1990 – 1991, US Open

U.S. Open, New York
August 27, 1990; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $2,554,250; Surface – Hard

Pete Sampras becomes the youngest US Open champion in history overcoming a finalist of the previous eight editions (Ivan Lendl), a 4-time champion (John McEnroe) and the biggest young star at the time (Andre Agassi) in back-to-back matches!
All scorelines
First round: Kelly Carter

Jimmy Connors suffered leg cramps Saturday, and was forced to retire from a match in the WCT Tournament of Champions (exhibition), jeopardizing his participation in the U.S. Open, which begins Monday, in New York. Connors and Ivan Lendl had just begun the third set in their quarterfinal. With Connors serving, the left-hander, who will be 38 Sept. 2, ended a long point in the second game by sprinting to the net and lifting a winning forehand down the line. He continued to the umpire’s chair and told umpire Kim Craven he was retiring from the match. He immediately went to the clubhouse at the West Side Tennis Club to have his leg examined. “His left calf was cramping and he was exhausted,” a tournament spokesman said. “And he was beginning to cramp elsewhere in his body.” Connors missed the US Open for the first time in 20 years! He was supposed to play his first tournament since February, he was sidelined six months due to an injury.

Former pro Arthur Ashe believes Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras, among a wave of young players at the U.S. Open, are talented enough that one will be the first U.S. pro ranked No. 1 since John McEnroe in 1984. “Agassi could break through any minute; he could do it this year at the Open,” said Ashe, the 1968 Open champion. “Courier’s biggest asset is he’s a courier90fighter. You know he’s going to fight till the last point. What I like is that they’re all good kids, even Agassi, deep down.”  Said Courier: “We’re certainly in good position.” No. 14 Courier defeated Australia’s Wally Masur 6-4, 6-0, 5-7, 6-1 before rain wiped out much of Monday’s schedule. Courier, 20, relied mainly on power ground strokes, banging the ball from corner to corner. “He plays high-stakes tennis,” Ashe said. “He goes for a lot of low-percentage shots.” Against Masur, Courier mixed in an occasional lob. “You can’t beat everybody with power,” he said. “You have to adjust.” Courier, a three-year pro, didn’t have the quick success enjoyed by his junior compatriots, Agassi and Chang. He moved up the rankings gradually – No. 348 in 1987, No. 43 in ’88 and No. 24 in ’89. “It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there,” he said. “At least it’s been a steady move upward. I’ll get there.” His most satisfying victory was last year when he beat Stefan Edberg in the Basel, Switzerland, final. “That was my first win against a legitimate top-three player,” he said. “That was a turning point.” Chang walked into a near-empty interview room Tuesday that only moments before was filled with nosy reporters. The focus of the reporters’ attention had been John McEnroe. With the exception of six people, no one cared about Chang’s first-round victory. But then again, Chang’s 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory over a hapless Mikael Pernfors wasn’t anything to get excited about. Although he is seeded 11th, Chang is not a favorite, sentimental or otherwise, to win the prestigious hard-court event. All of which was fine with the Placentia teen-ager. No press is good press as far as he’s concerned. “It doesn’t bother me any,” said Chang. “In some ways, it’s good to sneak through without anyone noticing you. A good example is what happened to Edberg at Wimbledon ’88 or me at the French (in 1989).”  No. 12 Sampras downed Dan Goldie 6-1, 7-5, 6-1. Straight sets wins notched also Agassi dismissing Grant Connell. Fifth best American of the 90s, 20-year-old Todd Martin [300], made his Grand Slam debut losing to Jean-Philippe Fleurian 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-7(5). Just 15 days after taking over the No. 1 spot in men’s tennis, Stefan Edberg suffered a shocking loss in his first-round U.S. Open match. Soviet Alexander Volkov, ranked No. 52 in the world, brought down Edberg, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-2, on the Stadium court of the National Tennis Center on Tuesday. Still, Edberg will remain No. 1 when rankings come out Sept. 10. Because of the complicated computer system, No. 2 Boris Becker and No. 3 Ivan Lendl can’t surpass him. The first-round upset of the No. 1 seed at the Open – for the first time since 1971, when John Newcombe lost to Jan Kodes in four sets, and the sixth time in 110 years – made everything else in Day 2 minuscule. John McEnroe, 31 and unseeded in the Open for the first time in 12 years, took 2 hours, 41 minutes to secure a 7-6(8), 7-6(3), 6-4 crowd-pleasing victory over Spaniard Javier Sanchez at Louis Armstrong Stadium. It has been a helter-skelter year for Edberg in Grand Slams. After advancing to the Australian Open final, he pulled out during play against Lendl because of a pulled stomach muscle. In the first round of the French, Edberg, again the top seed, was sent on his way by Sergi Bruguera. Then, in an-about face, Edberg defeated Becker in five sets for his second Wimbledon title. “I didn’t play a very good match (Tuesday),” said Edberg, whose best Open showing was in 1986 and ’87, when he advanced to the semifinals. “I didn’t feel very comfortable. I was struggling out there to find my game, the usual way I play.” He won 24 of 25 matches after the French Open, the loss coming to Becker in the semifinals at Queen’s Club, a Wimbledon tuneup. He brought a career-high 21-match winning streak into the Open and was unequivocally the hottest male player. Until, that is, he met Volkov, a 6’2, 23-year-old from Moscow who never has won a professional tournament and certainly didn’t expect to beat Edberg. “He’s No. 1” Volkov said. “He’s played so many tough matches. He was so many times down, and then he won.” So pessimistic was Volkov, who plays on his country’s Davis Cup team and was a member of the 1988 Olympic team, that he had planned to leave immediately after the match to play in Berlin. Volkov grew up in Kalinigrad, a small town on the Baltic Sea with a population of about 400,000. He started playing when he was 10 but wasn’t afforded such luxuries as new rackets and balls, things Americans take for granted. The popularity of tennis is growing in his country, and after his victory over Edberg, it’s likely to move up another notch. Prior to Tuesday, Volkov and Edberg had met only once, with the Swede winning, 6-2, 6-4, last year. Volkov had watched Edberg’s topspin serve on television many times and knew what he had to do to counter it. Volkov broke Edberg for 5:3 in the first set before serving out the set. Edberg double-faulted to fall behind two games to love but still came back to lead, 6:5. On set point on Volkov’s serve, the Russian nailed a backhand down the line to get it back to deuce, and a couple of more winners down the line helped him go up, 2-0. Still, Edberg said he didn’t think he was in serious trouble. He was waiting for Volkov to fall apart, as he did last year in the third round of the Open. Volkov had jumped to a two sets-to-love lead against then-No. 14 Aaron Krickstein, but lost in five sets. “I thought that might happen,” Edberg said. Instead, it was Edberg, winner of four Grand Slam tournaments, who continued to fall apart. For Edberg, it marked the third time in his career that he had lost in the first round of a Grand Slam. He also lost at the U.S. Open in 1983 to Krickstein. After a first-round bye in the 1983 Australian Open, he lost to Jeff Borowiak in four sets. His first-round loss at the French was a little easier to take than this. Mikhail Gorbachev will always have Alexander Volkov’s vote. “It’s much freer, it’s because Mr. Gorbachev came,” said Volkov. “I can volkovplay anywhere I want to, with someone along or on my own. I can keep all my prize money, I just have to pay taxes. Gorbachev came and everything became more open.” Tomas Muster, suspended for 10 weeks and fined $20,000 by the ATP Tour, plans to appeal the penalty within 10 days. “We do not feel that it was a fair suspension,” Ronald Leitgeb, agent for the Austrian player, said Tuesday. “The investigations were not done very properly.” Muster, ranked sixth in the world, was hit with the penalties by the tour on Sunday. The ATP Tour sanctions the men’s circuit except the four Grand Slam tournaments. On Monday, Thomas Muster advanced to the second round of the U.S Open after Aki Rahunen retired with the score at 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 3-0. Before the ATP penalties, Muster had been fined $5,000 during the Czechoslovakian Open in Prague. The ATP Tour said its action was taken against Muster for violating the “best efforts and unsportsmanlike conduct.” Prior to his first match in Prague, the top-seeded Muster told several people that because of an injury he would only play one or two games before defaulting. He lost the first game, then retired. Leitgeb said that Muster suffered a muscle injury in his left hip during a tournament in Kitzbuehel, the week before Prague. Muster retired in the third set of his first match against West Germany’s Eric Jelen. The longest day session in U.S. Open history, 13 hours of tennis and thunderstorms, ended early Tuesday morning with Brad Gilbert outlasting 1988 champion Mats Wilander in a four-set thriller. Only a few hundred stalwart, sometimes yawning fans remained from the record crowd of 21,863 when the eighth-seeded Gilbert won the final point of opening day to beat Wilander 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in just over three hours at 12:11 a.m. Wilander, who has dropped to No. 59 in the rankings in a year of frustration on the courts, was unseeded. His loss was his earliest ever in nine years at the Open. Gilbert, knocked out in the first round last year, came back from 2:5 down in the fourth set, fought off two set points and completed a string of five straight games to take the match. Neither rain nor a crafty foe from Spain could stop Boris Becker as he and fellow defending champion Steffi Graf began with victories on a day of weird weather and strange silence. The rumbling of jets was only a memory Monday as players and fans enjoyed blissful quiet thanks to a new arrangement to change the takeoff routes from nearby LaGuardia Airport. Becker, who had been scheduled to play during the day, didn’t finish his two-hour match with Juan Aguilera until late in the evening after waiting out a series of thunderstorms that caused three suspensions of play. After the hard court in the stadium was mopped and wiped dry, Becker attacked the net aggressively and served well to score a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 win against Aguilera, who beat Becker on clay in Hamburg last May. “It was difficult after the long rain delay,” Becker said. “It was very humid and that made (the court) slower. The balls got much bigger (because of the moisture). It was difficult at the beginning to adjust. I thought I better get going or I’d be down one set. I was not very happy to be down 5:3.” Now the French Open champion is gone, too. A day after Wimbledon champion Edberg – the world’s top-ranked player – was upset in the first round at the U.S. Open, Andres Gomez, the French Open champion, was eliminated today by Brazil’s Luiz Mattar. Mattar beat the fifth-seeded Gomez, ranked fifth in the world, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. “I wasn’t prepared for this tournament,” Gomez said. “You might be poorly prepared like I was, or you might be greatly prepared like Edberg.” In June, Gomez won his first Grand Slam title in Paris, but a few weeks later he was a first-round loser at Wimbledon. It was the first time since the Open era began in 1968 that two reigning Grand Slam champions lost in the first round of the U.S. Open. 

