U.S. Open, New York
August 31, 1992; 128 Draw (16 seeds) – $3,566,400; Surface – Hard
I’d say the most intriguing major of the Open era in regard of different aspects, you’ve got it all: 16 past and future Grand Slam/Olympic/Masters champions, from Jimmy Connors (b. 1952) to Alex Corretja (b. 1974); two longest matches in the history of the tournament, played between the top guys; and a dead tired champion (Stefan Edberg) who prevailed three consecutive marathons (4:20, 4:03, 5:26) against Top 20 players, coming back from a break down in the deciding sets each time; he then needed almost 3 hours to beat in four sets the best player of the 90s decade – Pete Sampras, coming back from a break down in the crucial third set!!! Moreover, worth mentioning are two consecutive Brad Gilbert’s wins in 5th set tie-breaks from match points down in the deciders – something like this hasn’t happened in New York ever since, and the tightest Grand Slam match between brothers (Emilio & Javier Sanchez). For two American legends, 4-time champions of this tournament – 40-year-old Connors and seven years younger John McEnroe, it was the last Grand Slam event. In turn 3-time champion, Ivan Lendl played his last quarterfinal at majors.
First round: Steve Wilstein, Jim Sarni
Two aces beat the ‘wild card’ as top pro Jim Courier barely edged top collegian Alex O’Brien at the U.S. Open on Monday night in a four-set showdown. For most of the 3-hour, 18-minute match finished at 12:01 a.m., there was little difference between them except Courier’s cap. The same age, the same size and similar in style, Courier came from the school of hard ground-strokes, and O’Brien from Stanford to meet before 20,000 fans in a packed stadium. Courier avoided becoming only the third top-seeded man to lose in the first round at the Open since 1950, beating O’Brien, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(5) erasing a 2:4 deficit in the 4th set, on the strength of a few harder shots and two aces in the tiebreaker. The first ace, which drew a look of disbelief from O’Brien, gave Courier quadruple match point. O’Brien fought off three of them, but Courier closed it out with his 16th ace of the match. O’Brien, ranked No. 185, came in as a wild card after winning the NCAA championship. He and Courier, a finalist here last year and a double Grand Slam winner this year, share the same coach and manager. “I had no idea what he’s ranked,” Courier said. “He’s a better player than that.” Courier recalled playing O’Brien often in juniors as young teens. “We’d play on the baseline, run each other ragged,” Courier said. No. 5 Goran Ivanisevic avenged an Olympic semifinal defeat to Marc Rosset, defeating the Swiss 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. “I mean crazy. I don’t mean crazy like crazy, I mean crazy nice way. You know… different.” – Goran Ivanisevic, explaining what he meant when he said he was “walking like a crazy man.” Andre Agassi was the most surprised person in the house when he lost to Aaron Krickstein in the first round of the U.S. Open last year. ”I was looking at the semifinals or finals of Grand Slam tournaments, so it was weird to really see me get beat early,” Agassi said. ”I got what I basically deserved that day, not being ready.” Agassi was primed Tuesday, and he punished Mikael Pernfors 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in his opening match. ”Last year illustrated to me quite clearly that you can’t be one hair off your game and expect to come in here and survive these first few matches,” said Agassi, who is seeded eighth. ”Sometimes those are the toughest here at the Open.” Three former U.S. Open champions – John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker – also came out of the blocks fast. McEnroe , a four-time champion, crushed Michael Schapers 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 Tuesday night. In the afternoon, Sampras , the 1990 champion, smashed Notre Dame All-America David DiLucia 6-3, 7-5, 6-2. Becker , the 1989 champion, downed Kevin Curren 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, whom beat in his first major final. Curren  had played his last major match at the US Open ’92, he appeared just once more – Durban ’93. Carlos Costa  of Spain, playing his first U.S. Open, turned back Christo van Rensburg 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. Pernfors, 29, has regressed from 1986 French Open finalist to a ’92 U.S. Open qualifier, but the former University of Georgia All-America has been around for eight Opens, and he wasn’t afraid of Agassi. ”If there’s one person who knows how to make the most of his game and the opportunities he sees, it’s Mikael,” Agassi said. ”I knew that I had to stay focused to put him away. I knew there was no messing around. He has been around too long. It was nice to get through this one; it allows you to breathe easier.” Agassi is breathing easy since he won Wimbledon, finally proving that he is a champion as well as a celebrity. The crown feels great, no weight at all. ”There are times when winning a Grand Slam adds a lot of pressure,” Agassi said. ”When Chang won the French, when Sampras won here, when Courier won the French – they hadn’t done a lot, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, they were winning a Grand Slam. I don’t think that is easy to carry. You have to prove to people and yourself that you deserve it.” Most of the seats were empty for Ivan Lendl‘s match Wednesday, which, he says, is exactly how he likes it. “I like to see a lot of empty seats here,” he said. “I get home earlier. It is good.” No one could tell if Lendl was serious when he said this, because the Czech-born tennis star is not one to smile or grunt or hurl his racket to the ground. He gives little of himself away. For that kind of thing people