U.S. Open, New York
August 29, 1994; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $4,100,800; Surface – Hard
The most shocking US Open of the 90s. All main favorites were eliminated before quarterfinals, including defending champion Pete Sampras, who came back in action after a 6-week injury break. His injured ankle was already fine, but he wasn’t prepared physically and lost in the 4th round to one of the shortest players of the Open era – Jaime Yzaga, who had eliminated the 1993 finalist Cedric Pioline in the previous round (Yzaga in both those matches won fewer points!). Andre Agassi became the only unseeded champion in the tournament history, defeating five seeded players (no other U.S. champion had beaten even four before)!
First round: Steve Wilstein
Doubles specialist Richey Reneberg  played the singles match of his life Monday night and ousted seventh-seeded Boris Becker  from the U.S. Open in a five-set first-round victory. With fans chanting: “Who needs baseball! Who needs baseball!” Houston’s Reneberg beat Becker, a former U.S. Open champion, 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 7-6(5) in a match that lasted more 3 hours, 6 minutes, and ended well past midnight (Becker’s first 5-set defeat in which the scoreline reached 5-all in the final set, had previously won six times in these circumstances). Trailing, 5:4 in the final set, Becker fought off triple match point with a service winner, a 119-mph ace and another service winner. In the tie-break he saved another two match points. “That fifth set probably was the best set of tennis I’ve ever played,” Reneberg said. “I was thinking he usually wins matches like this, so I decided to go for my shots and they were all going in.” It was Reneberg’s first victory ever against Becker. Day one of the Open lasted more than 13 hours, Reneberg closed the show with an overhead into an open court that Becker couldn’t reach. Reneberg, 28, covered so much of the court that it seemed at times as if he had an invisible doubles partner on his side. Becker tried to beat him from the baseline, then from the net, but couldn’t overcome a sluggish start. There were patches when Becker was brilliant: he served 10 of his 20 aces in the fifth set. But there were other times when he seemed destined to lose: he hit 29 of his 59 unforced errors in the first two sets. He was coming off tour victories in Los Angeles and New Haven, and was deemed a potent contender at the Open. But Reneberg, a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team, poked holes in that theory. Reneberg was nearly flawless with only 28 unforced errors in the whole match. For two sets, he could do no wrong. He hit lunging winners off the frame of his racket, passing shots that left Becker stunned, ground-strokes that nicked the corners. Even when Becker evened the match in the next two sets, Reneberg played far above his usual standard or anything he showed while dropping all six of their previous matches. “He slowed down in the fourth set and saved his energy for the fifth,” Becker said. “The balls here are heavier and softer. That suits his game very much. He’s a counter-puncher.” Goran Ivanisevic  stood meekly behind the baseline during most of his 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 loss to Marcus Zoecke . Zoecke serves hard, and that’s about it. At 6 feet 5 inches, his head is always hunched over his thick chest, as if he’s trying not to show how tall he really is. He looks awkward, top heavy, his legs surprisingly slender, and he walks with little mincing steps. Ivanisevic could have taken advantage of Zoecke’s slowness, his erratic ground-strokes, his weak second serve. Instead, Ivanisevic displayed a mixture of indifference and confusion. He strolled away from one of Zoecke’s 16 aces before the ball even crossed the net. He stared plaintively in the last game when one forehand by Zoecke clipped the net cord and skipped into the corner for a winner, and when one of his own sat up for Zoecke to put away on match point. Todd Martin punched the air with a right uppercut to punctuate his five-set victory Tuesday at the U.S. Open. He was lucky he didn’t hit himself. Martin did everything to knock himself out in the first round. He lost the first two sets and sprayed three unforced errors to set up match points in the fifth set against the bespectacled and decidedly unspectacular Guillaume Raoux. Raoux, a squat, bookish Frenchman who turned the hard-court match into a clay-court baseline duel, took all the gifts Martin offered yet still couldn’t quite win. No matter how many chances Raoux had, there was a sense in watching the match that he would find a way to lose and that Martin would find a way to win. That crystallized in the fifth set when Martin served, trailing 4:5, and he faced three match points after errors. On the first, he hit a perfect backhand pass crosscourt to save the match; on the second, Raoux dumped a forehand into the net after a deep forehand by Martin; and on the third, Raoux slapped a forehand wide. Both players looked exhausted as they wiped the sweat from their faces, but they persevered and pushed the match to the tie breaker. Now they were in Martin’s element, the time he seems to wait for to assert himself. Sure enough, he played his best tennis of the day and Raoux his worst. And when Martin slugged a forehand return to close out the match, 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(1), he celebrated with a punch he should have thrown much earlier. The crowd wanted Martin, an American, to win, but it also wanted an upset. Martin said he didn’t think the crowd knew what it wanted or what it saw. “It’s quite a good feeling to play in front of people who yell every point and tell you you’re terrible when you aren’t, and tell you you’re good when you aren’t,’‘ said Martin, who was slightly bothered by a strained groin. “And it was an awful lot of fun after the first two sets to be out there. It was just nice to be out there and finish the job that I started.” This was supposed to be an easy victory for the No. 9 Martin, the start of a peaceful stroll at least as far as the semifinals. The only two players ranked higher in his quarter of the draw