Second round: Robin Finn

Yannick Noah left the stadium court at the United States Open Thursday with his head bowed, a meek position he has been assuming on a weekly basis this year not because he has become a devout churchgoer, but because he has become a dependable loser. At 30, Noah still cuts a dashing figure from across the net. Even his second-round opponent, the defending Open champion, Boris Becker, avowed that he can shut his eyes and find he’s still unable to erase the stylish image that Noah, with his lush dreadlocks and sculptured limbs, has embedded there. But lately, Noah’s substance has not kept pace with his style. And the golden hoop that sparkled from his left ear lobe becker_noah_uo90seemed appropriate. Not because it lent him extra flair, but because it conjured a gypsy image woefully in keeping with the nomadic life style Noah’s lack of success has forced upon him. “I’m living one week after the other right now,” said Noah, who tends to be living them in a rapidly changing pastiche of locales because of his inability to remain solvent beyond two rounds in 14 of the 17 events on his calendar this year. Noah shrugged into and out of retirement like a discarded garment last year, but Thursday, after Becker becalmed his attempts to flare up in the course of a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(2) defeat, his 16th in 31 matches, the Frenchman again appeared on the verge of recoiling from his tennis career. “I’m interested in other things besides tennis, like my kids,” said Noah, whose son and daughter live with their mother in Paris. “And after every tournament I’m thinking, ‘OK, what’s next?'” Noah had a chance to serve for the third set at 5:3 after breaking Becker in the eighth game. But after starting the game with one of the six aces he put past Becker, his resolve crumbled and Becker earned and dominated the tie breaker. On the last point of the match, Noah, who fell behind, 4:0, stood frozen at midcourt as Becker’s crisp, backhand pass flew past him and bounced just within the sideline, a signal to Noah that once again it was time to leave town. “I didn’t expect to play that good that early,” said Becker, who was a primer in consistency – he posted no double faults – but who usually reserves such diligence for later rounds. Ivan Lendl donned his desert hat under a broiling sun and wandered in the wilderness for 40 games before becoming the only one of this year’s men’s Grand Slam champions to survive in the U.S. Open. Lendl lost his way in the second set as he struggled with errors against West German Michael Stich, but came through with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 victory Wednesday to reach the third round.  Lendl said Stich’s blazing serves and aggressive style made the match much tougher than anticipated. “He pushes and pushes, and then he sneaks in on an unusual shot,” Lendl said. “He puts a lot of pressure on you that way.” Stich captured the second set when he broke Lendl in the 12th game after blowing three set-points. Lendl fell behind 0/40 with three unforced errors, but brought the game back to deuce with crosscourt shots that had Stich racing around and gasping for breath. After the third deuce of the game, Lendl smacked an easy backhand volley into the net and went back to the baseline fuming. Stich finally took the set on an overhead that Lendl could only bounce back to the net on a half-volley. John McEnroe, bringing back the bad old days by bashing his racket against the wall and smashing a ball within inches of a lineswoman, reached the third round for the first time since 1987 by beating David Engel 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. McEnroe got only half of his first serves in, but he dealt out 11 aces and 16 service winners. He lost his temper a couple of times, drawing a warning once for cracking a sign on the court with his racket, as he fell behind 2:5 in the third set. But he managed to regain control and take the next five games with a splendid array of touch volleys, hard ground strokes and deep, angled serves. Edberg’s conqueror, Alexander Volkov, didn’t enjoy his success very long as he tumbled out in the second round against Todd Witsken, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Goran Ivanisevic, 19, beat Omar Camporese 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(3) despite playing a baseline style that seemed ill-suited to him and much different from the net-charging attack he showed while reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon. Michael Chang, who won the French Open last year at the age of 17, beat former teen-age phenomenon Jimmy Arias 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2. Aaron Krickstein, the youngest male ever to win a professional tournament when he captured one in Tel Aviv several years ago, eliminated Jason Stoltenberg, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Brad Gilbert, the No. 8 seed, also grabbed a third-round berth by defeating Rick Leach 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-2. Krickstein, 23, is trying to duplicate his feat of last year when he reached the semifinals at the National Tennis Center. Krickstein, whose big forehand and strong baseline game helped him move as high as No. 7 in the world rankings, has a history of injuries. And today, he injured his right shoulder in the third set against Stoltenberg. “I am concerned,” he said. “I would be lying if I said I’m not.” The only upset of note was Gary Muller besting No. 14 Jim Courier, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(5). And even that wasn’t so surprising, since Muller, ranked No. 61, has beaten Brad Gilbert and Stefan Edberg this season, and has a massive serve that worked for 24 aces. Andre Agassi, cursing and spitting at the umpire, talked his way out of trouble and barely beat a hobbled Petr Korda in a tense and dramatic U.S. Open match on Thursday night. In the second set, Agassi was given a warning and a point penalty, which was rescinded moments later after the umpire conferred with agassi_uo90the tournament referee. Agassi went on to a 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Korda, who turned his ankle in the eighth game of the fourth set but refused to quit. Korda received treatment for his ankle, then came back and won the next point with a backhand crosscourt while limping badly. Agassi served an ace to win the game and take a 5:3 lead, but again Korda grimaced and held on. Korda held serve, limping continually, but couldn’t stop Agassi’s service for the match. Agassi’s encounter with Wayne McKewen occurred as Korda served in the 11th game of the second set. McKewen overruled a line call at deuce, giving Korda game point. Agassi then drew a warning for audible obscenity directed at McKewen. Korda went on to hold serve, and on the changeover Agassi spit, apparently at McKewen. The umpire immediately gave Agassi a point penalty and called for tournament referee Keith Johnson and Grand Slam supervisor Ken Farrar. Farrar and Johnson told McKewen to rescind the penalty, because “he may have misread” the gesture. But McKewen misunderstood and assessed it anyway, which meant that Agassi would be another violation from disqualification. Agassi erupted, Farrar and Johnson returned, and finally it was settled with no penalty. McKewen rolled his eyes, and the match continued. Later, Agassi denied he used obscenities, but admitted that some of his saliva hit McKewen. “I didn’t swear,” he said. “I spit, but not at him. Obviously some of it hit him, but it wasn’t intentional.” Agassi also said he apologized to McKewen afterward. “I got carried away with the fact that there were a few bad line calls,” he said. “I think there are a lot more positive things to talk about. I yelled out in anger and he saw it as abusive language. He thought I swore, which I didn’t. Then I lost my temper.” No. 12 Pete Sampras beat Sweden’s Peter Lundgren 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Goodbye Sweden when Johan Carlsson lost to Jay Berger on Thursday night. This is the first time since 1974 that there hasn’t been at least one Swede in the third round. Bjorn Borg was the first Swede to reach the third round in the Open era in 1973, but lost in the second round of the 1974 Open. 

Third round: Charles Carder

Ivan Lendl, a grizzled veteran and winner of eight Grand Slam titles, said Friday that it takes experience to withstand the pressure of the U.S. Open, and that is why he’s breezing through the draw right now. ”Many times, you win not only because of the stroke play but because of your experience,” said Lendl, a 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-2 third-round winner over Alex Antonitsch. ”Especially in lendl_uo90the Grand Slams, it’s hard to play best-of-five (sets),” he said. ”You get into the five-set match, you need to know how to pace yourself, or you have to be in incredible shape to play all five sets at the same level. It takes a while to do that for the younger players.” Lendl, who learned his game with an archaic wooden racket, said many younger players today are sacrificing control with the bigger, wide-body rackets that they use. ”All the lousy bounces you get don’t bother you because the sweet spot is bigger and you have more power,’‘ Lendl said. He thinks the prospects are excellent for the United States to be the dominant nation of men’s tennis in the next few years. “There is a lot of talent in men’s tennis in the U.S. right now. It’s just a question of one or two of them shooting up to make it one, two, three in the world. That’s the last step. The most difficult step. A lot of players have been in the top 10. A lot of players have gotten up to No. 4. Only a few have gotten higher than that.” No less an authority than Arthur Ashe thinks Pete Sampras is the best prospect of the group. He singled out Sampras because he had the determination to put down his two-fisted backhand a couple of years ago. Sampras made a believer out of Jakob Hlasek on Friday when he whipped the Czechoslovakian player 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. “He has the game to win it, win it all,” Hlasek said :) “It is tough to play him because you don’t know what is coming. It is very hard to see what he is doing, I had no clue what to do. I had no timing at all.” Sampras, obviously pleased by the compliment, asked for a few more years of preparation. “Maybe in a couple of years but I don’t think that it’s realistic right now. I think I have the game, it’s just a matter of putting it all together at one time and keeping my concentration at a high level. I can do it in a couple of years but it’s tough, for the way that I play, to win a Grand Slam at age 19.” Sampras’ next opponent, No. 6 Thomas Muster of Austria needed a fifth-set tiebreaker to beat Jaime Yzaga of Peru, 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 5-7, 7-6(3), and advance into the fourth round. ”I just wasn’t playing as perfectly as in the first two sets, so he came back into the game,” Muster said. ”Unfortunately, he was playing very good backhand slices to my forehand.” They cheered his volleys. They cheered his forehands. Sometimes they even cheered his opponent’s errors. Friday night, John McEnroe could do little wrong in the eyes of New Yorkers. They wanted to see him move on to the fourth round. The capacity Stadium Court crowd of 19,233 did not go home disappointed. McEnroe, a New York resident, put away 10th-ranked Andrei Chesnokov, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, to advance. “It’s easy to play at home,” said McEnroe, who recently moved from Malibu to New York. “It helps you get the juices flowing when the crowd is behind you. I think they’re happy to see me because they know it could be their last opportunity to see me play.” The crowds will get a chance to see McEnroe again on Sunday. McEnroe, who is unseeded for the first time in 12 years, will play seventh-seeded Emilio Sanchez in the fourth round. “I won’t be getting any free points against Sanchez,” McEnroe said. “He doesn’t pass as well as Andrei does. I’ll have to pick up my game a little more, then I’ll be in good shape.” The crowd booed lustily on each feeble stroke, each half-hearted volley. But Goran Ivanisevic was oblivious. He proceeded to “tank” several of the remaining games during his 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-0 loss to Darren Cahill Saturday in the third round of the U.S. Open. Afterward, Ivanisevic not only admitted to voluntarily relinquishing the match, he offered an explanation: “In the fifth set, he broke me in the first game and then I went crazy,” began the 18-year-old Yugoslav. “It was just too much… Then I tanked two games.” Asked if he understood the meaning of “tank,” Ivanisevic replied, “I’m not trying. I just want to finish the match.” He got only four points in the decider, losing all his three service games to ‘love’. Cahill also saw it that way. “I think it was a pretty gutless effort in the fifth set, to be honest. He virtually gave me the match as soon as I won the first game of the fifth set. But he’s young. He’ll learn.” In the only upsets of the day – there were no real stunners after the Ivanisevic affair. While a packed crowd observed Chang’s defeat on the grandstand court, tournament supervisor Ken Farrar reviewed a tape of the Ivanisevic-Cahill match and summoned the youngster to his office. Farrar concluded that Ivanisevic’s statements were “misconstrued” due to the language barrier and decided against disciplinary action. “In my opinion, this was a mental letdown that led to a physical letdown in which he, consciously or unconsciously, was a beaten player,” said Farrar. Amos Mansdorf of Israel, ranked 41, knocked out No. 8 Brad Gilbert 5-7, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 in a four-hour match that wore down Gilbert until he was barely able to move in the final set. Mansdorf gave up only one point in the last three games, then spryly hopped over the net to shake the weary Gilbert’s hand. “I really got tired in the fifth,” Gilbert said. “I gave it everything I had in the fourth. His backhand passing shot was unbelievable. cherkasovHe didn’t miss a thing. I ran out of gas.”  Soviet Andrei Cherkasov, ranked 50th, had little problem taking charge at the net and knocking off the error-prone Michael Chang. Chang’s baseline game, so effective on the clay in Paris, remains ill-suited for the speed of hard courts. Cherkasov won 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, and will play Christo van Rensburg of South Africa, who beat Brazilian Luiz Mattar 6-1, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Early in the third set, Cherkasov’s legs tired and began to cramp, a problem’s he’s had before, but managed to cope with this time. “In this day and age, there are so many good players, it’s difficult to go out there and beat everybody comfortably,” the 11th-seeded Chang said. ”That’s why you see so many upsets.” Andre Agassi, the men’s fourth seed, had an easy time, without a repeat of his cursing and spitting act a few days earlier, as he advanced to the fourth round with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 victory against Franco Davin. Defending champion Boris Becker beat Tomas Carbonell, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, in a night match to set up a fourth-round match against surprising Cahill. Aaron Krickstein, No. 9, had a tough time but got by former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, 6-4, 7-6(4), 7-6(2). Krickstein will play Mansdorf in the round of 16.

