U.S. Open, New York, U.S.A.
August 29, 1988; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $1,683,333; Surface – Hard
“Now they are starting at 15 and burnt out at 24” said Jimmy Connors about the upcoming generation of American players. It was a tournament marked by a tennis torch that passed from one generation to another: 16-year-old Michael Chang and two years older Andre Agassi made their biggest results at the time, fourth round and semifinal respectively. The statement about burning out paradoxically was not correct to them, but in relation to Mats Wilander, the US Open ’88 champion. The Swede captured his first major title at the age of 17 (Roland Garros 1982) and seemed to be a certain successor of Bjorn Borg. Wilander couldn’t reach the No. 1 in the world over the years despite winning another majors. His dreams of becoming the best in the world came to fruition in New York, in 1988, as he defeated Ivan Lendl avenging six straight defeats, in the longest US Open final. Wilander, only 24 at the time, was so fulfilled that lost his motivation, and never came back to a Grand Slam final.
First round: Diane Pucin
As John McEnroe first entertained reporters with quips about upstart Andre Agassi, then enlightened them about his future in the game and the future of the sport that has made him famous and infamous, the thought occurred that McEnroe, the enfant terrible of sports, has, well, matured. McEnroe began his 12th U.S. Open Championships yesterday with an uneventful 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over talented 21-year-old Leonardo Lavalle of Mexico. The same man who has dumped sawdust on a spectator, who came close to a fistfight with Ilie Nastase and who told a television technician, on the air, where exactly he could put a microphone didn’t once abuse a referee, a photographer, his racket, the balls or his opponent yesterday. Then he spoke humorously about Agassi, eloquently about his future and intelligently about a rising controversy on how the pro game should be administered. Will all this responsible behavior last for more than a day? Maybe, maybe not. After all, McEnroe was pictured in a New York tabloid dancing the night away (at least until 2 a.m.) with his wife, Tatum O’Neal, the day before he played his opening-round match. But McEnroe finally seems at ease with himself. After two extended sabbaticals from tennis in the last three years to recover from injuries and to start a family, the 29-year-old father of two professes both a willingness to get back to the top and to accept that rustiness and advancing years will result in some losses. “I still feel like I have some good tennis left in me,” he said after the win. “But it’s going to take some time. A year and some months from now, if I’m still playing tennis like this, you won’t see me much longer. But I don’t want to even think about that.” McEnroe is still inconsistent. “I’ll beat players 6-4, 6-4 and it’s a match I should have won 6-2, 6-1,” he said. “That could cost me at a long tournament like this, when you should save yourself.” There are also flashes of brilliance – a sharply angled volley that kisses the sideline, a lunging backhand winner. But just as quickly, McEnroe can throw in three straight double faults as he did in yesterday’s first set. There were no missteps, though, when it came to answering questions. McEnroe was adamant in supporting the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in its proposal to take over the running of the men’s tour. Currently, the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council, which governs the game, has representatives from the ATP, the various tournaments and the International Tennis Federation, which administers the Grand Slam events. Hamilton Jordan, executive director of the ATP, with the support of the players, wants the ATP to reorganize the sport, reschedule tournaments and, generally, make the rules. “Tennis would be a better game,” said McEnroe, “if players were allowed more of a foothold. The sport is not being showcased as best it could be.” On a lighter note, McEnroe had a word of caution for Agassi, the American who is the No. 4 seed here and who has charmed crowds with banter during his matches. “He’s going to have a tough time,” said McEnroe. “The other players are going to get tired of his act while they’re getting their butts kicked. They haven’t figured out what to get mad at Andre about yet, but… it’s harder to be an entertainer in the long run than to be a jerk.”