packed into the nearby grandstand, more intrigued by John McEnroe’s doubles match than the sight of Lendl, one of the U.S. Open’s greatest champions, flirting with catastrophe. It is 1992, and Lendl is the Open’s forgotten champion. Maybe a thousand people watched him survive a scare from Peru’s Jaime Yzaga before winning, 6-7(2), 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in 4 hours 23 minutes. He has won three Open titles. He is just a year younger than McEnroe’s 33, has won more singles titles, more grand slams and more money. Yet, he is not considered a sentimental favorite here. In fact, he is rarely considered at all. “I like it that way,” he said. Much attention is being lavished on McEnroe and the 40-year-old Jimmy Connors and 35-year-old Martina Navratilova. They are the honored oldsters. When Lendl plays Connors in the second round, the crowd will be with Jimbo. Lendl doesn’t mind. “I feel fine,” he said. “Don’t worry about me.” Wednesday, the milling fans here worried more about defending champion Stefan Edberg, who beat Brazil’s Luiz Mattar, 7-5, 7-5, 6-2, and Michael Chang, who defeated Ellis Ferreira, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(1). Wednesday afternoon, the 14th-seeded MaliVai Washington got a little payback, fighting off 10 break points to beat Francisco Montana, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3, and confirm his current status as one of the tour’s hottest players. “You know, I thought about that when I first saw I was going to play him, and it crossed my mind again when I saw him a couple days ago,” said Washington, who was at the University of Michigan when Montana beat him as a player from the University of Georgia. “But I never thought about it on the court. I just played to win. I wasn’t playing for revenge.” Traffic was twice as bad, lines were twice as long and fans without U.S. Open tickets stood outside searching for scalpers so they could glimpse the 40-year-old sensation. The night crowd waited not so patiently as the day matches went long. When they were finally let in the gates, fans gave Jimmy Connors a standing ovation almost 10 minutes before he entered the Stadium Court. Rounds of “Happy Birthday to You” were sung off-key with one section trying to outdo the other. The excitement never died. In his usual manner, somewhere between a comedian and a clown, an acrobat and an athlete, Connors dazzled the crowd while surging to a seemingly simple rout of Brazilian Jaime Oncins 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. For Oncins, it was his second first-round loss in two attempts at Flushing Meadow. For Connors, it was his 18th first-round win in 20 attempts, five of which ended in championships. Connors controlled the match from the beginning, breaking Oncins’ second serve to go up 3:1. He repeated the effort on his next attempt to take a 5:1 lead. In between, he served in excess of 100 mph, got to a lot of shots a 40-year-old body shouldn’t have reached, went for winners and, of course, stopped several times for comments to the crowd. Oncins was playing at less than 100 percent after scraping his right hand and needing an injury timeout to be taped after first five games. The injury continued to hinder him as Connors broke his first and second serves to take a 3:0 lead in the 2nd set. Oncins’ only other accomplishment was breaking Connors at 5:3 in the 3rd set.
Second round: Richard Finn
Andre Agassi followed the sun to the U.S. Open today and easily moved into the third round of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The Wimbledon champion and No. 8 seed at Flushing Meadow needed only 1 hour, 32 minutes to crush Francisco Roig of Spain 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 and advance into the fourth round to meet Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands. Unlike yesterday, when play was interrupted several times by rain, sun greeted the players today. All of the seeded players were victorious. No. 4 seed Michael Chang beat Patrick McEnroe 6-3, 6-3, 6-4; No. 5 Goran Ivanisevic downed Mexico’s Leonardo Lavalle 7-5, 7-6(7), 6-2; Carlos Costa ousted Germany’s Alexander Mronz 6-3, 6-1, 6-2, and No. 13 Guy Forget of France beat Sweden’s Magnus Larsson 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(10), 6-0. Last year, Jim Courier‘s friend Pete Sampras came to the Open as defending champion. After losing to Courier in the quarterfinals, Sampras reflected on the increased pressure and attention created by his title, saying “the monkey is off my back.” Courier, top-ranked in the world and top-seeded at the Open, has had no such struggle with fame or pressure. The monkey on his back was that he couldn’t beat Andrei Chesnokov in five career meetings entering their second-round showdown. The streak reached five matches and one set before Courier broke through for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 romp Thursday. Chesnokov, ranked 40th in the world after a year of injuries, seemed to think it was significant that in those first four matches Courier was the lower-ranked player. “He’s No. 1 now and has a lot of confidence.” The fifth time they met, at Indian Wells, in March, Chesnokov played exceptionally well and also beat Stich before losing the final to Chang. “I don’t think ranking gets into the match,” Courier said. “It’s not like you wake up in the morning and go, ‘Ah, I’m No. 1.’ It’s not something you can reach out and grab. It’s in the back of your mind, but winning a tournament or winning a match is something that you can say, ‘On this day, I have done it.’ The ranking is a 52-week process.” John McEnroe overcame a rash of complaints to the umpire and even a ball-boy before beating Diego Nargiso 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. For the second straight year, Todd Martin has advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. Martin, 22, scored a 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 second-round victory over Patrik Kuhnen Friday. He will play Saturday night third-seeded Pete Sampras, who easily outplayed Martin Damm 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. “Ever since I won my first match the thought had crossed my mind that if I won another match I could play Sampras in the stadium,” said Martin of his 7:30 p.m. showdown against the former U.S. Open champion at the National Tennis Center. “It’s a chance to play your best tennis because you usually play to the level of your opponent. I think if Sampras plays his best tennis, he is the best player in the world.” Sampras, though, is not taking anything for granted. “He’s a tall guy and he hits very solid from the backcourt,” he said of Martin. “He’s got a pretty good all-around court game. It’s a match where I am definitely going to have to play well, so it will be a good test.” Martin had a good test against Kuhnen, a veteran German Davis Cup player. In each set, he was down a service break. But Martin was able to charge back to win. “The progress I showed today was mentally,” said Martin. “I didn’t hit the ball great and didn’t hit a lot of great shots, but when I had to, I made him hit great shots and he wasn’t always up to that.” The last game typified the match. After breaking serve for a 5:4 lead, Martin jumped to a 30/0 lead with two strong service points. Kuhnen ripped a forehand winner before Martin missed a forehand for 30/30. Jimmy Connors tried to conjure up his U.S. Open magic one more time, give his fans one more grand memory to cherish, yet none of his fist-pumping antics fazed imperturbable Ivan Lendl in the slightest. Lendl, ever the cool professional, didn’t get rattled when Connors won the 1st set Friday night, didn’t get unnerved by the whistles and boos of 20,000 enemies in the crowd and the incessant cheers for Connors. Lendl simply pounded his ground-strokes past Connors as he had in 16 straight victories over him coming in, aced him a dozen times and kept up the pressure until the end of a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 victory. Connors fought as much as his body would allow, then exited laughing from his 22nd Open, bantering with fans and blowing kisses to the crowd as it chanted, ‘Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy.’ “I guess it’s hell being 40,” Connors said. If Lendl didn’t play as well as he once did, if he didn’t move quite so quickly, no one could tell by the score in this second-round match. In one stretch, after 3:3 in the 2nd set, Lendl won seven straight games and took 28 of 34 points. “The first set was the best he’s played against me in a long time,” Lendl said. “He wasn’t making any errors.” Connors had an incredible 88-1 match record when he won the first set – his only loss was to Guillermo Vilas in 1977 – but this time he couldn’t sustain his lead. Stefan Edberg beat Jakob Hlasek 7-5, 6-2, 6-1; and Boris Becker defeated Robbie Weiss 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-0 on Court 16. Weiss retired in the 4th set. “I played a junior match on the same court in 1984,” Becker recalled, “It was very noisy, and it took awhile to get used to it. I’ve only played on the stadium and grandstand here before. I calmed down and loosened up a little bit and started to play the way I can.” Richard Krajicek rallied from two sets down – 4-6, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 over Gabriel Markus – for the first time in his career.
Third round: Steve Wilstein, Diane Pucin
Brad Gilbert made an amazing feat winning second straight match 7/0 in the 5th set tie-break after saving match points: in the second round he upset 11th seeded Michael Stich 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 [3:48 hours, 3 MPs], then eliminated Tommy Ho 6-1, 6-7, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 [3:45 hours, 2 MPs]. Gilbert explained: “I think I’m too tired not to be relaxed. But, you know, I feel like if I stayed positive, and just keep the ball in play that, you know, a lot of times people can get nervous and you know, in this situation. So it was best to keep a lot of balls in play when it’s in the tiebreaker, but if you are playing against somebody that is giving you a lot of heat or taking it to you, it is difficult. I feel it is best for me – you know, in a situation like, to keep a lot of balls in play and make the other guy win it.” Ho admitted: ”I don’t think I could have done anything different, except make that volley on second match point.” He served for the match at 6:5 and had double match point at 40/15. He missed a forehand long on the first match point. Third-seeded Pete Sampras, 1990 Open champion and former Rancho Palos Verdes resident, almost tumbled out in the third round Saturday night, but survived a serious scare against No. 93 Todd Martin to win 7-6(1), 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in over 3 1/2 hours of scintillating tennis. Sampras, the hottest player lately with titles in three (Kitzbuhel, Cincinnati, Indianapolis) of his last four tournaments, got frozen at the net time after time by Martin’s crafty lobs as the third-year pro won nine straight games between 2-all in the 2nd set and 5:0* in the 3rd. Sampras broke twice and was serving at 30/15 to level at 5-games apiece, but Martin won three straight points converting third set point! The underdog came within a game of winning at 5:4* in the 4th set. But Sampras held at love with an ace, broke Martin with a backhand pass down the line and closed out the set at love. Martin broke for a 2:0 (40/30) lead in the 5th set, lobbing once again at 15/40 and watching Sampras plunk the ball into the net. Sampras