Fourth round: AP

John McEnroe… unseeded and on the edge of retirement, recovered his skills and found enough energy to beat the No. 7 Emilio Sanchez of Spain, 7-6(6), 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in 4 hours 20 minutes, to reach the quarterfinals. The first four sets could have gone either way. Sanchez led 4:2 in the first-set tiebreaker, then missed an overhead. ”At 5:2 in the tiebreaker, it is very difficult to come back,” Sanchez said. ”I think I should have won it.” Beyond style and touch in his range of shots, he showed the resilience lacking in recent years as he refused to fold after mcenroe_uo90falling behind two sets to one. McEnroe kept chipping away, flicking delicate drop shots, leaping for overheads, occasionally tossing in a service winner or ace. He got out of trouble most of the time, but his breaks in the second and final games of the fourth set turned the match around. McEnroe battled through four deuces at 4-all in the 9th game of the 4th set to hold on an overhead (Sanchez had two mini-match points in that game). The crowd stood and screamed and applauded him as if he had just won the match, and for all it mattered he had. Sanchez lost the first point of his next service on a backhand volley that McEnroe sprinted to near the net, and lost the game at 30 with a backhand long after an exhausting rally in which he chased McEnroe’s shots all over the court. Sanchez shook his head in disbelief and a little anger at the final shot, complaining to the umpire that McEnroe had prematurely yelled “yeah” when he thought one of his drop shots was the set winner. Sanchez barely retrieved that ball and kept the rally going for two more shots before losing. The umpire denied Sanchez’s assertion that McEnroe had interfered with his shot. McEnroe now had the momentum and he refused to yield it. In the sixth game of the 5th set, McEnroe broke the final and most crucial time, pumping his fist after a short thrust of a killer backhand volley made it 15/40 and again when Sanchez hit a backhand in the net. “I try what has been working,” Sanchez said. “And it didn’t. Maybe I should have tried something else.” “It was great,” McEnroe said of the noise of 22.000 crowd. “That really gave me a boost.” McEnroe put the match away, giving up only a point in the final game, as Sanchez popped up a return out of bounds on the last point. Pete Sampras, one the young hopefuls in American tennis, is in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his brief career. Sampras upset No. 6 seed Thomas Muster of Austria 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round Sunday night (Sampras led 6:3 in the 1st set tie-break, in the 2nd set he was two points away from a two-set disadvantage as he was serving at 5:6, 15/30). The 19-year-old Sampras turned pro in 1988. In his next match, he’ll go up against No. 3 seed Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia, who demolished grinder Gilad Bloom 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 (Bloom in his previous match against Gary Muller, committed just two unforced errors).  McEnroe’s next opponent will be David Wheaton, who beat Kevin Curren, 7-5, 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-4. With a pair of unseeded players in the quarterfinals, it’s guaranteed that an unseeded player will be in the semifinals. It hasn’t happened since 1967 when Gene Scott and Jan Leschly made it. “They have good indoor (tennis) facilities there,” Wheaton said about Minnesota where he comes from. “I grew up playing on two (outdoor) public courts down the street.” In the summer, that is. After heading south and polishing his game at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, Wheaton won the 1987 U.S. Open juniors title. After a year at Stanford, he turned pro. Last May, the 6’3 Wheaton won his first pro tournament, the U.S. Clay Court. The field in Charleston, S.C., was not exactly overflowing with Top 10 players. In the final, Wheaton beat Mark Kaplan (now ranked No. 157). At Wimbledon, Wheaton lost in five sets (13-11 in the fifth) to Brad Gilbert in the round of 16. His third-and fourth-round Open victims were veterans Paul Annacone and Kevin Curren. “Beating Curren (in four sets) was a big win for me,” Wheaton said. “He was really playing well this tournament. I don’t think people realize that.” His first meeting with McEnroe will not be Wheaton’s first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Last January, he lost to Stefan Edberg in the Australian Open. Wheaton seems confident he will not be dazed by wheatonthe crowd affection for McEnroe that peaked with his dramatic five-set round of 16 victory over Sanchez. “I’m more concerned with how I play and how John plays than I am with the crowd,” Wheaton said. “If I play well, I stand a good chance of winning.” While Agassi, Chang and Sampras have been leading the new surge of American men, Wheaton has been lurking just behind. “I’m sort of a secondary candidate,” he said. “I’m definitely not in the Agassi-Chang media class yet, but it doesn’t affect my tennis. I’m not a news hound.” Defending champion Boris Becker survived his first challenge of the tournament with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 round of 16 victory over Australian Darren Cahill. Becker and Cahill know each other. Two years ago, Cahill swept past an injured Becker in the second round of the Open on the way to a semifinal loss to Mats Wilander. Yesterday, Cahill broke Becker’s first two service games in the fourth set, then broke again in the final game. In the last set, Cahill was ahead, 30/0 at 3-all, in the seventh game when he netted a relatively easy backhand drop shot. Cahill then lost the next three points to suffer the only service break of the set. “I played a couple of loose volleys at the wrong time (in the fifth set),” said the 48th-ranked Cahill. “And he served a lot better.” “He (Cahill) was just playing good tennis,” said Becker, who now faces the No. 9 seed, Aaron Krickstein, in a quarterfinal. “I had to find a way and I did it finally.” Becker said he found inspiration by talking to himself “(using) all the words I know in any language.” No. 4 seed Andre Agassi, conspicuously tame after his outburst last week, quietly beat 13th-seeded Jay Berger 7-5, 6-0, 6-2. Agassi was fined $3,000 for his misbehavior in his second-round match with Petr Korda.

Quarterfinals: AP, Ailene Voisin

A star was born in the U.S. Open on Wednesday. Pete Sampras, touted as one of the best young American power hitters in tennis, blasted 24 aces and 27 service winners at up to 120 mph and broke through to the top rank with a 6-4, 7-6(4), 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 victory over 3-time champion Ivan lendl_sampras_uo90Lendl. Sampras, who was battered badly by Lendl in the third and fourth sets, refused to give up in the final set. He charged back with all the youthful strength he possessed to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. The slim, slope-shouldered 19-year-old from Rancho Palos Verdes, stopped making the backhand errors that plagued him in the sets Lendl won, and poured on the heat on his serve to end Lendl’s streak of eight consecutive appearances in the finals. Lendl was tied for the record with Bill Tilden, who reached the finals every year from 1918-1925. “I don’t believe what’s happening now. It’s a dream come true,” Sampras said after the 4-hour, 5-minute match. “This is what I’ve been working for all summer. This is the reward right now.” Lendl, a physical fitness buff who is among the best 5-set players in tennis, could take some pride in helping Sampras rise to the top echelon of the game. They practiced together for 10 days at Lendl’s house at Greenwich, Conn., a couple of years ago and he gave the youngster crucial tips. “He had me biking 15 or 20 miles a day,” said Sampras, who also got some ideas on diet and match preparation. “We talked a lot and he told me how you  have to work to make it. He’s a true professional in every sense of the word. It was ironic. I was thinking about it during the match because he told me you have to train so hard that you can’t walk home. I felt just as fit as he did out there.”  In beating Lendl, Sampras displayed the kind of all-around game that has enthralled tennis watchers for several years. He has a strong, smooth forehand, a nice variety of touch volleys, drops and lobs similar to McEnroe, and a serve that has gotten harder and more accurate over the past year. It’s Sampras’ first victory over one of the top-3 ranked players is sure to boost his No. 12 ranking. It also added to his growing list of big-name victims. Last year in the Open, he beat the defending champion, Mats Wilander, and beat John McEnroe in the Canadian Open last month. McEnroe advanced Wednesday night by defeating David Wheaton 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. McEnroe, 31, played like the master of old against Wheaton, a 21-year-old giant with a blazing serve and nothing else that could match the talents of the four-time champion. McEnroe treated Wheaton as if he were a beginner, teasing him with drop-shot volleys, passing him easily, returning thundering serves with a flick of the wrist. The unseeded McEnroe, who hadn’t reached the semifinals here since he was runner-up in 1985, will next take on Sampras. McEnroe’s sweeping serve kept Wheaton off balance, sometimes reaching far out of the court, most of the night, and his brilliant passing shots and volleys intimidated the 6-foot-4 youngster. “He hit some pretty good shots at the beginning and scared me away from the net,” Wheaton said. Boris Becker looked around the National Tennis Center and saw the missing. Ivan Lendl. Stefan Edberg. Brad Gilbert. Andres Gomez. Emilio Sanchez. Andrei Chesnokov. Gone, all of them. By Thursday night, the only top-10 ranked players remaining in the U.S. Open were No. 2 Becker, who defeated Aaron Krickstein 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, and fourth-ranked Andre Agassi, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Andrei Cherkasov. Asked if Agassi has changed much since their encounter in March at Indian Wells, Calif., Becker replied, coyly, “He has a beard now, huh?” Uh-uh. Agassi, 15 pounds heavier than a year ago, shed the beard prior to his quarterfinal against Cherkasov, ranked No. 50, in favor of a two-day stubble. “I just woke up one morning and it was all over the pillow,” said Agassi. “No real reason.” Yet while he offered nary a hint about his semifinal attire – Agassi’s wardrobe has rivaled the rise of McEnroe as the hottest stories at the Open – he predicted a long, bruising match Saturday. The longer, he said, the better, and may the stronger man win. Becker? Until the midway point of the second set, he appeared more eager to join Lendl, Edberg, etc., than push toward the semifinals. He chose to stay back and exchange ground-strokes with Krickstein, but was broken in the fourth game when a pair of forehands landed well beyond the baseline. Becker broke back, but again failed to hold serve, this time double-faulting on the final point. Finally, after another errant forehand cost him his service game to open the second set, Becker had one of his person-to-person conversations. “I thought to myself, ‘Now, I have to start to play. I have to try and fight,’ and that’s what I did,” explained the West German. “I try, I keep my mind, and the other other guy knows it.” Becker openly cultivates his reputation as one of the game’s superior big-point, big-game competitors. Krickstein admitted that after losing the ensuing six games, he began to remember when: He lost to Becker in the Davis Cup in 1985, in the Canadian Open in 1986, in Wimbledon in 1989, and in the becker_uo90Open semifinals last year (Becker beat also Noah in New York in 1989 & 1990). Entering Thursday’s match, Krickstein had never taken a set from Becker, much less a match. “I guess that [winning the first set] was progress,” said the 23-year-old from Grosse Point, Mich., “or at least it’s a start. But I really thought I had a chance because he wasn’t playing so well early. I didn’t capitalize, and then he started playing better.” Becker, who won his first Open championship last year, began to hit thunderous serves, drive his shots deeper and approach the net at every glimmer of an opening. He began to play like, well, Becker. “He was playing all the time deep, so I had to wait a lot of time to come in,” said Becker. “but at the end, he had no energy anymore. His legs were tired a little bit, I think. He couldn’t get down to his shots, so I run him too much around, I guess.” That’s exactly what Agassi did in his victory over Cherkasov, and what he plans to do against Becker. After Agassi broke Cherkasov in the third game of the first set, he faltered only briefly near the end of the match. He fired 33 blistering winners from all angles as he moved Cherkasov from side to side, attacked on both serves and overwhelmed the young Soviet. 

