes as she stomped toward the line judge. On the very next point -- which could have given the Belgian a 5-3 edge -- Henin-Hardenne sent a forehand near the baseline and, when there was no ``Out'' call, Capriati spun around, dropped her racket, and put her hands on her head. Then she waved her arms and screamed at the line judge.

During Capriati's display, the chair umpire overruled, saying the ball was out. That pleased Capriati -- although a TV replay showed the ball did indeed catch the line.

By now, Capriati was marking almost each point she won by gritting her teeth and pumping her fist in the direction of the guest box, where her father, brother and ``Friends'' star Matthew Perry were sitting.

Henin-Hardenne's celebrations were more muted, but she also looked to her box for encouragement, and threw uppercuts after the best of points.

In what amounted to an appetizer before the gourmet meal, Clijsters broke Davenport's serve four times in the first set alone and six times overall, all the while playing fantastic defensive tennis.

It helped that 1998 Open champion Davenport -- who slumped in her chair after the first set -- made 35 unforced errors, 19 more than Clijsters.

Clijsters drew yells of ``oooh'' from the fans when she would stretch out to reach a ball, extending her legs in opposite directions along the baseline the way Mary Lou Retton might. Perhaps Clijsters inherited the skill -- her mother was a gymnast.

``The splits? Against Lindsay I had to use them a lot,'' Clijsters said. ``They help sometimes, not all the time.''

It was the first time since 1999 that Davenport lost at the Open to someone other than Serena or Venus Williams. Davenport, seeded No. 3, must have figured this would be a fantastic chance to win a fourth Grand Slam title, with both sisters out injured.

Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters, of course, are aware of that opportunity, too.
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I guess the notion of "cheating" and "faking" cramps can be swiftly dismissed.
 

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People are going to believe what they want to believe, whatever will make them sleep better at night. You've been around longer than I have, Seles, I can't believe you haven't come to this conclusion yet ;)
 

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Wow, I liked how the author mentioned Jenn's outbursts that were wrong...

I feel bad for Lindsay, her first loss at the US since '97 to someone besides a Williams Sister. :sad:
 

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Hmm, Capriati sounds as devastated as you'd expect... I did think that overrule in the first set changed the course of the entire match, really. Henin hit her approach shot to the baseline, it was indeed in and Capriati's next shot out, but it got called out thanks partly to Capriati's hysterics directed at the line judge, and from that moment Henin's confidence and her game seemed to fall apart until the end of the second set.

Who knows, if she'd won that point for 5-3 maybe she'd have run out a comfortable win and Capriati would never have even got to a winning position. But really, the quality was terrible from there on in - that match was played almost entirely in the mind, not on the court.
 

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I'm so current, I'm tomorrow.
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
She did shake a little bit more/better than in 91 when she immediately wiped her sweaty neck and chucked her racket. Poor Jen, I do feel bad for her. Gotta be tough,.... she served for it 2 times in 91 and then again 2 times in 03. Sad for her, but great win for Justine.
 

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Hendouble said:
But really, the quality was terrible from there on in - that match was played almost entirely in the mind, not on the court.
well playing a sport has a lot to do with a persons mental state. most of it IS in the mind. i dont see how that makes the quality terrible. maybe im reading it the wrong way
 

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D-love: I think he meant that instead of playing a quality match on the court, killing each other with more beautiful winners than errors, suddenly both decided to make this personal and try to one-up each other. They made it a dogfight when it didn't necessarily have to be.

It's a fine line, but when errors start creeping up and winners are practically nonexistent, the tennis gets ugly and it's less important than BEATING her because she pissed you off :)
 

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It's still amazing that Jennifer Capriati still has not reached the US Open final and little Justine Henin-Hardenne beat her to it.......time's ticking.....
 

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TennisHack said:
D-love: I think he meant that instead of playing a quality match on the court, killing each other with more beautiful winners than errors, suddenly both decided to make this personal and try to one-up each other. They made it a dogfight when it didn't necessarily have to be.

It's a fine line, but when errors start creeping up and winners are practically nonexistent, the tennis gets ugly and it's less important than BEATING her because she pissed you off :)

aahh ok, now it makes sense, thats for the clarification :)
 

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thanks :rolleyes:

long day
 
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