dug in, broke back with a backhand pass that clipped the net and jumped over Martin’s racket. Sampras broke again to 3:2 and led 5:3 when Martin saved the first of four match points with an ace. After Martin held, Sampras closed it out with a service winner. “I started out playing very tight,” Sampras said. “I’ve been playing well all summer, but I came out a little flat. But I found a way to win, and that’s what you have to do. It was a very strange match.” Martin said he “learned I can play with the best. It’s disappointing, but I have to be proud because I gave myself the chance to win. I knew I was in it the whole time, I knew I was a few shots, a few points away from winning.” At the end, though, he acknowledged, “my legs were like noodles. I had no bearings about me.” Next up on the same court, Goran Ivanisevic, the fifth seed and runner-up in a thrilling Wimbledon championship match, played sick, tired and sapped of strength in a 6-4, 6-0, 6-3 loss to Alexander Volkov. Ivanisevic couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, ticking off such possibilities as a virus, too much tennis, an aversion to American food, the city air. “Here food is not good. If you eat those McDonald’s cheeseburgers, hamburgers, you go to the hospital forever,” the Croatian complained in his deep, deadpan voice. “I went to some Italian restaurant, but I don’t know. Probably the air, something is wrong.” He complained about the food in London, too, but that didn’t stop him from serving 206 aces and pushing Agassi to five sets with 37 in the final. Ivanisevic had only 9 against Volkov, served 33 in his three matches. “I was playing without any energy. My legs felt very heavy. I couldn’t run,” said Ivanisevic, who was given rehydration fluids on the court during the match. Andre Agassi, No. 8, had no such problems on the stadium court, easily overpowering Jan Siemerink 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, and next faces No. 10 Carlos Costa, a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 victor over Omar Camporese. Agassi will beat Siemerink in straight sets also in their third round encounter in New York four years later. Jim Courier, the top seed and winner of two Grand Slam events this year, had a tough time beating No. 60 Cedric Pioline 7-6(2), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. John McEnroe, meanwhile, cruised to a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Richard Fromberg. Michael Chang can’t help it if no one notices him and his pound, pound, pounding tennis game. He is going to stand on the baseline and whack away at his ground-strokes, and if it takes five hours and is as interesting as watching grass grow or paint dry and if those are cliches, well, Chang appreciates those, too, because he tends to talk in cliches, well-meaning cliches, like, “Well, you got to get there before you can go on.” That’s what Chang said yesterday about advancing to the fourth round. Chang was very serious. To him, this is all serious stuff and, well, doesn’t it make sense? He can’t play in the quarterfinals if he doesn’t get out of the fourth round. That’s how it goes in tennis, and that’s how Chang will explain it. It was with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory against Arnaud Boetsch of France that Chang moved out of the third round and into the fourth. It made Chang, seeded fourth, one of seven men’s seeds to win. No. 2 seed and defending champion Stefan Edberg has not found even a little challenge here yet, and it was fellow Swede Jonas Svensson who was the quick victim yesterday, losing, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. No. 7 seed Boris Becker faced a fellow German, Carl-Uwe Steeb and, true to his form here, struggled and finally won, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3. No. 9 seed Ivan Lendl also dropped a set but recovered to beat wild card Chuck Adams, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; No. 12 seed Wayne Ferreira of South Africa was not pushed in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory against Wally Masur; and hard-hitting Richard Krajicek, the No. 15 seed from Holland, subdued another Australian, Mark Woodforde, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. Spain’s Emilio Sanchez  beat  Javier Sanchez, 5-7, 6-1, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-4 in 3 hours 20 minutes (20 breaks of serve!). Older brother Emilio, 27, has beaten 24-year-old Javier in all eight meetings – their last before the U.S. Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria, in 1989. Javier wasn’t as close as in New York to beat his older brother in those eight meetings. Emilo survived a dramatic 5-setter in the first round as well, when he fought off a match point to overcome  Petr Korda 6-2, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4). MaliVai Washington came back from a rain delay the previous night and needed only five minutes and two games to finish off Henri Leconte, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3.
Fourth round: Jerry Macgee, Michael Silverman
