The scoreboard at Roland Garros was still lit up hours after play had been suspended because of rain today, with Andre Agassi's missed opportunity glaring through the plodding drops of water.
Agassi had been leading his French Open semifinal against Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, winning the first two sets, but he couldn't close out the victory in the third. So instead of slipping into a dry car with a berth in Sunday's final when the rain started falling around 6:30 p.m., Agassi was still on the court, preparing to serve in the fourth game of the fourth set. Play was suspended with Agassi ahead, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 1-2, and both he and Hrbaty will have to continue their match Saturday before the women's final between Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis.
If Agassi can get back on a winning track, his prize will be Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, who endured wet, swirling winds, dizziness, leg cramps and a crowd peppered with rowdy Brazilian fans earlier in the afternoon to defeat Fernando Meligeni, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). Medvedev, who only slept about three hours Thursday night because he was so nervous, needed two visits from ATP trainer Doug Spreen and even used smelling salts to get through the match.
"All I thought was to fight like a dog, and that's what I did," Medvedev said. "If I died on the court, I wouldn't care today, really. If my heart would stop on the court, then I would be proud I'm dead this way."
Medvedev said the presence of his girlfriend, tennis player Anke Huber, helped get him through the match as well. Huber, the WTA Tour's 30th-ranked player, had to pull out of the French Open last week because of an injury but returned to Paris on Thursday. She tried to help Medvedev through his nervousness this morning by talking about her experience in the final of the Australian Open in 1996.
"I just kept asking her if this is normal, what I feel," Medvedev said. "She was for sure, very, very supportive. She told me that I can do it. I really think that if she didn't come, it would have been, may have been a different result."
Medvedev said he is slightly less nervous about playing in the final, because he considers just getting there a victory. The No. 4 player in the world in 1994, Medvedev dropped to No. 105 two months ago and was No. 100 entering this tournament. After his success here, he feels confident facing either Agassi or Hrbaty.
"They're both great players, and I don't have a preference, honest," he said. "I think I can beat both of them, but that will take a very, very good match. That will take everything I've got. I've just got to be better than them on Sunday, that's all."
French Open Notes: Washington Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar, an avid tennis player, was in the stands today to support Medvedev. He intends to be at Wimbledon this year as well. Detroit Red Wings forward Sergei Fedorov is also in Paris for the tournament, supporting girlfriend Anna Kournikova. . . .
When the WTA's new rankings come out Monday, Steffi Graf will jump from No. 6 to No. 3, moving Monica Seles, Jana Novotna and Venus Williams all back a spot. . . .
The women's doubles semifinal between the team of Lindsay Davenport and Mary Pierce and the team of Serena and Venus Williams also was postponed because of rain. It will be played Saturday.
Where: Roland Garros, Paris.
Defending Champions: Carlos Moya and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.
Today's TV: noon, WRC-4, WBAL-11 (taped).
Yesterday's Key Results: Men's Singles Semifinals -- Andrei Medvedev, Ukraine, def. Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). Andre Agassi (13), Las Vegas, leads Dominik Hrbaty, Slovakia, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 1-2 (match suspended because of rain).
Today's Featured Matches: Men's Singles Semifinals -- Resumption of Hrbaty-Agassi match. Women's Singles Final -- Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Steffi Graf (6), Germany. Men's Doubles Final -- Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (1), India, vs. Goran Ivanisevic, Croatia, and Jeff Tarango, Manhattan Beach, Calif. Women's Doubles Semifinals -- Lindsay Davenport, Newport Beach, Calif., and Mary Pierce (12), France, vs. Serena Williams and Venus Williams (9), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Men's Singles: Final, Sunday: Medvedev vs. Agassi-Hrbaty winner.