Scratchy win, one of apparently many on the day...but nevertheless...sounds like Kucera was the recipient of a few bad calls, but maybe he needs to focus more on the fourteen double faults he made. There can never be too many mentions of Pim-Pim, Christina.
Line calls prompt claims of bias
By Linda Pearce
January 23, 2004
Lleyton Hewitt's opponent, Karol Kucera, yesterday accused the Australian Open line judges of deliberate pro-Hewitt bias in their second-round match on Rod Laver Arena. "Even the linespeople helped him," Kucera said after his 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 loss. "I think it was a little bit on purpose."
And in the night match, Fabrice Santoro also felt aggrieved at a line judge in his clash against Mark Philippoussis. Early in the fourth set, Santoro appeared to spit in the direction of the line judge after a close call had gone against him and was rebuked by the chair umpire.
Kucera said he had asked chair umpire Norm Chryst, an American, to intervene after three dubious calls, claiming there had been up to six line-call "mistakes". The Slovak said it was the worst treatment he has experienced in 10 visits to Melbourne Park, but added that, then again, he "hadn't played Hewitt before".
Kucera said replays confirmed several of the errors, witnessed by fellow players in the locker room. His only consolation was that he did not believe they affected the result of the match. "I don't think I was close today," he said.
Kucera faces a potential fine from the ATP if his comments are deemed to be detrimental to the sport. "We encourage players to speak openly in their press conference, but with that freedom comes responsibility," ATP communications manager Paul Macpherson said.
Hewitt's concern, meanwhile, is already with his next opponent. He knows a bit about precociously talented teenagers, having famously been one himself, and what he knows of his next opponent, the gifted Rafael Nadal, suggests to Hewitt that his next challenge will be his greatest so far.
"Very talented young player," said Hewitt of the 17-year-old Spaniard, already ranked 41st in the world. "What I've heard, little bits I've seen, he's a hell of a prospect coming up. It's going to be a tough match. I've got to go up to another level, I think. I look forward to the challenge, though."
Hewitt has never shirked one, and early in yesterday's match against Kucera it seemed that his latest challenge had come earlier, and perhaps a little more threateningly, than expected. Hewitt took more than 20 minutes to win his first game, but about two hours later had won the match, to reach the Open's third round for the fourth time.
"I got off to a slow start," admitted Hewitt, who was down 5-0 in 19 minutes. "Karol played extremely well there. You know, I didn't feel I played that badly at the start. He played a pretty faultless first set, though. I knew I had to keep plugging away."
The problem for Kucera, and hopeful glimmer for Hewitt, was always going to be the Slovak's ability to maintain that standard, and to shore up a serve that can be woefully brittle at times. Witness the 14 double faults yesterday, so many of them on break points, and the last, which almost reached the courtside backdrop on the full, to almost comically end the match.
Yet, for Hewitt, the earlier priority was to avoid his first 0-6 grand slam set, and he duly held serve for 1-5. Kucera closed out the set 6-1, but Hewitt was in the match, if only by a fingernail.
He rarely needs more, and yesterday was no exception. The sense of the turnaround came early in the second set, as Hewitt settled into more of a rhythm, and gradually began to work his way on top.
The day's hard-luck Australian story belonged to Wayne Arthurs, who led Spanish veteran Albert Costa two sets to one, and was up a service break in the fifth set, before falling 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in a match that lasted four hours 18 minutes.
Arthurs' singles career has not kept pace with his doubles in the past year, but he is determined to persevere, as he did throughout his two long five-setters over the past three days.
Success came in round one against Croatian qualifier Roko Karanusic, and although the Costa challenge proved too great, Arthurs showed enough to suggest his singles life is not yet over.
- with AAP