Defending champion Stefan Edberg edged into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open today by holding off his Netherlands nemesis, Richard Krajicek, in a five-set, 4-hour and 20-minute struggle. Scores of the fourth-round match, played before a crowd of 20,831 at the National Tennis Center, were 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Edberg’s victory was his first after two defeats to Krajicek – in New Haven on a hard surface in 1991, and in Tokyo this year, again on a hard court. Winning, allowed the Swede to play a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the 19th time in career (fourth in New York). The Edberg-Krajicek match was a surging affair in which first the Open champion, then young Krajicek (20) appeared to have the advantage. Edberg might have won in straight sets but for some uncertain volleying in the 2nd-set tie-break. Here, Edberg was serving in the tie-break with a 6:4 lead, but he netted a backhand volley. Krajicek then won his two service points for a 7:6 advantage, and he won the set on the next point on another Edberg volleying error. Krajicek owns one of the biggest serves in men’s tennis, but his returns served him better today than his serve. After falling behind a break in the 4th set, Krajicek immediately broke back to even matters, 3:3, then broke Edberg again on his next service to position himself to run out the set. In the final set, a third consecutive Krajicek break gave him a 1:0 lead. The match turned in the 6th game, with Krajicek serving at 3:2, 30/40. Edberg lobbed back the Dutchman’s delivery. Krajicek chose not to play the ball, and it fell in the court to make it 3-all. A half-volley that Edberg angled put the serving Krajicek on break point/match point at 4:5. When he netted a forehand volley, Edberg came through safely. Before this year, Krajicek had not won a match in the U.S. Open. He extended Lendl to five sets in the first round here in 1991. Jim Courier dealt John McEnroe a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(1) defeat in what may have marked the end of McEnroe’s 17-year association with the U.S. Open. After his fourth-round loss before 19,491 at the National Tennis Center, McEnroe questioned whether he will compete again in an event he has won four times. “No one can say for sure,” he said, “but this is a pretty clear indication that the top guys are clearly a step ahead of me, and it is not really a difficult decision.” McEnroe’s ouster came during an afternoon and evening that proceeded formfully. Joining Courier, the No. 1 seed, in the quarterfinals were No. 8 Andre Agassi and unseeded Alexander Volkov. Agassi hammered Carlos Costa 6-4, 6-3, 6-2; and Volkov held off Brad Gilbert 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(5). Pete Sampras avenged the most painful defeat of his career by rallying past Guy Forget, 6-3, 1-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 after 3 hours 9 minutes. Forget had won their previous three meetings, including a four-set victory in last year’s Davis Cup title match that gave France a 3-1 win over the United States. “Everybody knows about the final in Lyon, which was very disappointing,” Sampras said. “This match was very important to me, as far as the whole experience goes from last year. It was something that really bothered me for the next two, three months.” It took 5 hours and 1 minute (the longest US Open match in history at the time) for the dust to settle, but once it did, Ivan Lendl was still standing. Lendl walked off the U.S. Open stadium court last night a fourth-round winner over Boris Becker, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 ended at 12:46 a.m. Lendl, 32, fought back throughout, battling fatigue, bad line calls and a feisty 24-year-old Becker to win what was believed to be the longest match at the Open since the 1988 final between Mats Wilander and Lendl, which lasted 4 hours and 55 minutes. “When you lose a couple of tiebreakers you have to keep trying,” said Lendl, who’ll meet Edberg in a quarterfinal tomorrow. “That is the only way. I finally made some break points when I had to and that turned it around.” The two had met before. Nineteen times, in fact, with five of those matches in the semis or finals of Grand Slam events. Becker is unbeaten in those five meetings, but now the overall slate is even at 10-10 and Lendl has his first victory over Becker in a Grand Slam. “It was a hard struggle for both players, and I guess I came out so many times on top against him in a close match, and you know, sometimes the dice are not falling for you,” said Becker. “I have to take it like that. On some days you are meant to win and some days meant to lose.” The 1st set went to a tiebreaker, which Becker won with a 108-mph ace. The right-handed Lendl favored his forehand throughout, and Becker kept him pinned in his left corner, peppering him with deep volleys. Becker also met with success by charging the net, breaking Lendl in the 2nd set for the second and last time (first in the opening game of the match), by withstanding a three-shot barrage from Lendl before chipping in the winner. The 3rd set ended in another tiebreaker, this one highlighted by a call reversal in Lendl’s favor. It left Becker apoplectic, but he replayed the point by serving an ace, one of three in the series. He emerged up, and Lendl left the tiebreaker fuming. Lendl regained his composure and some momentum in the 4th set. He gained a 4:1 lead, and Becker did little to stop him. In the 5th set, Lendl got the service break to go up 4:3, and it was Lendl who closed out the match, one last pass whizzing by a desperate Becker. “Probably when I wake up, then the pain is going to start,” Becker said. “I gave everything I had. It was two men battling for five hours, and one had to lose.”As Becker and Lendl played out Chapter 20 of their duel, MaliVai Washington was making a valiant effort to topple No. 4 seed Michael Chang. But the No. 14 player, who many feel is on the verge of making a move to the top of the men’s ranks, fell short, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Washington committed more than his share of unforced errors – 77 to 59 for Chang – and could not draw an ace, a deadly combination. “He was just more consistent than I was,” Washington said. Chang, who had 11 break points, was just thankful that the match was over. “I dodged a few bullets tonight,” he said. Tomorrow Chang meets Wayne Ferreira, a 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 winner over Emilio Sanchez.
