Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Martin Smash-Hit at Open

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Martin Smash-Hit at Open

Article excerpt

Todd Martin, accurately pegged as the polite, reserved gentleman of men's tennis, is the last guy you'd expect to pull a Jimmy Connors by bringing a rock 'n roll atmosphere to the sport. The 6-foot-6 gentle giant is known as a player who keeps his emotions in check.

All of that changed during yesterday's early morning hours at the U.S. Open inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Almost an hour after the Late Show with David Letterman had signed off, a national television audience and the spectators who stuck around until the end of a fourth-round match with Carlos Moya got to see an unadvertised CBS program: Todd Martin Unplugged.

Martin's rally from a two-set deficit, then being down one match point in the fourth set, to defeat Moya 6-7 (3-7), 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 was nothing new. The Ponte Vedra Beach resident made a similar comeback in the fourth round of last year's U.S. Open against Greg Rusedski and had overcome losing the first two sets six other times in his career.

It was the fire and animation that Martin displayed during, and especially after, the 4-hour, 17-minute marathon that made this must-see TV. From the time the match began at 9:05 p.m. Tuesday until it ended at 1:22 a.m. Wednesday, he held nothing back.

Anger. Joy. Disgust. Relief. Agony. Whatever the emotion of the moment, you got the full Martin.

"Jose Higueras [former Tour player and Martin's adviser] and I were laughing because we'd never seen him do anything like that," said Dean Goldfine, Martin's coach.

What Martin did was put on a show that -- in spite of all the talk of diminishing interest in men's tennis -- you couldn't turn off. He withstood 17 of 18 break points against his serve. He clenched his fists. He buried his face in his hands at embarrassing mis-hits. He exhorted the crowd with all kinds of hand gestures.

It was like turning the clock back to 1991 and watching a 39-year-old Connors will himself to a five-set victory over Aaron Krickstein.

"Todd's got a warrior's heart in him," said his fiancee, Amy Barbato. "He just doesn't show it as often as other players in terms of demonstrations with body language. …

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