In other action yesterday, No. 2 seed Mats Wilander of Sweden beat Greg Holmes, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, in the conclusion of a rain-delayed Monday match. Another Swede, Stefan Edberg, the No. 3 seed, breezed past Libor Pimek of Czechoslovakia, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, and West Germany’s Boris Becker, the No. 5 seed, knocked off Todd Nelson, 6-3, 6-0, 7-6(5). Michael Chang, who last year became the youngest male, at 15 years six months, to win an Open match, defeated Luiz Mattar 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. His record still stands because Tommy Ho, who turned 15 in June, lost his opening-round match to Johan Kriek 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(5). Ivan Lendl, the three-time defending champion, closed the night with an 11th-hour, five-set victory over Amos Mansdorf on the same court. Lendl crushed Mansdorf 6-0 in the final set, after a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-1, 5-7 deadlock that kept the fans in suspense for nearly four hours. ‘‘The first match at the Open, especially at night, against someone who can play, is always difficult,” Lendl said. ”But I wasn’t worried. I knew the longer it goes, the better my chances were. I practice with Amos and I know how long he can go. He’s a good player, but he needs to get fitter.” Mansdorf nearly achieved the biggest, early-round Open upset since Andrew Pattison stunned defending champion Ilie Nastase in the second round in 1973. ”It’s not enough to play well and have a good score,” said Mansdorf, who is ranked No. 24 in the world. ”The game is about winning and losing. I might as well have lost in three sets and saved everybody some time.” An unknown American teenager, 17-year-old Pete Sampras  made his Grand Slam debut losing in a tight five-setter to  Jaime Yzaga 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 4-6, 5-7, 2-6. Six years later, Sampras will lose to Yzaga again in N.Y. in a 5-set match, but this time as the best player in the world. His first Grand Slam match played also one year older than Sampras, Jim Courier , a victor over Horst Skoff 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.
Second round: Bill Halls
Mark Woodforde, a red-headed Australian with a steady southpaw game, came from behind Thursday night to defeat four-time U.S. Open champion John McEnroe in a second round match Thursday night. Woodforde, 22, who reached the Open quarterfinals a year ago when he upset Tim Mayotte, lost two of the first three sets but rallied to upend McEnroe 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1. It was McEnroe’s first loss of a five-set match in the U.S. Open. He had a 9-0 record in five-setters going into the match. Woodforde, who defeated McEnroe in the Canadian Open two weeks ago (6-2 2-6 6-2), broke McEnroe in the first game of the fourth set and served out the set. He broke the fiesty New Yorker again in the first game of the fifth set and sealed the victory with another service break in the fifth game. McEnroe, whose play has been erratic since he took six months off the tour two years ago and has played only sporadically this year (6 tournaments in 1988 before the US Open), continued his inconsistent play. His play lacked the old fire and he played numerous loose shots. Sweden’s Mats Wilander, the No. 2 men’s seed and Australian Open and French Open champion, needed three hours and 26 minutes to win his second round match with Kevin Curren, a South African native who now is an American citizen. “Against guys that are lower ranked or aren’t as good as yourself, it comes down to who plays more steady,” said