Quarterfinals: Michael Silverman
Zen master Andre Agassi met his maker last night, falling to Jim Courier 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-4 in much more longer match than the scoreline would suggest (3 hours 47 minutes). Both players slugged it out from baseline to baseline but Courier played the finer game, cracking 22 aces, including three in the final game. The eagerly anticipated match featured all the sound and fury one could expect or even want, with both players venting their assorted frustrations. As expected – though not by his biggest fan, Barbra Streisand – Agassi made the loudest explosion. The fireworks began in the 3rd game of the 2nd set. After Courier broke Agassi to cut the margin to 2:1, Agassi threw a tizzy and his racket, the latter bouncing off his chair and nearly hitting the technicians sitting below the chair umpire. The ump, skipping a warning, issued a code violation for racket abuse, which truly ticked off Agassi. He pleaded the intricacies of why he did not deserve the call before screaming several strong obscenities into the towel he held to his mouth. His game fell apart for the next three games until, down 4:2, he regained his head and gained a 5:4 lead. The set then moved to a tiebreaker and Courier appeared to be on cruise control, going up 6:3, for triple match point. But Courier missed a gimme at the net to make it 6:4 and at 6:5, Agassi rushed to the net to make a drop shot that Courier had no chance at. He then combined a winner and a Courier error to pull out an amazing 8/6 win for the set. The 3rd set was a quieter affair. Courier dominated, breaking Agassi twice. Agassi was saving his energy for the 4th set, in which he went up 4:3. But Agassi blew three break points in the next game and Courier broke him in the 9th before finishing him off with three aces. This was the 10th time the two had met and Courier raised his mark to 6-4. Their only previous meeting this year had been Courier’s straight-set semifinal victory at the French Open, which Courier went on to win. Courier’s win cleared the way for a Saturday semifinal showdown against Pete Sampras, a 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 victor yesterday over Alexander Volkov, who showed up in body only. “I was a bit surprised he kind of packed it in,” the 1990 Open champion said. “But I will take it.” Volkov started off fine, breaking Sampras in game 3 of the 1st set. But Sampras broke him back in a long game 6, and did it again in the 10th game to win the set. In the 2nd game of the 2nd set, Sampras broke Volkov, killing the Russian’s will at the same time. Volkov, who did not make himself available for interviews after the match, simply tanked it from there on in, playing listlessly and refusing to move more than a step for most balls. In the 3rd set, he resumed non-playing, netting easy shots, not budging an inch on mediocre Sampras serves, and, on match point, returning an easy shot as high as he could, allowing Sampras to slam it, and him, home. “Maybe it was the heat that got to him, maybe he just got a little bit frustrated out there, but you know, he is a very streaky player,” Sampras said. “He can play two great sets and lose it. But I was a little bit surprised.” Volkov will take a revenge on Sampras six months later, beating the American 7-5, 6-4 in Indian Wells. Michael Chang left his footprints in the red clay at Roland Garros in 1989. He was the youngest French Open champion and the first of the new breed of Americans to make his mark in the Grand Slams. He has been waiting three years for an encore, and now he might have his stage. The 20-year-old Chang reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Thursday with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory over Wayne Ferreira, his best Grand Slam showing since his French Open victory. Chang completed his second straight five-set victory, outlasting the 12th-seeded South African in a battle of the two youngest quarter-finalists. “This has been my best year, but I haven’t had great Grand Slam results this year, so this is important to me, getting to the semifinals,” said Chang, seeded fourth. Ferreira had his strained left thigh wrapped at 3:2 in the 4th set but managed to win the set in a tiebreaker, evening the match. But as he did against Washington, Chang rolled in the 5th. He broke for a 2:0 lead, then broke again for 5:1 and served it out. “I tried to keep out of mind that he was injured and just play my game,” Chang said. “He played well in the fourth set and deserved to win it, even if he was hurt. In the fifth he got tired.” “It got worse and worse as the match went on,” Ferreira said. “When it was strapped up, that took the pressure off, and it was OK to play with it. I’ve played through a lot of pain worse that that.” Chang is 12-4 in career five-setters. “It’s not wanting to lose,” said Chang, who was beaten in five-setters at the Australian Open (by Krajicek) and French Open (by Nicklas Kulti) this year. “Chang will die before he loses,” Ferriera said. “I have a mental block with five-setters. I’ve only played five and lost three of them 6-1. After I lost my serve, I was down.” Ferreira improved his mentality in 5-setters and finished career with very respectable 27-12 record. He committed an amazing 104 unforced errors and hit 62 winners. Chang made 45 unforced errors. “If I’d hit the ball up the middle or to the side with no pace, he is going to run down everything,” Ferreira said. “If you play a guy like him, you have to go for a lot. You’ve got to expect to miss a lot of balls. On the other hand, you have got to put a lot of pressure on him, try to get to the net.” Minutes after the Chang-Ferreira match ended, the second deluge of the day drenched the stadium and forced the suspension of the Stefan Edberg–Ivan Lendl match. It was getting crazy when the rain hit. Lendl had saved triple match point and then broken the defending champion for a 6:5 lead in the 4th set (Lendl saved also fourth ad-MP). Edberg, who led two-sets-to-one when the delay hit, dropped the set 5-7 when play resumed. After Edberg took a 2:1 lead in the 5th set, rain again suspended the match. “The fourth set last night was very exciting,” said Edberg, the second seed and only non-American left among the men. “He pulled it out. I don’t know how. I just laughed about it. I tried to look at it in a positive way.” Edberg, whose victory assured that the top four seeds would make the semis, had a 2:1 lead in the 5th set when play resumed Friday. Fifty minutes later, the longtime rivals were in their tiebreaker. Edberg took it by scoring the last four points. Then, restoring a forgotten tradition from tennis’ past, Edberg jumped the net and put his arm around Lendl. “Ivan has played his best tennis,” Edberg said. “It’ll be impossible for him to get back to his level of 1985 and 1986. You play your best tennis in your mid-20s, and he’s 32. You can still play good tennis in your 30s, but you’re not as consistent. That’s the way it is.” Lendl had his chances to win the match anyway. He had three game points leading 4:3 in the 5th set and a mini-match point at 4-all. The final score of that 4-hour, 3-minute quarterfinal: 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6(3) – Edberg had a double break point at 3-all in the 3rd set, then it’d seemed that exactly the same scoreline of their US Open ’91 semifinal would have occurred, when Edberg won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Semifinals: Robin Finn