Semifinals: Mike Deinagro

Andre Agassi, reviled as all-punk and no-spunk, grew up Saturday and relative unknown Pete Sampras ended John McEnroe‘s run in the U.S. Open men’s semifinals at the National Tennis Center’s Stadium Court. Agassi beat defending champion Boris Becker of West Germany, 6-7(10), 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, while Sampras downed McEnroe, a four-time Open champion, 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 before a sellout crowd of 20,826. Agassi called the match the most important of his career. “Maybe this match will do a lot for how people will perceive me, maybe the world will start thinking I can mcenroe_sampras_uo90do it,” said the 20-year-old Las Vegas resident. Sampras, who upset Ivan Lendl in the quarterfinals, is stunned by making the final. “This is unbelievable,” said the Palos Verdes resident. “I don’t believe I’m in the finals. I was really nervous for the first couple of games but after the first six games it was like playing another match. I wanted to get it done as soon as possible. The longer the match went on, the more the crowd gets into it and they were for McEnroe. It would have been tough to win in the fifth set.” McEnroe said he was unprepared for the bright, cool weather after playing in hot, humid weather most of the tournament. “I don’t think I played badly,” he said. “His pace put me off a little bit and I got a little anxious and my concentration was not as good. He was serving so big, I wasn’t able to get a groove going.” McEnroe said both Agassi and Sampras deserved to be in the final because they played the best tennis at the Open. Before Saturday, Agassi blew each of the three most important matches of his career:
– The 1989 Italian Open finals, when he had match point against Alberto Mancini in the fourth set and was trampled in the fifth.
 – The 1989 Davis Cup, when he led Becker 2-0 in sets and lost three straight.
– The 1990 French Open finals, when he was upset by a then sub-Top 10- ranked Andres Gomez.
Against Becker, though, Agassi, perhaps best known until now for his hot-lime-and-black tennis attire and his left-ear earring, made a statement that finally exceeded fashion. “It was an important match for him,” Becker said. “It proved to everybody that he’s a world class tennis player. I thought I was playing very good tennis, better than in 1989 when I won here, but he (Agassi) played really great tennis,” He paused, lit up in the face, and added: “He hits it in the corners for three hours!” [ The match lasted exactly 3:04 h ] Agassi, beaten embarrassingly at last year’s Open by Lendl, was gracious yet proud, soft-spoken but unshakably confident. “Last year versus Lendl, it just felt much bigger than me,” he said. “You could have given me a set lead and four serves instead of two serves and I still wasn’t wouldn’t have won the match (againt Lendl). I just didn’t feel like I could have. I’ve grown up a little bit.” Agassi and Becker began as power against power as both men hunkered down at the baseline and rocketed ground-strokes at the other’s end. In the first set, Becker fought off two set points to get into a tie-breaker (one at *4:5, one at 5:6), and three more set points in the tie-breaker (4:6, 8:9), which he won, 12/10. It was Agassi’s first tie-break with three changes of ends. The first set took 1 hour and 12 minutes. “There were two ways to agassi_becker_uo90look at it,” Agassi said. “That it hurts to come so close and lose or that the set took just as much out of him as it took out of me.” Agassi steeled himself, thinking, he said, “If he’s going to beat me he’s going to have to work for it.” Agassi’s attitude was in sharp contrast to what it was a year ago when Lendl accused him of tanking the match after he fell behind. In the second set Agassi broke Becker’s serve in the third, seventh and ninth games to even the match. In the third set he took the lead, breaking Becker four times. Becker had trouble with his serve because it was windy and his toss kept coming down in unpredictable fashion. But Agassi thought the wind was worse for him and his forehand-to-backhand style of ground-stroke attack. In the fifth game of the fourth set Becker was pressing hard for a go-ahead break. At 30/30 the two players were in the midsts of a good rally when Becker hit an approach deep to Agassi’s backhand and stormed the net. Agassi hit a two-hand cross-court winner past Becker and into the deepest part of the corner of the court. Becker took another step to the net and stared silently at Agassi. “I haven’t see him play like that ever,” Becker said. “That’s the bottom line, I played good and he played great.” As for his chances of winning his first Grand Slam title, Agassi said: “The U.S. Open, in my opinion, is the most prestigious tournament in the world. There’s no question that when I went for a shot today, it was there for me. I feel my chances are good to win it.” Said Sampras: “It’s going to be tough. He’s playing some really good tennis.”

Final: Cris Clarey

Tennis historians will note that Pete Sampras became the youngest man to win the U.S. Open by defeating Andre Agassi at the age of 19 years and 28 days. They will note that Sampras was the first American champion since 1984; that he was a right-hander with a powerful serve; that he was born in Potomac and grew up in Palos Verdes. All this bears remembering. Yet for those who witnessed the 12th-seeded Sampras’ 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 1-hour 42-minute victory yesterday, the most striking thing was not that he made history but how he made it. He was in complete command – this teen-ager playing in his first Grand Slam final. He was composed far beyond his years and far beyond the moment. When Michael Chang won last year’s French Open at 17, the tennis world watched nervously as Chang escaped from one tricky situation after another. But Sampras never gave his audience any reason to squirm. His first serve was an ace, and so was his last. He volleyed superbly and hit his ground strokes boldly – just as he had all tournament. And unlike his hairier, more flamboyant opponent, he never pumped a fist nor let out a shout. Instead, Sampras wore the slightly smug look agasampras_uo90of the student who takes a test and already knows all the answers. “Today was the best that I could possibly play,” Sampras said. “And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.” The victory was so convincing that Agassi, the 20-year-old from Las Vegas, could not even bring himself to mourn. “Sure, it’s disappointing to see somebody hold the trophy that you wanted,” Agassi said. “But it’s not like I lost it. I got my butt kicked. That’s about it.” Once again, Sampras’ serve, which has been clocked at nearly 125 miles per hour, was the key to victory. Agassi, who has one of the best returns in tennis, never broke him and had only three break-point opportunities. “Pete’s always had a big serve, but he’s put together some really exceptional placement on his serves the last couple of weeks,” Agassi said. “That’s just tough. The chances of returning a serve that’s hit 100 miles per hour and lands on the line are slim. When somebody hits one 120 miles per hour on the line, there’s not much you can do about it.” Sampras hit 100 aces during his two-week run at the National Tennis Center. He hit 13 yesterday, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He also had 17 service winners (Agassi got just 1/2 of Sampras’ points as far as the serve is concerned) and won an astonishing 92 % of the points in which he hit his first serve into play. Faced with that kind of firepower, Agassi could only shrug his shoulders and look over helplessly at his sizable entourage. “I think that when I serve as well as I did this week that it puts something in the minds of my opponents,” Sampras said. “It plants the seed in their mind that if they play one bad game on their serve the set may be over.” Sampras broke Agassi early in each set and four times in all. More surprising still, he held his own against Agassi from the baseline – hitting eleven winners to Agassi’s eight. “There was not much Andre could do,” said Agassi’s coach, Nick Bolletieri. “Pete wasn’t just hitting that serve. He was hitting volleys, hitting ground strokes, hitting everything for winners. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Nor had this tournament. Until Sampras came along, the youngest person to win the national title was Oliver S. Campbell, who did it in 1890 at the age of 19 years, six months and nine days. Until Sampras came along, no man seeded as low as 12th had won this title in the Open era. “It’s just unbelievable,” Sampras said again. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just going to take the next couple of days and let it settle in and realize what I did this week.” Sampras had won only two titles – both this year – before this tournament: the U.S. Pro Indoors in Philadelphia and a Wimbledon tune-up in Manchester, England. He never had advanced past the fourth round in a Grand Slam event and was upset by South African Christo van Rensburg in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon. But the Open is not on grass. It is on a hardcourt – the same kind Sampras grew up playing on in Southern California. And for the last two weeks, he made this surface his private domain. The $350,000 he received for winning yesterday nearly doubled his earnings for the year. But there was no question that he sampras_uo90championearned it. This was a tournament filled with upsets, yet Sampras was not the beneficiary. He had to beat No. 6 seed Thomas Muster in the fourth round, three-time champion and No. 3 Ivan Lendl in the quarterfinals and four-time champion John McEnroe in the semifinals. Only Lendl extended Sampras to five sets. “It would have seemed crazy in January,” he said. “But I think that I deserve it. I worked really hard to do well here. I had a pretty good summer.” As for Agassi, he must keep waiting for his first Grand Slam title. He shook some of his reputation for failing in important matches by beating No. 2 seed Boris Becker in the semifinals. But after yesterday, he is 0-2 in Grand Slam finals. “I don’t feel that I have to prove anything as much as I just want to do it,” said Agassi, who lost to Andres Gomez in the final of this year’s French Open. “A lot of people out there want to see me do it, and maybe there are a lot of people that don’t believe I can. But it’s coming around. I’m getting closer every time.” Sampras, of course, does not have to worry about getting closer. He is ahead of schedule and into the history books. It was Agassi’s 67th main-level tournament, Sampras’ 45th. Stats of the final

