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In heated battle, Clement takes it

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 1, 2010; D3

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. - For nearly three-and-a-half hours they sprinted and staggered around the Louis Armstrong Stadium court in Tuesday's sweltering heat, battling for the right to advance to the U.S. Open's second round.

Neither 16th-seeded Marcos Baghdatis nor 32-year-old Arnaud Clement was expected to win the season's final major. But in terms of entertainment, they couldn't have delivered much more.

In the end, the diminutive Frenchman prevailed, 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5, not because his strokes were more spectacular, but because he weathered the conditions, both physically and mentally, a touch better.

And in the process, the U.S. Open lost one of its more charismatic performers: the emotive Baghdatis, 25, who has spent much of the past year trying to reclaim his place among the sport's top 10 after a rash of injuries plunged him to the obscurity of being ranked 100th in the world.

Baghdatis threw himself into reviving his career this summer to encouraging results. He upset Roger Federer at Indian Wells, Calif., in March. Last month, after reaching the finals of Washington's Legg Mason Tennis Classic, he took down top-ranked Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati.

Corporate sponsors paid little attention, however. Without a clothing sponsor since January 2009, Baghdatis, who was runner-up at the 2006 Australian Open runner-up, strode out into Armstrong Stadium wearing a shirt and pair of shorts he bought himself from a company called Tecnifibre. To add a splash of color and display his national pride, Baghdatis asks his mother to sew on patches of the Cypriot flag.

It was hot and humid when the match started shortly after 11 a.m. Three hours later, midway through the fifth set, the temperature on court was creeping toward 120 degrees, ESPN's Pam Shriver reported, and both players looked dazed.

Still, they kept slugging - with Baghdatis, in particular, risking more on his shots. He lunged into a courtside chair in a vain effort to run down a drop volley.

"I didn't play very good tennis," said Baghdatis, who nonetheless finished with more aces than Clement (22-6), more winners than Clement (56-42) and even more points than Clement (137-128).

"I'm a bit disappointed, for sure. I lost the match, but that's sport. That's life. I'll try to continue."

Capra has strong debut

Beatrice Capra, 18, of Ellicott City scored an impressive victory in her debut in the U.S. Open's main draw Tuesday, defeating eight-year veteran Karolina Sprem of Croatia, 6-1, 6-3.

Capra, whose mother was an accomplished tennis player, as well, did her early training at the Junior Tennis Champions Center at College Park. Three years ago she relocated to Florida and now trains at the USTA's High Performance Center based at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton.

Up next, she'll face 18th-seeded Aravane Rezai of France, who squeaked past Magdalena Rybarikova, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (9-7).

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