Helped by a rash of bad calls, Jennifer Capriati barely escaped her U.S. Open quarterfinal match with Serena Williams in three closely matched sets, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, Tuesday night.
With exhaustion written all over her, Capriati, the eighth seed, walked off the Arthur Ashe stadium court and into the semifinals for the third time in four years, gaining a match against Elena Dementieva, an upset winner over Amelie Mauresmo earlier in the day. Capriati's win didn't come without controversy.
"I've gotten a lot of calls against me in my life, I deserve to get a few calls," she said on the court after the match.
Williams, seeded third, had the bulk of the miscalls go against her. In the first game of the final set, she hit a backhand that was ruled in by the line judge, then overruled by the chair umpire.
As soon as the umpire changed the call, Williams -- who rarely argues -- began complaining to chair umpire Mariana Alves. Shaking her finger and yelling, "No, no, no, no, no," Williams was clearly angered by the decision, which would have given her a break point had it gone her way.
Williams gave the chair umpire a demonstration, placing the ball on the court to show that it was in and didn't touch the line.
"I don't know," Williams said. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't need to see the replay. I know my shots. Not only was it in, it wasn't even near the line. . . . Obviously I was and still am a little disappointed in that. I would have won that game. I'm not making excuses. I didn't lose because of that."
Brian Earley, the tournament referee, released this statement: "Regrettably, the replay on television showed that an incorrect overrule was made by the Chair Umpire. A mistake was made and I have discussed the call with the Chair Umpire, Ms. Alves. Ms. Alves is not scheduled to officiate another match during the 2004 US Open."
Williams did rack up 57 unforced errors against just 25 winners, and acknowledged that her play had a hand in the loss.
"I don't think I played well," she said. "I mean, I'm not going to sit here and say I played a great match; I don't think I did. I think I played like an idiot. . . . I pretty much dug my own grave and got in, pretty much covered myself up with the dirt."
Capriati said that she also received some bad calls, but denied that the officiating made the difference in the match.
Williams missed out on another break point in the final game of the match when a long second serve by Capriati was called in, giving the eventual winner a match point chance instead of a double fault.
But, despite the errors in her game, Williams came back to the marred calls in the end.
"I'm very angry and bitter right now," she said with a rueful laugh. "I feel cheated. I just feel robbed."
Serves were not falling for either No. 2 Mauresmo or No. 6 Dementieva in their tight, poorly played quarterfinal matchup. Despite her 15 double faults, Dementieva took out the highest remaining seed in three sets, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1).
"It is a big disappointment," Mauresmo said. "The way I thought, you know, I had some occasions I didn't take. So I am pretty disappointed with that and a little bit angry with myself as well, not being able to take these opportunities."
"It was difficult to play" the match with Mauresmo, Dementieva said. "I had something with my leg, you know, limit my game a little bit. With this humid and hot weather, it was not easy to play today. I feel it was a great match and, you know, I'm very glad that I could survive."
Dementieva, who has a notoriously unreliable serve, managed a slightly better first serve percentage than her opponent (55 to 51) though she did out-double-fault Mauresmo, who chipped in nine.
But the problems with her serve reached beyond accuracy. Dementieva rarely got any velocity, floating a 57 mph second serve at her opponent at one point and sending most of them over in the mid-70s.
Her serve is one of the reasons that Dementieva has a reputation for being inconsistent, something that is borne out by her results in Grand Slams this year. While she had done well in the French and U.S. opens, she went out in the first round in the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
In a messy third set, both players' serves deteriorated leading to four breaks, three of which came on double faults. Dementieva had eight in the set to Mauresmo's five.
By the time the players reached the third-set tiebreaker, nearly two and a half hours after the match began, Mauresmo looked spent and hardly put up a fight.
Mauresmo, who has reached a Grand Slam final once and never has won, would have had the top ranking in the women's game all but wrapped up with a victory over Dementieva, but now Lindsay Davenport can take the No. 1 slot with the Open title.
Dementieva, who came out wearing a bandage on her left upper thigh, twice called for injury timeouts during the match -- once for the leg and once for an upset stomach -- and was treated with IV fluids for dehydration after it ended.
Because of the problem with her leg, Dementieva spent a lot of time coming to the net, winning 29 of the 31 points she played there.
"It was tough to play [with the injuries], but it really helped my game," she said. "I had something with my leg and I start to do serve and volley. I finish second set like this, and I did surprise my coach by making this. But, you know, [I] was looking for some other way to win."