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Uncharted waters: Spadea reaches 4th round at Wimbledon

| Monday, June 28, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

WIMBLEDON, England -- Vince Spadea has bad memories of renting a flat for two weeks at Wimbledon, then finding himself idle after a round or two.

This year, he's day-to-day at a London hotel -- and extending his stay for the second week of the tournament. Spadea advanced to the fourth round Sunday by beating No. 8-seeded Rainer Schuettler, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Spadea, seeded 30th, had never been beyond the second round in eight previous appearances at Wimbledon.

"It feels great to put all those haunted feelings in the wastebasket," he said. "I'm sort of in uncharted waters here."

Only two other American men reached the final 16: No. 2 Andy Roddick and No. 27 Robby Ginepri.

The upset by Spadea drew scant notice at the All England Club. With a scheduling backlog following Saturday's washout, the match began at 11 a.m. on Court 3 and attracted few spectators.

Spadea's rooting section consisted of his coach, doubles partner Travis Parrott, and Parrott's girlfriend and family.

"It was early, and it was empty," Spadea said. "It was funny, because I was thinking, here it is the third round of Wimbledon, and I could just as easily be playing a practice match on a random grass court."

The victory was nonetheless sweet and his biggest at Wimbledon since 2000, when he ended a 21-match losing streak by beating Brit Greg Rusedski. Spadea won only two other matches that year and struggled through a mid-career slump until 2002.

He slid from 19th in the rankings in 1999 to 229th at the end of 2000, but he's now back up to 30th. Spadea won the first title of his career at Scottsdale in March, and on Saturday he made the U.S. Olympic team for the second time.

"There's a lot to be said for what I've done the last couple of years," Spadea said.

To reinforce his goal of making the roster for Athens, in recent months Spadea used Olympics-related passwords on his computer.

"So it keeps flashing into your head, whether you want to think about it or not," he said.

His latest goal is to beat fellow tour veteran Sjeng Schalken today. They split six previous matches but have met only once since 1999.

"I was surprised when he fell away," the 12th-seeded Schalken said. "That was just a mental case. Now, he's back again."

Even when Spadea was a top-20 player in the late 1990s, he struggled on grass. He said he's winning now because he's more aggressive, hitting better serves and more penetrating groundstrokes.

He still has a reputation as a blue-collar grinder, though.

"That's my game also," Schalken said. "I think everybody who is going to watch the match has to take a picnic bag with them."

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