*******************************

 U.S. Open, NY, U.S.A.
August 26, 1991; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $3,099,300; Surface – Hard

It was the last successful major event of two great veterans: 31-year-old Ivan Lendl [3] and 39-year-old Jimmy Connors [174]. Both reached the semifinals overcoming an astonishing road to the last 4. The former, never a crowd-favorite, didn’t receive too much attention after beating three hardest servers on the tour at the time, in dramatic 3.5 hrs matches (Krajicek, Ivanisevic, Stich); the latter stole the show from everyone prevailing miraculously 5-setters in first and fourth round. But at the end it was Stefan Edberg [2], who raised the trophy. The 25-year-old Swede, had had four majors won on grass-courts, so the US Open triumph meant a lot to him. He was struggling in the initial rounds against inferior opponents, but in the last two matches displayed the best tennis of his life.
All scorelines
First round: Associated Press

Finalist one year, first-round flop the next, Andre Agassi spun out of control and away from the U.S. Open, the victim of another stunning ambush. Aaron Krickstein, Agassi’s tormenter yesterday, displayed none of the power and little of the precision that Pete Sampras showed in beating Agassi for the championship last year. Krickstein didn’t need to be that good against a player who self-destructed in the heat and glare on the stadium court. It was only the second match of the tournament, less than four hours had passed since the first ball was struck, and one of the glamorous names in the game suddenly was gone in straight sets, 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-2. “Nothing seemed to be going my way,” said Agassi, who wound up with 55 unforced errors and six double faults, compared to Krickstein’s 28 unforced errors and one double fault. “He was hitting the lines and big winners. Sometimes it seems you have to overcome so much to get through it.” The crowd that had cheered Agassi so much last year switched allegiance early and whistled for Krickstein as it sensed an upset in the making. “In the first set, I was trying to get a lead because I know he’s such a good front-runner,” Krickstein said. “It would be good if I could slow him up and dictate from the opening ball. I wanted to be the aggressor.” The pattern of the match established in the first set was confirmed in the key 12th game of the second set and in the tiebreaker. Krickstein, down love-30 on his serve in the 12th game, won the first of four straight points with an ace to force the tiebreaker. “I thought if he won there, he had a chance to get aggressive,” Krickstein said. “I think he might have gotten flustered after that game.” Krickstein broke Agassi’s first serve in the tiebreaker and held a 5:3 lead with Agassi serving. On Agassi’s first serve on the ninth point, his racket slipped out of his hand, bounced several times on the court and hit the line judge on her side. Agassi retrieved the racket, apologized, double-faulted, then lost the set on a forehand wide. From that moment on, Agassi wore the look of a beaten and exhausted man, and he acknowledged he didn’t know if his body could have made it through a fourth or fifth set. “In the third set, he made a lot of errors,” Krickstein said. “I’d like to think I tired him out. It was sunny and warm today, and I thought that was in my favor because I’m in better shape than he is. The longer the match went the more advantage I had.” Krickstein, 24, was once ranked as high as No. 7 in the world and had, for a time, all the promise that Agassi has shown in the past few years. Krickstein won his first tournament at Tel Aviv at 16 in 1983, and is still the youngest man ever to win a Grand Prix title. A variety of injuries – stress fractures in both feet, wrist and knee problems, and bruises from a car accident – sent his ranking down as low as 61 at the end of 1987. He missed seven weeks this year after spraining his ankle in February, and he came in here ranked No. 47 on the ATP tour. When it was all over Tuesday, Ivan Lendl had pulled off yet another climb from behind. Lendl – down two sets to none against Richard Krajicek, a young Dutchman with a 120 mile-per-hour serve – battled back to win a set, then found himself facing oblivion twice. But, like many times before, he wriggled out of that, too. And yet after Lendl had blistered an exhausted and sick Krajicek with five aces in the fifth set to survive his opener at the U.S. Open, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-0, someone still found him wanting. It has always been that way: Never as fun as Jimmy Connors, as intriguing as John McEnroe, as emotional as Boris Becker, Lendl has won eight Grand Slam titles and still leaves many unsatisfied. So Tuesday, after Lendl gave the now-beaten Andre Agassi a lesson in tenacity, someone questioned the 14-year veteran’s commitment to tennis. His face, which usually has all the warmth of a block of wood, went to stone. “Do you question it after today?” Lendl said, voice rising. Someone mumbled no. “Well,” Lendl said. “That is your answer.” And an eloquent one, too. Krajicek, a 19-year old ranked 32nd in the world, would hardly seem tough for the No. 3 Lendl, and in the fifth set, suffering various pains, he considered defaulting. “I couldn’t do anything,” said Krajicek of his statue-like mobility in the final set. “I felt everything. My muscles, all my muscles – my toes, my neck, my shoulder, my back, my knees, everything. I just felt the sun burning right through my head.” But for the first four sets he put up the kind of challenge that typifies Flushing Meadow’s always-unpredictable first week. Every day, it seems, the combination of an inspired unknown, unruly crowds and that New York state of mind force some star to the wall. Simply, Krajicek came within one shot of making 1991 Lendl’s worst year since winning his first Grand Slam in 1984. The three-time U.S. Open champ lost to Becker in the final of the Australian Open, skipped the French, lost in the third round at Wimbledon. A loss in the first round here, just an hour’s drive from Lendl’s Connecticut home, would have been his earliest Grand Slam exit since the first round of Wimbledon in 1979. And after Krajicek, who beat Edberg in New Haven, Conn., two weeks ago, dominated the first two sets with fiery serves, sharp backhand volleys and some well-placed smashes, it seemed Lendl would be the second ranked player in two days to lose miserably. But for the seventh time in his career, Lendl ignored the 0-2 deficit and charged. With Krajicek, who suffers from a sore right knee, weakening in the 90-degree sun, Lendl broke him twice in the third set to cut the lead to 2-1. “He wasn’t serving it hard in the third set for some reason,” Lendl said. “He was slowing down very quickly and once I had got my foot in the door, I didn’t want to let him close it. I wanted him to open it more and more.” He did. In the fourth set, Krajicek’s erratic serve – he aced Lendl 19 times, double-faulted nine times and managed to hit just 44 percent of his first serves – caught up with him. Up 6:5 and serving for the match at 40/15, Krajicek couldn’t handle Lendl’s return at his feet. Up 40/30, he couldn’t reach Lendl’s backhand winner. Two serves later, Lendl broke Krajicek to force the tie-breaker. By then, Krajicek’s various aches (“My fitness stinks,” he said) caught up with him. “When I play in very humid conditions, I don’t know, I never felt like this before,” Krajicek said. “I really was dead. I didn’t speak to anybody. I didn’t want anybody touching me because I knew I was going to throw up if somebody touched me too much.” In fact, during the fifth set Lendl was as concerned with Krajicek’s health as he was with winning. “I thought he was actually going to fall down at that stage,” Lendl said. “I thought he was just standing there and resting between the two serves. I thought he may fall over. I was actually worried about him because he was totally red in the face and I don’t think he knew exactly where he was.” Boris Becker, the No. 1 men’s seed, disposed of Martin Jaite 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-4, No. 2 Stefan mcenroe_connors_91Edberg survived Bryan Shelton, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, No. 3 Michael Stich beat Jacco Eltingh 7-6(5), 6-1, 6-0. Shelton, a big server, appeared to realize exactly who he was playing in the third-set tiebreaker and grew nervous. He took a 1:0 lead with an ace and had a chance to go up, 3:2, but pushed a volley long. The latter happened again when he could have taken a 5:4 lead. Jimmy Connors was playing tennis by memory. His memories were better than Patrick McEnroe‘s dreams. Down two sets to none last night, limping sometimes from a twisted left knee, and toweling off after nearly every point to buy time, Connors somehow pulled out a 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 first-round victory over McEnroe in a 4-hour, 19-minute match at the U.S. Open that ended at 1:37 this morning. Less than a week from his 39th birthday and 3 1/2 hours into the match, Connors was bending so low he scraped his knees on the court. It was the fifth set. It was 12:45 a.m., and Connors wasn’t drinking bottled water on the sidelines but liquid from the fountain of youth. The longer his match against McEnroe went, the friskier Connors became. Connors, who needed a wild-card invitation into the main draw, played with a fluorescent yellow racket and biker tights under his tennis shorts. Of the National Tennis Center’s Stadium Court, Connors has said: “I own that court. I’d like to build a house on it.” Connors, who is playing in his 21st Open and is a five-time champion, would be entitled. McEnroe, 26, was a semifinalist at the Australian Open but was playing in only his second Open in singles. Connors, 93-15 in the U.S. Open, looked like he would lose No. 16. He seemed to stop playing in the third set. He fell behind, *0:3, 0/40. But then his heart took over, and he won six of the next seven games to take the set, 6-4.