Wilander, who won 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. “I think it takes a lot of percentage play and I think I return serve and hit a lot of volleys well and, once in awhile, go for the huge shot.” Curren said it is difficult to beat Wilander because of the Swede’s intense concentration, physical strength and stamina. “He just outlasts people,” said Curren, who approached the net more than 200 times in an aggressive serve and volley effort. Darren Cahill  behaves like the old-line Aussies. He’s not one to rub an opponent’s nose in it, even if he feels like it, which he did Thursday. Cahill quietly shook Boris Becker‘s  right hand Thursday afternoon after upsetting the fifth-seeded West German in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the U.S. Open. It was Cahill’s biggest career victory and earned a measure of revenge against the two-time Wimbledon champ, who was hobbled by painful sore feet. But you wouldn’t know it. Cahill showed more emotion when he won his first pro tournament at the New Haven Pilot Pen last year and immediately called home to tell the folks. Becker was hurting and he showed it. He had a blister on the ball of his left foot and his vaunted serve was broken six times. Becker also had problems with nerves in the heel of his right foot. “Once you cannot step on your feet, you should not be out here,” Becker said. “In the first set I almost said, `That’s it.’ Then I remembered (Jimmy) Connors’ comeback at Wimbledon. I was hoping.” (I assume Becker thought about Connors’ comeback at Wimbledon ’87 against Mikael Pernfors) To be perfectly frank, Becker was awful. “Cahill has merit, but I’ve never seen Becker playing worse than today,” said Ion Tiriac, the former Romanian touring pro who is now his manager. “It would have been Jones. It could have been Smith. It could have been anyone.” Cahill didn’t feel the victory was tarnished by Boris’ sore feet. “I’m very happy I beat him in straight sets,” said Cahill, who comes from Adelaide, South Australia. “I beat him very easily. With the injury he had, he gave the impression he was 50-50, trying half the time. To me he was always dangerous.” Jimmy Connors turned 36 Friday and, as usual, celebrated with a victory in the U.S. Open tennis championships, dispatching 21-year-old Gilad Bloom of Israel 6-0, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to move into the third round. “I don’t have time to look back as long as I’m still in the tournament,” he said after winning his 86th career match in the tournament, an ongoing record. “I’ve played here the last 19 years on my birthday. That’s good. As long as it’s my birthday and I’m still playing, it means that I’m still in the tournament. I don’t look back. I’ll have time to do that when I’m not playing anymore. Right now it’s still fun to go out there playing.” While most of the top seeded players advanced, there were some notable upsets. Jason Stoltenberg, an 18-year-old amateur from Australia, advanced when No. 7 seed Yannick Noah of France withdrew in the third set. Stoltenberg led 6-2, 6-7 (9), 5-1 at the time. Noah, suffering from chronic tendinitis in both knees, a condition that has severely limited his play this year, said he could no longer run. 18-year-old Andre Agassi, who showed why he is a rising star by beating Rick Leach 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. And another rising U.S. star, 16-year-old Michael Chang, gave Americans even more hope for the future by upsetting 13th seed Jonas Svensson 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 in a second-round battle which lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes.
