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Controversy Mars Key Open Match

Jennifer Capriati bounced the ball once, twice, three times. Ready to serve for the match, she kept bouncing it with her racket and hand, more than 30 times in all.

She'd let her chance slip away last September on the same court in the U.S. Open, and was determined not to let it happen again Tuesday night.

At the other end, Serena Williams was still thinking about the point that was taken away by a chair umpire's mistaken call.

"I guess she went temporary insane," Williams said.

Williams came up on the wrong end when Mariana Alves overruled the line judge in the opening game of the third set — it was an obvious call, the ball landed an inch or so inside the line. Capriati went on to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and moved on to the semifinals.

Alves will not advance.

"Regrettably, the replay on television showed that an incorrect overrule was made," tournament referee Brian Earley said.

"A mistake was made. Ms. Alves is not scheduled to officiate another match during the 2004 U.S. Open."

No one would say whether Alves — seated on the opposite side of the court from where Williams' ball landed — had been flat-out fired. Either way, she's gone — too late to help Williams.

"I'd prefer she not umpire at my court anymore," Williams said. "She's obviously anti-Serena."

The eighth-seeded Capriati will next play No. 6 Elena Dementieva, who defeated No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1).

The men's side did not produce nearly so much drama.

Defending champion Andy Roddick flattened No. 18 Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. Roddick moved on to meet No. 28 Joachim Johansson, who beat Michael Llodra 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

Also, 2001 Open champion Lleyton Hewitt beat Karol Beck 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 for his 14th consecutive win, and Tommy Haas defeated Tomas Berdych 7-6 (6), 6-1, 7-5.

Only last week, Capriati called for tennis to try some sort of instant replay.

"I don't need to see the replay," Williams said. "I know my shots. Not only was it in, it wasn't even near the line."

"I'm very angry and bitter right now. I felt cheated. Shall I go on? I just feel robbed," she said, managing to laugh. "At first, I thought it was another Wimbledon conspiracy."

Sister Venus lost in the second round this summer at Wimbledon after Karolina Sprem was mistakenly awarded an extra point in the final-set tiebreaker. Venus did not contest the call, and chair umpire Ted Watts was tossed out of the tournament.

Serena made a point to say she does not argue calls. Only this time, she did — for good reason, it turned out.

Williams hit a backhand that landed in along the side line, but Alves took it away, and Capriati went on to win the key first game.

TV replays showed the line judge had called it correctly. But as Williams headed back to the baseline to serve, she heard Alves announce: "Advantage, Capriati."

A startled Williams looked up and asked, "What happened?" Then she said to Alves: "That's my point. That ball was in. It's my advantage."

Williams looked up at her family in the guest box, turned around and headed toward Alves.

"No, no, no, no, no," Williams said. "That was my point! What are you talking about? What's going on? Excuse me? That ball was so in. What the heck is this?"

Williams tried to illustrate her point, putting a ball on the court and pointing.

"The ball landed here. That ball was not out. Are you kidding me? I'm trying to tell you: The ball was not out. Do I need to speak another language?"

Answered Alves: "Please calm down."

Capriati stood at the other end, shaking her head.

"I didn't even, like, look at it. It was close. I was just going to do what the umpire said," Capriati told the crowd after the match, drawing some boos and murmurs.

"Believe me, I've had things go against me many times, plenty of times. I deserve to get a call once in a while. One point, I don't think, changed the match."

Said Williams: "Honestly, I began to think, 'OK, well, I'm not going to go for the lines, I'm not going to go for my shots."

Later in the final set, replays showed at least two other incorrect calls that went against Williams.

Capriati beat Williams in the French Open and lost to her at Wimbledon. Capriati has never reached the final at Flushing Meadows

last year, she was two points from making it that far 10 times when she lost to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semis.

In the last set against Williams, Capriati thought about that near-miss.

"There were actually a couple times there where that went through my mind. I was like, 'I'm not going to let this happen again,"' she said. "I think it was a good thing to think about it."

Capriati has won three Grand Slam events and Williams has taken six. For the first time since 1998, Venus and Serena will finish the season without a single major title between them.

"You get second chance after chance after chance," Capriati said. "I don't care what the tennis looks like, as long as it's gutsy."

By Howard Fendrich

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