Second round: Wire Reports

John McEnroe was saved by the clouds, but Guy Forget, seeded seventh, didn’t survive the summer simmer yesterday at the U.S. Open. Forget, the mildly eccentric Frenchman who shaved his head last year just before winning the world doubles championship, met his match in 42nd-ranked Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands. Ironically, Siemerink began his career on the Grand Prix Circuit last year by winning a bet that required his coach to shave his head if Siemerink could reach the quarterfinal round at Singapore (the Dutchman finished that event as a semifinalist). Yesterday, everybody kept their hair on. McEnroe wore an Andre Agassi-esque lavender bandana, and Ivan Lendl even removed his legionnaire’s cap, but the bare-headed Forget was felled by the knockdown combination of an upset stomach and another ambitious member of the hard-serving Dutch youth corps. Just a day after Richard Krajicek came up one serve short of toppling Lendl in a fourth-set tiebreaker, Siemerink, with his friend’s failure fresh in his mind, nervously served out match point of his fourth-set tiebreaker and eliminated Forget, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(6). The other seeded men took a page from the book of their female counterparts. Lendl hurled 16 aces and downed an over-matched Patrick Kuhnen of Germany, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Stefan Edberg defeated Jeff Tarango, 6-3, 7-5, 6-0. And McEnroe, sprinkling his performance with self-directed expletives, stalked past Martin Laurendeau, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. McEnroe, in the wake of his younger brother Patrick’s victimization by Jimmy Connors in a five-set match Tuesday night that kept him riveted to his television well past midnight, was a pensive victor. “He deserved a better fate,” McEnroe said of his brother. He also called Connors’ comeback from a two-set deficit “incredible.” John McEnroe, who said he was on the verge of overheating in the 120-degree (49 Celsius) midday heat of the stadium court until a cloudbank rolled in, said he hopes to be invited to represent the United States at the 1992 Olympics. “It’s going to be the last year, probably, that I am going to be playing a full schedule, and I’d like to be a part of the Olympics,” McEnroe said (McEnroe wasn’t invited, in Barcelona three Americans could participate and the choice was on Courier, Sampras and Chang). Michael Chang, who ousted Todd Witsken, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2, meets McEnroe tomorrow. “That will be the test,” said Chang, who has yet to beat McEnroe in four attempts. “But I feel excited about it.“… Siemerink, who had referred somewhat despairingly to his limited professional progress as “a long and winding road,” used the upset as a healing agent for his self-esteem. Forget absorbed it like a punch to the solar plexus. “I’m disappointed, of course, because I just never felt right today and I know I’ll probably wake up tomorrow feeling normal again,” Forget said. Had he not double-faulted at set point in the fourth-set tiebreaker, Forget would have evened the match and earned a chance to whittle away the 21-year-old Dutchman’s momentum. Forget was mentioning as one of the title contenders. He was a finalist at Indian Wells and won Cincinnati in 1991. There was a time when Jimmy Connors was the matinee idol of the tennis world. Now four days shy of his 39th birthday, the ageless left-hander is the U.S. Open’s late-night attraction. For the second time in three nights, Connors closed the show on the National Tennis Center’s Stadium Court at Flushing Meadow. This time, Thursday night’s 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 second-round victory over qualifier Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands lacked the drama of his fist- pumping, arm-waving, four-hour, 20-minute come-from-behind five-set win over Patrick McEnroe Tuesday evening. A night-session record crowd of 19,582 turned out to see the amazing resurrection of Connors, who didn’t win a match in 1990 and is ranked 174th in the world now. His next opponent – No. 10 seed Karel Novacek on Saturday – figures to offer Connors with a stiffer but hardly impossible task in the third round. In fact, Connors has a fairly soft road to the quarterfinals, where his joyride could be derailed by top-seeded Boris Becker. “My son (Brett) says I got the third-round blues,” said Connors. “It would be mighty nice for me to get past the third round. I know Novacek has played some good tennis here to get to the third round. I just go out and just fire away and see what happens. I can’t be worrying about it.” As for Becker, the heat affected him in his second-round match in the afternoon, but he survived the 92-degree (33 Celsius) weather and defeated Alexander Volkov of the Soviet Union, 6-0, 7-6(4), 6-1. “How hot was it exactly on the court?” the fair-skinned Becker asked. French Open champion Jim Courier sped through his second-round match, taking just 98 minutes to slam his way past Jimmy Arias, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Courier later said his favorite portion of the encounter was the changeovers, when each player was shielded by a blue umbrella held aloft by a young ball attendant who also provided cold, wet towels. Three players – Wayne Ferreira, Thierry Champion and Jaime Yzaga – retired because of injuries. Defending champion Pete Sampras advanced to the third round after Ferreira sprained his right ankle on the Grandstand Court with Sampras in control, 6-1, 6-2, 2-2. “I was pretty fortunate that the Grandstand had a shadow all over the court, so it wasn’t too bad,” Sampras said.

Third round: AP, Rich Libero

Wimbledon champion Michael Stich crumpled in a sopping heap in the court-side flower bed at the U.S. Open on Friday and looked ready for burial. The searing sun beat down on his bare head and the 120-degree court burned through his sneakers. A soaked handkerchief drooped around his neck. Across the net, MaliVai Washington was doing deep knee bends after breaking Stich’s serve to win the fourth set and tie the third-round match. Stich, unfazed by Wimbledon’s floods but bent double by New York’s heat and humidity, pulled himself slowly out of the flowers, ambled over to the baseline, then did what all champions must. From some inner reserve, he got his serve going hotter than the weather, resumed his dogged net attack, struck a few blazing forehands and won 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 1/2 hours of sheer torture. Then, almost unbelievably, he went out to play doubles three hours later, against the doctor’s orders, after pumping himself up with fluids and getting his legs iced and massaged. “I was tired and everything was hurting,” Stich said of the Washington match after winning the doubles. “It was a strange match. I didn’t feel too good all the time. In the end, maybe he was getting mentally tired. I figured whoever made the first break in the fifth set was going to win the match.” Stich, who began the match with Washington about 12:30 p.m., finally finished his work at 8:45 p.m. after teaming with Udo Riglewski to beat Neil Borwick and Simon Youl 7-6(2), 6-2. “It’s always important to prove to people who said I couldn’t play because I didn’t have the best preparation before the tournament,” said the No. 3-seed. “The best way is to win in five sets and four hours. It is a good feeling.” It was a day of grueling marathons and upsets. In another long duel (3:30 hrs), most of it fortunately in the shade of the grandstand, Derrick Rostagno won an unusual four-tie-break match, 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 7-6(2), 7-6(4) against Jakob Hlasek. It was the fifth time since 1970 that as many as four tie-breakers have been played in a men’s singles match in the Open. There were just two breaks of serve, Rostagno was better in aces too (23-7; his career high). No. 2 seed Stefan Edberg was stretched to nearly three hours by ex-doubles partner Jim Grabb before winning 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. No. 5 Ivan Lendl also took about three hours to beat Todd Woodbridge 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. “I just waited for the tie-breakers. I didn’t mind. I am proud of myself to have played under pressure.” Rostagno said… “I think he had a very good day today because he didn’t double-fault. And that is what he can do a lot of times,” Hlasek said. “I played a very good match, I just couldn’t return his serve.” In fact Rostagno committed 5 double faults.
When it comes to upsets, there was none bigger Saturday than unseeded Paul Haarhuis ousting No. 1 seed Boris Becker, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, from the third round of the U.S. Open. Originally, it appeared as though Haarhuis was just playing over his head while Becker was sputtering, seemingly on the edge of turning over and kicking into gear, much a like a car’s engine on a cold winter’s day. But as the match wore on, it became clearly evident that something was wrong with Becker. His splendid, highly-tuned tennis engine was not in gear. By the third set, thoughts of an upset were becoming reality. Appropriately, Haarhuis finished off the 1989 U.S. Open champion with an ace. It was a fitting end to a painful day for Becker, for who made 35 unforced errors to Haarhuis’ 24. The reason for Becker’s sluggishness is an undiagnosed tightness in the back of his right leg. “I pulled… I don’t what exactly,” Becker said after the match. “But in my right leg and since about two days or three, I have that thing there, I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I couldn’t run full and that is why I was always, two, three steps slow. That is why I lost.” It was just the second time Haarhuis faced Becker in his career. The other came in the first round of the Austrailia Open (1990) and Becker whipped him, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. But Haarhuis, a 25-year old native of Holland, is a late bloomer. He played collegiate tennis first at Armstrong State in Georgia and then later transferred to Florida State, where he became serious about the sport. Before, Haarhuis never had aspirations for professional tennis. “When I went to college I could hardly play tennis,” Haarhuis said. “I never practiced when I was in Holland until 18. I never practiced more than two, three times a week. Once I was in college, I suddenly had to practice every day. I think without college in the States, I wouldn’t have been a professional tennis player. I didn’t think I would be a professional until my junior year.” It was a tennis epic that ended with a lob. For 4 hours, 33 minutes, Michael Chang and John McEnroe slugged it out in the second round of the U.S. Open. They began the match last night at a packed Louis Armstrong Stadium, and they finished it this morning at 1:27 in front of thousands who were standing and screaming. Chang hit the final shot, a bending backhand topspin lob that froze McEnroe at the net. The ball fell out of the sky and landed a foot inside the baseline and brought Chang a magnificent victory, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(1), 2-6, 6-3. “I decided I was out here to win the match, not for him to lose it,” Chang said. The extraordinary match brought together the past and present of American tennis on a hot, humid evening. McEnroe, 32, in the twilight of a career that burned brightly in the mid-1980s, against Chang, 19, the analytical stylist who won the 1989 French Open championship. “It’s hard to talk about a match when you lose,” said McEnroe, the No. 16 seed. “I gave my best. I had my chances.” Entering the match, Chang had taken only one set in four previous losses to McEnroe. But this is a strange U.S. Open. Wasn’t it only Tuesday night and Wednesday morning that 38-year-old Jimmy Connors outlasted McEnroe’s youngest brother Patrick in a five-set comeback for the ages? Chang said: “It’s nice to be able to come through that match. It was difficult at the end. The crowd was helping John quite a bit.” The crowd was with McEnroe. He had won four Open titles here, transforming himself over the years from surly bad boy to prodigal son. He returned the past two years searching for the magic that had made him a legend. “You don’t want so many thousands of people screaming against you,” Chang said. “It was like a Davis Cup match. In the end, you try to block it out. No one would really understand how much pressure and stress there is. In this match, there was even a little bit more.” If Nolan Ryan can pitch a no-hitter at 44 and George Foreman can fight for the heavyweight title at 42, young pup Jimmy Connors figures he has a pretty good shot at 39 to win the U.S. Open. “Forever Young” is the theme song at the National Tennis Stadium these days, an anthem for the thousands of fans pulling for Connors on every point he plays. Connors’ chances soared Saturday as he gained a seedless path to the semifinals by beating No. 10 Karel Novacek shortly after No. 1 Boris Becker tumbled out in a shocking upset. “Connors has taken over the Open,” said defending champion Pete Sampras, 20, who could face the five-time champion in the semifinals. Connors, defying age and the odds, stormed into the fourth round and set up a match on his 39th birthday Monday against Aaron Krickstein. “Is anybody 39 supposed to do this?” Connors asked, posing a question he had already answered emphatically on the court with his youthful play in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 romp. “I’m getting to the point of being a total force in the game,”  said Connors, a wild card ranked No. 174 after missing 14 months with a wrist injury. “That’s what I want to be next year, a force in the game. It`s time for someone else to take my place, but if they don’t want it I’m not going to give it to them. I’m 39 on the outside. I’m beat up on the inside. And one day this (body) is going to close down on me.” He knocked off the only seeded player left in his quarter of the draw by staying back on the baseline and waiting for Novacek to make mistakes. Novacek obliged by hitting 65 unforced errors, compared to only 22 by Connors, and blamed a cold, 100-degree fever and a touch of stage fright. “I didn’t feel good at all, and I was very nervous when I had to make a first step on the center court and play against Jimmy Connors for the first time,” said Novacek, a 25-year-old Czechoslovakian. “He was in control the whole match, and he didn’t give me a chance at all. He is going to be hot here. He has a good chance to win another round.” Gone in the first round from that quarter was Andre Agassi. Gone on Saturday was Becker, a loser to Holland`s Paul Haarhuis. But looming in the next quarter of the draw as a possible semifinal opponent is Sampras, a 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-3 winner over Stephane Simian. Sampras, like all the young players, is watching Connors with astonishment. “Jimmy is six, seven, eight years past his prime, and he is still beating guys,” Sampras said. “That tells you something about the comparison from the players today and players 20 years ago. We are a bit amazed at what he is doing.”

