In 15 years or so, Paul Goldstein figures, he'll be able to look back fondly on his first-round loss at the 2005 U.S. Open. But disappointment was the sole emotion at hand following his 3-hour 1-minute slugfest Tuesday with former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten.
Under a blanket of humidity so thick it seemed you could wring water from the sky, Kuerten advanced to the second round by risking more than his American opponent, taking bold whacks on his groundstrokes and aiming his serves at the lines en route to the 6-2, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory. The scorecard testified to Kuerten's daring, crediting him with 99 winners and 35 aces (compared to Goldstein's 26 winners and four aces).
"He was certainly dictating play a lot more than I was," said Goldstein, 29, a Rockville native and Sidwell Friends graduate. "I give him a lot of credit. I made him hit a lot of balls, and he took big swings and made them, more often than not."
The match represented a tantalizing opportunity for Goldstein, who nudged his ranking to a career-high 64th this month after nearly quitting the tour last year.
Kuerten, 28, is a three-time French Open champion who has fallen on hard times after undergoing operations on his hip in 2002 and 2004. Sidelined for seven months, his ranking tumbled to 357th , though he entered the draw with a protected ranking of 30 in deference to his injury-related inactivity. Kuerten also lost his endorsements during his freefall in rankings, so he competes now in shirts designed by a friend. Tuesday's shirt was a wild design splashed with the colors of the Brazilian flag.
"I knew if I was ever going to get a crack at him, this was my best chance," Goldstein said. "I knew going in if I could get him on the run a little bit, it would be beneficial for me; but if he got a chance to set up and hit the ball, he's going to hit it about as well as anyone in the world."
For the most part, Kuerten found his championship form at the critical junctures.
Said Goldstein: "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gustavo's talent, obviously. But it was a three-hour match and certainly could have gone either way, so it's a bit more devastating to lose a match in that fashion. I'll definitely hold my head up high for the way I competed and the effort put forth, but to have a match that close -- it's difficult to cope with mentally."
Former Washington resident Shenay Perry, 21, who upset 14th-seeded Alicia Molik of Australia on Monday, is scheduled to face 43rd-ranked Marion Bartoli of France on the Grandstand court Wednesday. Perry reached the third round at Wimbledon this year and is ranked 118th.