Third round: Gary Pomerantz
The Grandstand Court at the U.S. Open on Saturday continued its history of swallowing up seeded players. Players always have hated being there because of the proximity of the crowd, the shadows and… because it swallows up seeded players. It claimed a couple more Saturday, as 10th seed Henri Leconte was knocked out by John Frawley, yet another unseeded Australian, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Emilio Sanchez, who’s made his living during his career on clay, ate up the eighth seed, Miloslav Mecir, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-1. Aaron Krickstein bounced No. 14 Andres Gomez 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. ”This is probably the happiest moment in my life,” said Frawley, who has rocketed from No. 249 in the world in 1986 to 45. ”Leconte is a great player, and to beat him at the U.S. Open. Everyone is playing their best in a (Grand Slam event), and beating him here is bigger than beating him on a regular circuit series.” Second-seeded Mats Wilander had little trouble with Mikael Pernfors, 6-4, 6-0, 7-5. The Swedes will meet in the US Open again (second round) five years later to create a record of the latest finished match in New York. To get to the semifinals, Wilander just has to beat Mark Woodforde and either Sanchez or Frawley. It looks more and more like an all-Swedish semifinal, with Wilander playing third seed Stefan Edberg down the line. Edberg was to play Johan Carlsson on Saturday night. ”We all see that Ivan (Lendl) is not playing as well,’‘ Wilander said. ”That makes you more confident. We all know that when he was playing well, he was very hard to beat on this surface (hard court). At this stage he’s not playing as well. Maybe by the end of the tournament.” It was a good day for umbrellas but not lobs and volleys at the U.S. Open tennis championships Sunday as rain washed out third- and fourth-round matches. Few spectators ventured to the U.S. National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadow. And all of Sunday’s ticket holders will have to wait a year for a rain check. U.S. Tennis Association officials said tickets for Sunday could be exchanged for any of the first nine days next year. Torrential rains, not seeded players, fell all afternoon Sunday, postponing the 32 scheduled third-round matches at the U.S. Open. During a fully packed schedule Monday, when top seeds Ivan Lendl and Steffi Graf meet largely unheralded opponents, young Aaron Krickstein will have an opportunity to prove his game has come full cycle, back to certifiable stardom. Krickstein, who upset No. 14 seed Andres Gomez of Ecuador in four sets Saturday, will play No. 3 Stefan Edberg on Monday evening on the Louis Armstrong Stadium court. Edberg and a fellow Swede, No. 2 Mats Wilander, are considered the players most likely to dethrone Lendl, the three-time defending champion. Krickstein is from Michigan, and the crowd on the grandstand court was on his side throughout his victory Saturday. “I knew that was going to happen,” Gomez said after his loss. “He’s like the only American left in the bottom half of the draw. I expected them to be rooting for him. Aaron plays well at the Open. I think he might have a good chance against Edberg.” Krickstein has emerged from the shadows. It was back at the 1983 U.S. Open when Krickstein, then 16, first exploded onto the tennis scene, defeating both Edberg and Vitas Gerulaitis. Krickstein is a vaunted baseliner who rose to No. 7 in the world in mid-1985, then suffered a series of injuries. He had fallen to No. 61 at the end of last year. He split from coach Nick Bollettieri during his troubled times. “I haven’t come all the way back,” said Krickstein, 21. “If I can improve some areas of my game that are still weak and stay healthy, I may get back up there. I can definitely be a top 20 player, but if I don’t improve in those areas, it will be tough to break into the top 10.”… He is the No. 1 player in the world and has been in the final of six consecutive Opens. He has won the last three, looking invincible at times. Ivan Lendl is so comfortable here that he gives the impression that playing in the Open is just running an errand, like going to the store for milk and bread. Lendl was on and off the stadium court before many of the fans had come through the gates Monday, defeating Scott Davis, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. That led to the inevitable question about his plans for the afternoon, which usually include a round of golf. “I will go home and have lunch first,” Lendl said. “I`m not very good at golf on an empty stomach.” Michael Chang of Placentia, 16, became the youngest male to reach the round of 16 since Krickstein in 1983 when he knocked off Tim Wilkison, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. In the first two sets of Chang’s match, Wilkison befuddled him with a powerful serve-and-volley game. Chang’s passing shots were ineffective and Wilkison seemed on his way to an easy victory. But as the match wore on, Chang started serving better. And as he began to win some easy points on serve, his passing shots and lobs also became more accurate, pinning Wilkison to the baseline. “In the juniors, my passing shots were what I relied on,” Chang said. ‘‘I wanted people to come to the net. When that was failing me, I almost cracked. I almost felt like giving up. I had lost hope. I don’t know what turned things around for me, but this makes me feel good.” Chang, who needed five sets to knock off No. 13 seed Jonas Svensson on Saturday, sat calmly through a 34-minute rain delay Monday, holding a 4:3, fifth-set lead. “I just thought about keeping my head in the match and not getting distracted,” Chang said. “I just couldn’t let that bother me.” Inside the stadium, top-seeded Ivan Lendl played to a sparse crowd. In the grandstand, Jimmy Connors drew standing room only. In a strange bit of scheduling on Monday, Connors, perhaps the biggest draw at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, faced Pieter Aldrich of South Africa in the 6,000-seat grandstand. Connors, a five-time Open champion and, at 36, the oldest player in the tournament, didn’t care. But the thousands of fans who were shut out of seeing the No. 6 seed because they couldn’t squeeze into the smaller arena, were upset. When several doors leading to the court were closed and security guards refused any more entry to the grandstand, dozens of fans complained. Some even shouted obscenities at the guards, with one fan complaining, ”I paid $100 to see Connors and Graf and now you tell me I can’t. This is bull.’‘ Connors has played in the grandstand before, usually in the first or second round. ”I’m ready… anyplace,” Connors said after his 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory. ”It’s actually much different from the other court. It’s a little smaller, which I don’t mind; it’s a little more difficult to see, a little bit softer court. Shadows come across the court, it’s a little different on the stadium side, you’re not looking into a high fence, you’re looking into people. But the court is fine. I like the closeness of the people a lot. It’s just a different feel.”