Fourth round: Ailene Voisin

Aaron Krickstein should have known he’d be the guy saying softly, mournfully, “It would have been a nice one to win.” Krickstein should have known he’d be the guy who had to do the explaining Monday, just as Patrick McEnroe and Michiel Schapers and Karel Novacek had to explain after losing U.S. Open matches to ever-young Jimmy Connors. The score was 3-6, 7-6(8), 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), with Connors, who turned 39 Monday, moving on to the Open quarterfinal Thursday against Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands. It took 4 hours, 41 minutes, or 21 minutes longer than it took Connors to beat Patrick McEnroe in the first round, six longer than it took Michael Chang to beat John McEnroe in the third. Until Monday, Chang-McEnroe had been the longest match of this Open and Connors-Patrick McEnroe had been the most remarkable. Maybe that changes now after the 374 points Connors and the 24-year-old Krickstein gave the crowd of 19,448 at the National Tennis Center. “How can you not laugh about this?” Connors asked. “I mean, I am playing against kids that are the greatest players in the world and they are 15 years younger than I am and I am doing this. What the (heck) is going on here?” Connors would not let Krickstein kill this party on his birthday, would not give up his 21st Open that easily. It would take more than an early deficit and an argument that raged all day with chair umpire David Littlefield. It would take more than being down 5:2 in the fifth set, when every game was a best-of-one tournament for him unless he wanted to go home. “I don’t mind if I come off of there bleeding,” Connors said, standing because his left knee hurt; he twisted it in the second-set tiebreaker (he saved two set points there, at *5:6 & 7:8 – the second one after a two-and-a-half minute break of Connors’ outburst caused by a correction of the chair-umpire which awarded Krickstein a point that Connors thought won).I don’t mind just opening up my chest and showing you my heart. That’s what tennis is all about. “Every emotion in the world I go through out there. So what? Do people think I’m a robot out there? Let ’em see it.” Krickstein also played in pain. He finished with a bleeding blister on his right hand, the skin ripping open during one of eight deuces in the seventh game of the fifth set. He left with an 0-6 record against Connors. Connors pulled within 5:3 in the fifth by winning at 15. Still, a glum Krickstein said later, “When you are serving for the match, you have to like your chances.” Krickstein should have known better. Connors won two battles for advantage and broke in Game 9 with a volley. When Connors was serving for his life at 4:5 in the fifth, all he did was make the girders of the National Tennis Center wiggle from the screaming of the crowd. “There is no way I’m going to give up,” Connors said, “knowing that those people want to see some kind of miracle again – for me to pull off another stunt like this.” Connors won that 10th game at advantage, putting away a volley the way he put away Krickstein all day. He sent shots to the corner at Krickstein’s left, Krickstein’s backhand – dared his foe to hit them back and then volleyed those shots for winners. All day long, Krickstein was pinned in a corner, a little piece of mold- green concrete. It became a coffin corner in the tiebreaker in the fifth set because after Connors made it 5:5, Krickstein made it 6:5 and Connors had to serve for his life again. At 30/30, Krickstein came to the net, one of the few times he bothered. He hit a volley past Connors, and as he stood watching it pass him, Connors willed it out over the line. That, precisely, is where the ball went. At 40/30, Connors came in and pinned Krickstein in that corner and volleyed Krickstein’s backhand shot. He tied the match and the crowd was like the crowd the other night when Connors beat Patrick McEnroe. Only a fool would have bet against Connors in the tiebreaker. Michael Stich isn’t resting on his accomplishment of having won Wimbledon but he also wasn’t happy with the way he played at the U.S. Open on Sunday. The 23-year-old German advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) decision over Derrick Rostagno and achieved his pre-tournament goal of reaching the quarterfinals. “I had moments, even games, where I felt really awake and then at times I felt like my concentration was gone, I am not exactly sure why,” the former Stanford player commented. Even statistically there was not much difference. Neither was consistent in the one hour and 48 minute event before almost 20,000 fans in the Stadium Court. Stich had a 46-31 advantage in winners but he also made 10 more errors, 30 to 20. Neither had startling service statistics. The thing Stich has enjoyed most about the U.S. Open is that, when time permits, he is able to go out on the streets without being recognized. “I can walk outside, or go shopping because here,” Stich said, “I’m just one of 10 million persons. That’s the way I like it. At home, there are always people who are wanting to talk. It is not always so much fun, then you spend more time outside the court than you do on the court.” But Stich wasn’t looking for solitude against Rostagno. He was looking for his game. “You never feel comfortable when you don’t get the rhythm for your game, when you can’t play the game you want to play. I never got the feeling that I was playing well,” Stich said. In the final match of the night, second-seeded Stefan Edberg of Sweden, the highest-ranked player left in the field, defeated Michael Chang of Placentia, Calif., 7-6(1), 7-5, 6-3. Chang, the 1989 French Open champion who is unseeded here, forced Edberg to a tie-break in the first set but won edberg_usopen91only one point in the extra game. Edberg will play unseeded Javier Sanchez in the quarterfinals. The 23-year-old Spaniard advanced with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win over Gabriel Markus. The breakthrough didn’t come easily to Edberg. He saw Chang typically run down shots few players in the world could reach and watched as Chang laced passing shots down the lines and sharply across the court. “He hits unbelievable shots,” Edberg said. “I had to play my best tennis to beat him. He fights to the end. You know a point isn’t over until the ball bounces twice. You have to play really solid tennis to beat him. His strength is his quickness.” The key for Edberg was his ability to get to the net behind his serve and attack Chang’s weak serves. The decisive break in the third set came in the sixth game. Goran Ivanisevic, 19, was eliminated by Ivan Lendl late Sunday afternoon in the U.S. Open tennis tournament, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2. Lendl advances against Michael Stich, the Wimbledon champion and a prohibitive favorite, according to Ivanisevic. Yet, in spite of all the ills the U.S. Open annually thrusts upon his sometimes shaky shoulders, 19-year-old Goran Ivanisevic, whistling serves in at 125 miles per hour, was on his way to eliminating Ivan Lendl late Sunday afternoon. And then he seemed to recall who he was – not yet a proven prime-time player. And where he was – facing one of the game’s most resilient players in the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. And he crumbled. Lendl advances against Michael ivanisevic_uo91Stich, the Wimbledon champion and a prohibitive favorite, according to Ivanisevic. But Lendl seldom listens to Ivanisevic. Rather, he observes. He awaits the subtle signs that suggest the young Yugoslav is shaken, distracted, angry or perhaps simply bored. “He is wild,” said Lendl. “He seems to self-destruct.” Ivanisevic repeatedly over-hit ground strokes, blasted volleys into the net and doubled-faulted four times in the opening set, otherwise negating the impact of eight of his amazing 21 aces. In the second set, Ivanisevic, a 6-foot-4 lefthander, broke Lendl after trailing *1:4 and forced a tiebreaker, which he won despite being called for a foot fault as he aced what would have been the final point. Suddenly, Ivanisevic was in control, and when he went up *4:0 in the third set, he seemed on the verge of disproving the reputation he gained last year for admittedly “tanking” his third-round match vs. Darren Cahill. But quickly, Ivanisevic began to spray ground-strokes, whack the occasional volley into the net, and even double-fault to lose the ninth game. And then he hurt his back. Or, at least, that was when he decided to seek medical treatment at mid-court. “I would like to have that back pain every day,” noted Lendl, sarcastically. “I personally think he got tired.”