Pete Sampras rushed away from his semifinal match without comment, doubled up from the pain of dehydration-induced stomach cramps, but he didn’t exit the night-chilled Stadium Court until he had deposed the world’s No. 1 player, Jim Courier, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. This 1992 Open finale won’t only decide the owner of the year’s fourth and Grand Slam title, but will anoint a new No. 1 player in the world. Both Stefan Edberg, who hasn’t been shy about his desire to reclaim the top spot he first lost to Courier in February, and Sampras, who has maintained an “if Jim can do it, I can do it” attitude toward the computer ranking, are candidates. “C’est la vie,” said Courier, the two-time French Open champion, in response to that daunting information. Courier also failed to follow the example set by top-ranked Monica Seles, who collected her third Grand Slam title of 1992 yesterday, and add this Open to his 1992 Australian and French Open laurels. While Sampras simply overwhelmed Courier, who later panned his performance as “probably the worst tennis I’ve ever played in a big match,” neither Edberg nor fourth-seeded Michael Chang, that master of the marathon, could find an easy resolution to their record-setting semifinal confrontation. “I’m fighting for my life out there,” was Edberg’s most vivid recollection of the third consecutive Open match in which he needed to overcome a fifth-set deficit to prolong his title defense. But 5 hours and 26 minutes after Chang, who hadn’t gotten this far at a Grand Slam since he captured the 1989 French Open, and Edberg squared off in relatively friendly fashion, both trudged out of the stadium like a pair of lost souls. Fatigue, said Edberg, the exhausted winner by a slender 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4 margin (23 breaks of serve!), can blur the difference between the conqueror and the vanquished. The difference between Sampras and Courier was more pronounced: Sampras, the 1990 U.S. Open champion, not only avenged his quarterfinal loss to Courier here last year but extended his domination in their career rivalry to 6-1. Courier, although he insisted that he “beat himself,” also admitted that Sampras’s serve was an unscalable wall last night while his own was decidedly porous. Sampras, ranked a career-high third in the world, out-aced his contemporary by 11-6 and converted 7 of 10 break points while Courier, although he earned 11, followed through on just 2 of them. Sampras stormed off to a 5:1* lead in the 1st set and broke Courier to pocket it. He then was broken himself in the 7th and 9th games of the 2nd set. Sampras crunched Courier again in the 3rd, and although stomach cramps rendered him nearly immobile in the final games of the 4th set, he converted his third match point with a forehand blast to the corner. “Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t,” Courier said of his disastrous timing. Time was the star performer of yesterday’s other semifinal. “I had chances, he had chances – it was just incredible – but now there’s only one match to go,” said Edberg, 10-6 in Grand Slam semifinals and positioned to prevent a sweep of the four Grand Slams by Americans – Courier’s two and Andre Agassi’s victory at Wimbledon. The Sampras-Edberg rivalry is dead even at 2-2. “It was sort of a tough match again, mentally,” said Edberg, who waited until the end of his match against Chang to prove himself the stronger contender. “He had me down *0:3, 15/40, and then the momentum changed.” According to Chang, who ventured to the net just 70 times as opposed to 254 trips by Edberg, this was a match between contrasting stylists where fitness and attitude merged, in the end, with the one-dimensional thinking that makes champions want to stay that way. Chang had defeated Edberg in Paris final to earn his one Grand Slam title. Yesterday Chang’s five-set record slipped to 12-5, while Edberg improved his to 23-14. Edberg prevailed despite double-faulting 18 times (9 aces) and winning a meager 51 percent of his first serves. He accumulated 67 unforced errors, while the careful Chang committed just 39 mistakes over the course of the longest match in the history of the tournament. Edberg was a player without a serve in the opening set, for him the equivalent of taking to the court half-dressed. But this bizarre circumstance did not exactly make an aggressor of Chang, who needed eight set points before he finally claimed ownership of the tie breaker (the American already lead 5:2* in the 1st set). Edberg made an impressive recovery in the 2nd set, and crashed ahead to a *4:0 lead. But serving for the set at 5:3, Edberg was broken at love. Then Chang saved a set point in the 10th game by jamming a serve tight to Edberg’s midriff. Edberg eventually evened the match at one set apiece with a high backhand volley winner and worked his way to a 5:2* lead in the 3rd set. Serving for the set at 5:3, he was broken by Chang, who then initiated another tie breaker. This time, Edberg took full control. An ace and backhand winner gave him a 6:0 lead. But Chang opted to treat his plight as surmountable. He had cut the deficit to 6:3* with two tremendous backhand passing-shots, when Edberg provoked a rare backhand error by Chang to finally go up two sets to one. Eventually Edberg took the set on seventh set point. In the 4th set Chang led *5:3, but again, for the fourth time the players had been caught at 5-all before Chang won five games in a row. The match was 4:23 old when the final set began. Chang jumped off to a 3:0 lead and had two break points. But Edberg saved them, held for, then broke Chang (had two game points) for 2:3 on his third break point. “I knew it would be a dogfight, even if I was up a break,” said Chang, who is 4-11 against Edberg. “If I don’t get my first serve in, Stefan has a good chance of breaking me.” Chang broke back after a ‘deuce’ game for 4:2 but lost his serve at love. Edberg held for 4-all at 15, then broke Chang at love for 5:4. The match, at last, was on Edberg’s racket. Edberg served and volleyed to 30/0, having won 14 of the last 15 points, then lost the next three points, giving Chang a break point for 5-all which seemed like a natural pattern of the match, but the scenario of previous four sets when both players serving to win sets failed, wasn’t repeated this time. Edberg saved the break point with a backhand volley. At ‘deuce’, Chang netted a forehand return on Edberg’s second serve, and Edberg had his first match point. He wouldn’t need another – delivered another service winner. “I’ve been in a lot of trouble and come out of it,” Edberg said after one of the most astonishing matches in the tennis history. “Anytime you come back from a break in the fifth set is great, but to do it three times – it proves I built good character.” Total points won: Edberg – 222, Chang – 214. The American, just like Edberg, played two consecutive five-setters in two previous rounds, spending less time though – 3:34 vs. Washington & 4:16 vs. Ferreira.