Fourth round: Bill Halls
Aaron Krickstein, who gained fame here as a teen-ager in 1983, upset third-seeded Stefan Edberg on Monday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Krickstein downed the Wimbledon champion, 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-5, in a 3-hour, 52-minute match at the National Tennis Center. Krickstein’s victory brought back memories of his performance here as a 16-year-old, when he beat Edberg in a five-set match and made it to the fourth round before losing to Yannick Noah. “If I get into a fifth set, I feel I can win it,” said the Grosse Pointe resident, who is ranked 20th in the world. “I’m unbeaten (6-0) at the Open in five-setters. It was a tight match, back and forth, and I love when it gets down to that.” The turning point was the second-set tiebreaker, which Krickstein won to even the match. After falling behind 3:0, Edberg won three straight points. But Krickstein hit three winners to go ahead, 6:3, and, after Edberg won the next point, the 22-year-old Swede hit a long return to end the set. After losing another tiebreaker in the third set, Edberg broke Krickstein in the final game of the 4th set to even the match. Each player broke twice in the final set as they battled to 5-all (Krickstein led 3:1*, later on Edberg squandered three mini-match points at 4:3). Krickstein broke for a 5:4 lead, and again to go up 6:5, then closed out the victory with a love service game that ended with a winning backhand volley. “The conditions were bad and I never adjusted,” Edberg said. “I could not do the things I do best – serve and volley.” Edberg had reached the Open semifinals the past two years, while Krickstein’s previous best showings were fourth-round finishes in 1983 and 1986. Jimmy Connors, who has been in the game of tennis longer than yellow balls and oversized racquets, will play in what might turn out to be a changing of the guard match in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Championships sometime on Thursday. Connors, who crisply dispatched Mexico’s Jorge Lozano 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals, will play the survivor of a match between two teenagers considered to be the future hope of U.S. tennis. No. 4 seed Andre Agassi of Las Vegas, the hottest player on the tour with 22 straight victories, was scheduled to play Michael Chang of Placentia, Calif., Tuesday night. Meanwhile, No. 1 seed Ivan Lendl and Derrick Rostagno, a relative unknown from Brentwood, Calif., also advanced the the men’s quarterfinals Tuesday. Lendl defeated Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 and Rostagno eliminated Ronald Agenor of Haiti 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. The 18-year-old Agassi was born the year (1970) Connors played in his first Open. Chang is only 16. Agassi has admired Connors ever since he had a chance to hit with him as a 4-year-old. “There is a lot of talk about them both,” said Connors. “Whoever gets through is fine with me. I just want to play well.” Connors, who turned professional at age 19, is firmly opposed to youngsters who become professionals at 15, as Chang did. “I didn’t think I’d be playing at 36, but I came out (turned pro) later,” said Connors, a five-time Open champion and still ranked No. 6 in the world. “Now they are starting at 15 and burnt out at 24”. Andre Agassi methodically destroyed old junior tennis rival Michael Chang 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 Tuesday night to move into a U.S. Open quarterfinal showdown with veteran Connors in a match that could see the American tennis torch passed from one generation to another. The 18-year-old Agassi won his 22nd straight match in an hour and 49 minutes before 14,676 fans at the National Tennis Center. “It will be fun,” said Agassi, who says he always admired Connors aggressive style. “I want to play him before before he retires. Whoever dictates the most points will win. I don’t have anything to prove. If he’s going to beat me, he’s going to have to work hard.” Asked if the match might symbolize the past and future of American tennis, Agassi said it was hard to say. “I watched Jimmy Connors win all those Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles. I guess it’s sort of the new versus the used. But I know he’s still capable of a lot when he’s on the court.”
Quarterfinals: Charles Carder
Mats Wilander might paraphrase the verse in an old song about “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” with a new version about “Where Have All The Seeds Gone?” The Swede, who won Grand Slam championships in Australia and France, has now reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open without facing a seeded player. He scored a 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0, 6-4 win over Emilio Sanchez of Spain on Wednesday and meets Darren Cahill of Australia in the semis. Cahill beat Aaron Krickstein in 3 hours 11 minutes 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 in the other quarterfinal played Wednesday night. Wilander and Cahill have never played before. Wilander, in addition to the Australian and French titles, has won championships at the Lipton International at Key Biscayne, Fla., and Cincinnati while mounting a 26-1 record on hard courts. His only loss was to Jay Berger in the second round at Orlando, Fla. Actually seeds have been falling away from in front of Wilander throughout the year. “I think it has gone my way, pretty much, the whole year,” he pointed out Wednesday. “It’s good for me that the seeds, (Miloslav) Mecir and (Stefan) Edberg, are out. From the beginning at the Australian and the French, the seeds fell out and I was winning some tight matches. Sanchez in Paris he had the same chances today. It’s just been going my way, the big points have been coming my way. I guess I should be happy with that.” Wilander, the No. 2 men’s seed, turned his match around by winning a second-set tiebreaker. Sanchez had a set point at 6:5, but he made three straight groundstroke errors that allowed Wilander to even the match. [Also in Paris against Sanchez, Wilander escaped from a two-sets-to-love deficit, winning in the end 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4.] ”Winning