Quarterfinals: Bill Varner, Rich Libero

Stefan Edberg is on a mission. Last year’s No. 1 player in the world has never won the U.S. Open. In fact, the 25-year-old Swede had made the semifinals only twice in eight appearances before this year. But he’s in the 1991 semifinals, courtesy of a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, romp past unseeded Javier Sanchez in one hour, 42 minutes Wednesday. Edberg will play the winner of Wednesday might’s match between Ivan Lendl and Wimbledon champ Michael Stich. That’s another factor in Edberg ‘s run to the Open semifinals. He lost to Stich in four sets – three of which went to a tiebreaker – to lose his Wimbledon crown. Stich won 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. “The day I lost, I didn’t take it that badly,” Edberg said. “I sort of could accept it, but the more I thought about it, the tougher a loss I thought it was, because I really couldn’t see how I could lose the match without losing my serve. Looking at the statistics, I won more points than he did, but I still lost the match because I played a few bad points here and there. I wanted to be in the final, to have a shot at defending my title.” As for the Open, Edberg conceded he is doing “everything I can to try to win it.” That includes switching from the Manhattan hotel where he usually stays to a rented home with a pool on Long Island. “Not that I haven’t put down any effort before. I have always come here to try,” he said. “But this year, you know it becomes more and more important to you, to try to win it at least once.” In five matches, Edberg has been taken to four sets only twice. That includes a straight-set win over Michael Chang and a four-setter with Jim Grabb. So Edberg is playing well. “This is great,” he said. “I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now. I an really looking forward to the next match. Everything is going really well at the moment. I sort of struggled the first couple rounds and have played better and better the last two matches.” One would think that an American tennis player in the U.S. Open would feel at home. Guess again. Jim Courier, a resident of Dade City, Fla., can’t help but feel out of place. “This is New York. I am a foreigner, believe me,” Courier said. By Monday night, Courier could become a household name. He ousted defending champion Pete Sampras, 6-2, 7-6(4), 7-6(5). While Courier was having a hard time feeling at home in his own country, Ivan Lendl, a former Czechslovakian defector who is now an American citizen, is slowly gaining fan approval. Lendl outlasted Wimbledon champion Michael Stich, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 Thursday in the continuation of Wednesday’s rain-shortened match. New York is the perfect place for crazy. It makes it difficult for a 21-year-old like Courier to concentrate on tennis. “Just the hustle and bustle of the people, smoke blowing across the courts,” he said. “Today I saw two blimps almost hit each other during the match. That was really weird. The Virgin (Airlines) blimp came over and tried to mangle the Fuji.” In the end it was Courier who mangled his friend Sampras. Courier, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament, was deadly with his serve and forehand blasts to the baseline. He kept Sampras pinned and running for cover. “He wasn’t making any errors from the backcourt,” Sampras said. “(He was) hitting the ball clean, and hitting the ball deep and heavy. I really didn’t have an opportunity to really come in.” Sampras was disappointed about not defending his U.S. Open title, but he also felt relieved. “Now I am not the reigning Open champion,” Sampras said. “It’s kind of how (Michael) Chang felt after he lost in the French, all the bag of bricks just came off his shoulders. That is the way I kind of feel.” It was Courier who replaced Chang as the French Open champion this year, and he handles the pressure better than the 20-year-old Sampras. “Each person is different, the way they handle the pressure,” Courier said. “I mean how much pressure does Pete have? He will never have to work another day in his life. He has got millions in the bank. He is just 20 years old. I really think he should just be able to go out there and swing freely and have fun with the game.” Lendl overcame adversity and drew the applause of the crowd as he pulled off the come-from-behind victory. Stich went into the match with a 4:3 lead in the third set and up 40/15 in points. He went on to win the third set, but Lendl began to rally when he won a fourth-set tiebreaker that ultimately helped him win the match. “I lost my concentration when I lost the tiebreaker,” Stich said. Stich was up 3:0 in the tiebreaker but watched helplessly as Lendl rallied with five straight points. Stich closed the gap to 6:5 when Lendl backhanded a return into the net. But Stich drove Lendl’s next serve beyond the baseline and Lendl instantly gained control. Jimmy Connors didn’t need a miracle to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open, just a psyched-out opponent who cracked under pressure and let him steal the match at the net. Connors methodically took apart Dutchman Paul Haarhuis 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-2 Thursday night before another frenzied crowd of nearly 20,000 fans to become, at 39, the oldest semifinalist since Ken Rosewall in 1974. Connors, a wild card tournament entry who is ranked 174th in the world, reached that round for a record 14th time and is two victories away from his sixth Open title. The last player to win as many as six Opens was Bill Tilden, who won his seventh in 1929. “Is this for real?” Connors wondered aloud as his achievement sank in. “I can’t describe this to you, the highs, the lows. It’ll take six months before I can tell you what happened here, and it’s not over yet.” Haarhuis, who beat top-ranked Boris Becker in the third round, dominated an unsettled Connors early in the first set, then backed off and allowed him to take control. Retreating totally to the baseline, Haarhuis ceded the net to Connors and eventually made more and more errors on groundstrokes as the pressure from Connors and the crowd grew. “I’ve learned that I can’t stay back time after time. It will wear me out,” Connors said. Haarhuis said Connors bothered him more than the crowd. “I had a chance in the second set to serve it out,” Haarhuis said. “He’s shown this week that he’s come back many times. It was a mistake for me to let the second set go. I started making too many errors.” The Dutchman led 30/15 serving to lead 2-0 in sets, at 30/40 the crowd witnessed the point of the tournament as Connors managed to defend Haarhuis’ four overheads and broke him with a running passing-shot down the line.

Semifinals: John Freeman

Playing with the kind of cold-blooded stoicism usually associated with his opponent, second seed Stefan Edberg cruised comfortably past Ivan Lendl today in a U.S. Open men’s semifinal match, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Edberg forced the action in all three quickly paced sets and never allowed Lendl to take a lead. “You can’t give him too many chances,” said Edberg, “because he’s going to take it.” About Lendl’s uncharacteristic error-plagued effort, Edberg said: “You always expect a tough battle against Ivan, but he wasn’t at his best today.” Edberg, 25, thus positioned himself for his first-ever U.S. Open win. If he succeeds in winning tomorrow, he will become the first Swedish player to win the Open since Mats Wilander in ’88. With the win, no matter what happens to Edberg tomorrow against the winner of today’s other mens semifinal – No. 4 Jim Courier vs. unseeded miracle-worker Jimmy Connors – Edberg is now No. 1 in the world. He moves ahead of Boris Becker, who was upset in the third round by Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands. “Right now, it gives me more pleasure at the moment to be in the Open finals than to be No. 1,” said Edberg. “That’s why I am here: to win it.” In the third and final set, Lendl, trailing 3:5, held serve to move up a notch at 4:5. But Edberg got off to a quick, confident start and, up 40/15, he slapped a 108-mph ace past the outstretched Lendl, who was as helpless against that serve as he was throughout the match, which lasted only 2:09. Summed up Lendl, speaking of Edberg’s relentless attack: “When he gets ahead, he plays well. He got ahead today.” Early in the match at the National Tennis Center, played under mostly blue skies and in windless, 75-degree temperatures, Lendl requested that the low-flying Fuji blimp change its course and do its circling act elsewhere, far away. He advised the chair umpire David Littlefield that he was disturbed by the blimp when he looked skyward while serving. However, Edberg did not seem similarly bugged by the blimp. Whatever he tried, Lendl couldn’t rid himself of Edberg, who hovered all over the net for a constant flurry of put-away volleys. Said Edberg, who handed Lendl his first-ever defeat in a U.S. Open semifinal: “I’m hoping that it’s my year to win it. But the most difficult match is still ahead of me. I hope I can keep it going.” Lendl, 31, recently described his approach to tennis these days as a “hobby,” and readily admitted that he’s not as obsessed with winning as he once was. “He had a great career even if it were to stop today,” said Edberg. “He has a family and he has other interests. He’s a bit of an underdog now, but he still plays unbelievable tennis. But, no, he hasn’t been as consistent as he’s been in the past.”
It was a match that may have become a coronation. Jim Courier not only defeated Jimmy Connors 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 Saturday to advance to the U.S. Open finals. Of all the names and faces in the Open, he also emerged as a worthy successor to Connors and John McEnroe as the American men’s player who bears watching. “He’s a hard worker,” Connors said. “He goes out there and works at his tennis and does what it takes to be a great player. In that respect, he reminds me of me.” When Courier joined the tour in 1988, he announced that one of the main reasons he did was to play Connors and McEnroe before they retired. After match point Saturday, he spent a long moment with Connors at the net. “I told him, `You are unbelievable,’ ” Courier said. “And he is. I don’t know if we will ever see anybody like him again.” The match itself was over almost as soon as it began. Connors was forced to hit a lot more volleys than he normally does to try and score points. Courier simply keep chasing down balls and hitting return after return. He also executed his strategy exactly as planned. Which was, he said, to prevent Connors from getting emotionally into the match. “I am aware that Jimmy is never out until he is out,” he said. “I was trying to stay in there every point.” What drama existed came when Connors scored his first service break and took a 3:1 lead in the 2nd set: at break point, Courier scorched an inside-out forehand winner that the umpire ruled out. Courier immediately but very calmly disputed the ruling. “I wasn’t arguing that the ball was in or out because it was too close for me to say,” he said. “But the ump had called ‘deuce’. In my mind, and in my rulebook, once the umpire calls ‘deuce’, the score stands.”

Final: Len Ziehm

Two weeks of Jimmy Connors was a tough act to follow. Stefan Edberg‘s 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 romp over Jim Courier in the U.S. Open men’s final Sunday didn’t even come close. “Stefan was all over me,” said Courier, the American who won this year’s French Open and ended Connors’ dreams in the semifinals Saturday. “It was probably the best match I’ve ever played,” said Edberg, who also has won Wimbledon and the Australian Open twice each and has reached the final at three other Grand Slam tournaments. “I didn’t think I could play this well. It was almost a dream. I felt I could do almost anything.” Courier didn’t lose a set in his previous six matches, but he lasted just two hours and two minutes against Edberg. The result was the most one-sided U.S. Open final since Ivan Lendl allowed Miloslav Mecir six games in 1986. The biggest blowout, though, was Jimmy Connors over Ken Rosewall 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 in 1974. The Open first was held in 1881. The match Sunday had just one moment of suspense. Leading 5:4 in the second set, Edberg encountered brief trouble with his serve. The crowd cheered two of his foot faults, and Courier earned one of his three break points at 30/40. That was as close as Courier could come to getting into the match. Edberg got to deuce with an overhead, and another gave him the advantage. He then zipped a 106 m.p.h. serve past Courier for an ace to end the set. Courier argued the serve was wide and stood his racquet on end to show where he thought the ball had hit. But the call stood, and Courier never won another game, never broke Edberg’s serve and scored just 15 points when Edberg was serving. “One of his shots looked like the stuff you would see on tapes of Rod Laver 20 years ago,” Courier said. “I was hitting great shots, and his made mine look like I don’t know what. He was mixing his serve well, and I couldn’t get a reading on it. I’ve been pummeled before. Life goes on. I did the best I could and was beaten by the better man.” Edberg was a first-round loser to Alexander Volkov at the Open last year, but he had enjoyed some past success at the USTA National Tennis Center in winning the tourney’s junior singles and men’s doubles titles. And he will reclaim the world’s No. 1 ranking today. “Fifty years from now, people will look at the record books and see my name,” Edberg said. “But what Jimmy Connors did this week was great for tennis and gave the U.S. Open a boost. I thank him.” Edberg further helped his own cause by moving from a hotel in Manhattan to a house on Long Island. “It made a big difference,” Edberg said. “Manhattan can get a little crazy, but on Long Island I could sit outside, go out to dinner and take it easy. Sometimes it was a little boring, but I can handle that.” Edberg, 25, was the world’s No. 1 player at the end of 1990 but did not have a good 1991. He had two match points on Lendl before losing in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Courier beat him in the quarterfinals of the French, and eventual champion Michael Stich eliminated him in four sets in the Wimbledon semifinals. “This has made up for the year,” Edberg said. “Whatever happens now, I’m a happy man.” Edberg earned $400,000 to $200,000 for Courier, who must regroup for the U.S.-Germany Davis Cup semifinals in Kansas City, Mo., in two weeks. It was Edberg’s 32nd title (5th major). Stats of the final