Final: Robin Finn
This was a duel with dual significance and a dizzying reward for the tennis player who commanded it. Properly animated for the occasion, Stefan Edberg shed his usual restraint, switched on the ignition and not only mounted a successful defense of his United States Open title but took control of the world’s No. 1 ranking in the space of three personally glorious hours yesterday. “The longer the match went on, the better I felt,” said Edberg. “Mentally I was feeling very strong. Any time you can defend your title in a Slam, I mean, not many guys can do that. Defending my title, that’s what I was here for, and becoming No. 1, that’s kind of a nice present for me.” All of that personal and professional justification fell into the lap of the 26-year-old Swede at the expense of Pete Sampras, the Open’s 1990 champion, who couldn’t handle the sustained pressure Edberg applied in the course of his 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory in 175 minutes. Sampras, his strength sapped by a stomach virus that sent him reeling from the Stadium Court after he toppled the former No. 1, Jim Courier, in the semifinals on Saturday night, faltered in the final set. “I found myself at a point where my body couldn’t do it,” said the 21-year-old Sampras, who hadn’t appeared in a Grand Slam final since he won his first and only Slam here two years ago. “I had my chances in the third set, but my serve kind of let me down,” said Sampras, who classified this year, in which he won four titles, as a “just-miss.” His feelings about the year somewhat resembled his feelings about this match. “It’s a match I definitely could have won if I got the proper points, but he was the better man, he won the important points,” said Sampras, who was hindered by 11 double faults and converted just 2 of the 10 break points he earned against Edberg’s serve. The Swede’s sixth Grand Slam title (and the last one, he had 37 titles altogether at the time) did not come into his possession without a herculean effort: Not since 1951 had any finalist had to play so many sets, 24, just to reach the last round. In the three previous rounds, Edberg was not only pushed to the fifth set, but also had to recover from being down a break in the final set of all three contests. The last of them, his 5-hour-26-minute semifinal match against fourth-seeded Michael Chang, is the longest in the history of this event. “It was a bumpy road,” Edberg said. “I really earned it this year.” His 1992 Open title prevented a sweep of the four Slams by players from the United States. Courier, with victories at the Australian and French Opens, and Andre Agassi, who won Wimbledon, had paved the way for what could have been the first United States sweep since Don Budge singlehandedly swept the Slams in 1938. As the match began, Sampras appeared to be on track to make that happen. “He came out very hot in the first set, but then I sort of got my way into it,” said Edberg, who perceived a definite droop in his opponent’s shoulders once Sampras double-faulted away the 1st game of the 4th set. Sampras might have been the less aggressive of these two serve-and-volley wizards in the opening set, but his passing shots made up for that. When he broke down Edberg’s serve in the 6th game, it was the only window of opportunity he needed in the set. Sampras used a forehand pass down the line to reach deuce, had his first break point of the set when Edberg spilled a forehand volley into the net and captured the game and a 4:2 advantage by ripping a backhand service return down the line. Sampras sealed up the set by pasting a 105 mile-an-hour ace past Edberg, who gave it a nod of acknowledgement but didn’t bother raising a racquet to it. In the 2nd set the first nine games went with serve (Sampras saved break points in two games), but Edberg leading 5:4 managed to break the American for the first time in the final despite 15/40. In the 3rd set, it was Edberg who struggled more on service games, winning two of them saving break points (in the opening game of that set both players threw their racquets – something unusual for them both!). Finally the defending champion was broken at 30 in the 9th game, but when Sampras was serving to win the set, Edberg broke back, also at 30 – Sampras served two double faults in that game, another one at 5:4 for Edberg in the tie-break. The Swede jumped to a 4:0 lead in the final set, and saved a double break point for a 5:1 lead. He finished the magnificent tournament with two service winners and jumped over the net like great champions of the past… Edberg was three weeks a leader of the ATP ranking after the US Open ’92. He couldn’t regain this position though, to finish third straight year as the best player in the world. Courier finished the 1992 season at the top. Since 1993 started the Sampras era that lasted six years. Stats of the final.