that tiebreaker was the whole match,” said Wilander , who lost to Ivan Lendl in last year’s final. ”I still think I could have won if I lost the second set, but it never crossed my mind.” Defending champion Ivan Lendl easily advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open today, dispatching unseeded Derrick Rostagno 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in 99 minutes. The score was tied 2:2 in the first set when Lendl broke the American’s serve and completed the match by winning 16 of the last 18 games. Rostagno, from Brentwood, Calif., was playing the Czechoslovakian for the first time and could never find an effective strategy against the top seed’s powerful groundstrokes. “The ball comes quicker, for sure, than I expected on passing shots,’‘ said Rostagno, who made 32 unforced errors, compared to Lendl’s 10. “I was, perhaps, too psyched up. I was spraying the ball all over.” Lendl only ventured to the net twice in the match, while Rostagno came in 74 times. Andre Agassi, the latest teen-age wundkerkind of American tennis, proved something Thursday night that all the youngsters must prove sooner or later if they plan to make it: He beat veteran Jimmy Connors. Agassi, the No. 4 seed from Las Vegas, Nev., broke Connors in the third game of the first set and went on to post a 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-1 victory to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. “Tonight I showed myself a lot,” said the elated Agassi. “To beat someone with so much experience in this stadium pushed me to another level. I predicted to a friend of mine it would be 6-3, 6-3 6-3 because I was really psyched up for it. But he surprised me. He kept fighting. He’s one of the greatest players ever, still is.” In a sense, it was the passing of the torch from one talented generation of players to the new generation. However, Connors didn’t see it that way and said he certainly wasn’t intimidated. Connors said Agassi’ brash 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 prediction was a big mistake. “He shouldn’t have said that,” said Connors. “That was a big mistake. The beautiful thing about this game is you play again tomorrow. I’ll follow a guy to the ends of the earth to play him again. Not him (Agassi), though.” Agassi and Connors will meet at the same stage of the US Open in the following year, with the youngster as a winner again after much more demanding match.
Semifinals: Len Ziehm
Ivan Lendl wouldn’t mind having Andre Agassi‘s fans today in the men’s final of the U.S. Open. But that’s all. Lendl brushed aside the United States’ new No. 1 player in Saturday’s semifinals and came away without much respect for the 18-year-old’s talent or behavior. Agassi grunted too loudly and attempted impossible shots, Lendl said. “I didn’t know what was going on,” Lendl said. “It almost looked like he was giving sets away. But I didn’t come to beat Agassi. I came to win the tournament.” Sweden’s Mats Wilander, the tourney’s No. 2 seed and winner of two of this year’s previous Grand Slam events – the Australian and French opens – will try to keep Lendl from winning the U.S. title for the fourth straight time. Only Bill Tilden has won four in a row. Lendl, born and raised in Czechoslovakia but living in Greenwich, Conn., also needs a victory to preserve another streak. This is the first year since 1983 he has failed to win a Grand Slam title, and today is his last chance. Wilander dispatched Darren Cahill, an unseeded Australian, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, to earn a repeat shot at Lendl for the U.S. crown. Their match will likely also decide who is the world’s No. 1 player. The computer rankings have given Lendl that acclaim since Sept. 9, 1985, and he needs to hang on until Oct. 3 to beat Jimmy Connors’ longevity record at the top of the sport… Agassi didn’t present much competition for Lendl, who won 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours, 32 minutes. But he did present an irritation. Three games into the match, Lendl protested the volume of Agassi’s grunts. Umpire Richard Ings called Agassi over, but Agassi “didn’t know” what was said. “I wasn’t going to yell and scream,” Agassi said. “I thought it was ridiculous for him to approach me with something like that.” Lendl said. “When he goes for a big shot, his grunt gets louder. If you don’t have a play, I have no problem with it. But if you have a play, I do. I don’t think he does it on purpose, but I also don’t think he realizes how distracting it is. People don’t realize how much tennis players rely on the sound of the ball.” Connors, who lost to Agassi in three sets in the quarterfinals, is the game’s champion grunter. “Connors is different,” Lendl said. “He always grunts at the same pace.” The sound of the crowd also could have been a factor. It was very much on his side. “I would have been crazy to expect anything else,” Lendl said. “I would have felt more pressure if they were supporting me.” That may happen today, with a resident non-American providing the opposition. Wilander and Lendl are neighbors in Connecticut. “It depends on how much they don’t like me for beating Andre,” Lendl said. Agassi won six tournaments this year and became the youngest American to rank in the world’s top five. His climb has materialized despite only two victories over players ranked in the top 10 in the last two years. “I don’t know what to think about his game,” Lendl said. “If he was sick or something, that’s one thing. If he’s not, the way he played the second and third sets was disappointing.” Said Agassi: “I was psyched. I just lost an early break, and that hurts when you play the guy. He just gets on that confidence roll. Once he gets up on you, he’s hard to stop.” Agassi hedged on picking a winner for today’s match. “Mats is definitely playing better,” he said. “As tough as Mats is mentally, Ivan is definitely going to have to perform.” Agassi lost his first match after 23-match winning streak (27 including an exhibition tournament in Jericho, held a week before the Open). The 4th set went on serve until the 10th game, Agassi led 40/0 but lost five consecutive points.
Final: Bill Halls
Mats Wilander, switching from his traditional baseline game to a chip and charge style, dethroned three-time U.S. Open Tennis Champion Ivan Lendl Sunday in a five-set marathon that lasted a tournament record 4:55 minutes. Wilander won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, for his first U.S. open title. The length of the match surpassed the 1987 final between the same two players. It lasted 4:47 minutes and was won by Lendl in four sets. “It’s the biggest victory I ever had,” said Wilander. “Bigger than my first Paris (French Open) title. It meant so much. A Swede has never won this tournament. I’m going to be No.1 now. It’s definitely the biggest match I have ever played.” The U.S. Open triumph gave the 24-year-old Wilander three of the four Grand Slam Championships this year and the Swedes a mini-slam of their own. Wilander won the Australia and French opens and countryman Stefan Edberg won Wimbledon. The last time a male player won three of the four tournaments was 1974, when American Jimmy Connors won all but the French Open. He was barred from playing in France because he had played World Team Tennis that year. Lendl, who will now miss Connors’ record of being ranked the world’s No. 1 player for 159 straight weeks was obviously disappointed but not disheartened. When the new rankings come out Monday Wilander should be No. 1. “My passing shot let me down,” said Lendl, who netted a backhand service return on match point. “I had so many chances in the first two sets but the bottom line is I didn’t make the big points. It’s been a tough year for me. But I’m not going home and cry over split milk or I’ll never achieve anything. I’ll take a fresh approach and get ready for the Australian Open.” Lendl won only two tournaments this year. He was bothered by injuries all season but said he felt healthy going into the open two weeks ago. “Mats had not won anything for two years and everyone said I was the dominant player,” said Lendl. “He comes back this year and win three slams. “He was more aggressive at certain times,” said Lendl of Wilander ‘s game plan. “But it’s easy for him to come in (to net) when he saw I wasn’t making my passing shots.” Trailing two to one, Lendl won the fourth set 7-5 when he broke Wilander with a forehand volley in the 12th game. In the final set, Lendl survived the first match point with a blistering backhand winner down the line and had two break points on Wilander before the Swede steadied himself to win the title. Lendl hit a backhand wide and then netted a backhand service return on match point. Wilander was coming to the net behind the serve. Wilander approached the net an uncharacteristic 131 times in the match and won 76 points (58 %). “Nobody beats me seven times in a row,” said Wilander, who had lost six straight to Lendl. “I just wanted to chip his first serve back and that worked pretty well. Then I would follow my own second serve to the net. I wasn’t always really sure when to come in but I wanted to mix it up a little bit. Last year I just stayed at the baseline and he would beat me with winners. I decided I’d rather take a chance getting passed than standing on the baseline. After I blew that second set (He led 4:1), I felt kind of hopeless. At the end I just tried to get myself together for one more set.” Lendl committed 83 unforced errors in the match and made good on only 43 percent of his first serves. “When he gets his fist serve in he usually wins the point,” said Wilander, who has won three French and three Australian opens to give him seven grand slam titles (31 in total at the time). Wilander, who made 86 percent of his first serves, broke Lendl in 10th game of the first set to win 6-4. Lendl netted a backhand for the second set point opportunity for Wilander and then hit a backhand long. After blowing a 4:1 lead in the second set, Wilander seemed to become unnerved when chair umpire Jay Snyder issued a warning to the Swede for not serving within the 30-second time limit. Lendl had already broken Wilander in the fifth game to get back on serve. The time violation occurred in the seventh game when Lendl broke Wilander again and went on to win the set 6-4. Wilander broke Lendl twice in the third set to win easily and take a two sets to one lead. That set the stage for Lendl’s belated comeback and the dramatic conclusion of the match. Stats of the final
# In the picture above the US Open ’88 finalists, Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl, 24 years later at the US Open ’12, along with Boris Becker (in the middle).