were already gone, No. 2 Goran Ivanisevic and No. 7 Boris Becker, victims of Monday’s massacre. But Martin doesn’t seem to do anything easily. He lost his first two sets last year at the Open to one Jordi Burillo. Martin played a record four five-setters at Wimbledon before falling in the semifinals to champion Pete Sampras. If Martin doesn’t get upset along the way, he’s seeded to meet Michael Chang in the semifinals next week. “I didn’t think, `Oh, gee, here I am, another upset in the U.S. Open,”’ Martin said. “I don’t care if Becker and Ivanisevic lost. Actually, I was pretty happy for Richey (Reneberg) last night. You’ve just got to fight, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what your credentials are.” Taking an easier route into the second round Tuesday were No. 5 Stefan Edberg, a 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 winner against Lars Jonsson; and No. 4 Michael Stich, who beat Olivier Delaitre 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-3. No. 15 Marc Rosset, seeded to play Martin in the quarters, struggled to beat Mark Woodforde 4-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. Richard Krajicek, unseeded , had one of the more curious victories as he blew a 6:0 lead in a fourth-set tie breaker, lost the set, but still beat Jan Siemerink, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(8), 6-4. “I was already taking a shower in my head,” Krajicek said, “and suddenly I find myself 7-6 down and actually two sets all. I really relaxed at 6-love and paid the penalty – almost.” When Siemerink  trailed by the six match points, USA Cable commentator John McEnroe blurted out: “If he comes back from here, I’ll stand on my head during the Courier-Krickstein match. I’ll call it upside down,” McEnroe said. When Krajicek had his seventh match point in the fourth set, McEnroe put aside his supposedly impartial journalistic ethics, saying, “I don’t know who wants this more, Richard or me.” Krajicek started the decider with a 0:1 (0/40) deficit but saved a triple break point, came back mentally and won the last three games of the match to survive in 3 hours 41 minutes. In the second round Krajicek again lost two tie-breaks, this time the second one was crucial – it was 5th set tie-break against Carlos Costa. Kevin Ullyett didn’t know it, but he wasn’t the only one dealing with some pre-match nerves on Wednesday. Pete Sampras, the defending champion and top seed, also had some butterflies in his stomach. His ankle seemed fine. But he hadn’t played on the tour since it began to bother him six weeks ago at Wimbledon. Practice was one thing. A match at the U.S. Open was another. “I felt a little vulnerable coming in,” Sampras said. “But it’s like riding a bike.” In this case, like riding a bike real fast. Sampras needed only 85 minutes to finish the Tour De Ullyett, rolling to a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory in his first-round match against a 206th-ranked and slightly awestruck South African. “I was excited,” Ullyett said. “You don’t get chances like this too often in your lifetime. I think guys are going to find him tough to beat, even though he hasn’t played in six weeks.” You could tell Jim Courier‘s head was screwed on straight as soon as he took the court. His nose was pointed in the same direction as his feet. Tennis’ most celebrated – or is that overblown? – case of burnout made his grand re-entrance to the game Tuesday night, and what better place to unveil himself again than at the U.S. Open. Courier always did appreciate a big crowd, and he had 18,000 at the National Tennis Center and a nationally-televised audience as well. He quickly ran through a game but under-equipped Aaron Krickstein 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, showing off the straight-ahead power of his ground strokes and the pugnacity that once took him to the top of the rankings. Burnout? It lasted three days, he admitted. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, one of the hottest young players on the men’s tour, got off to a good start at his first U.S. Open but wasn’t too impressed by the ambience of the raucous National Tennis Center. Kafelnikov, who won his third title at last week’s Hamlet Cup, said he was warned about the Open, but didn’t expect it to be this bad. “Here it is like a nightmare,” the 20-year-old Russian said, comparing the Open to other Grand Slams. “You cannot walk here easily and everybody is touching you. The most easy for me is the Australian Open because I like the atmosphere there and it is not like here.” Kafelnikov, No. 14, posted a 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-3 victory over Dutchman Jacco Eltingh on Stadium Court.
Second round: Jerry Magee
Playing tennis against Michael Chang has to be like developing the flu. After a while, you begin to hurt all over. It was like that last night for MaliVai Washington, who began strongly but ultimately submitted, it seemed, to attrition as much as to what Chang was directing at him. Scores in this second-round U.S. Open match were 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(3). For the evening session, the crowd was 22,050, of which only a fraction was still present when Chang and Washington concluded matters at 17 minutes after midnight in the East, 3 hours, 2 minutes after the match’s start. For Chang, that was a relatively snappy get-together. In 1992, he and Stefan Edberg labored in the semifinals for 5:26 – the longest match in Open history. Edberg won in five sets. Chang is like a pitcher whose stuff improves as the innings go by. If you’re going to get him, you had best do it quickly. Trailing, 0:2, after losing the first set, Chang cut down on his errors and watched Washington make plenty of his own to win six straight games and take control. There were moments when each produced great shots, but those were offset by a total of 111 unforced errors in a generally sloppy match. Washington seemed beaten when he was broken to 5:3 in the third set, then hit a defensive lob as high as the top of the stadium at 30/15 in the next game. Chang waited a few seconds for the ball to come down, put it away on a bounce with an overhead, then served an ace to close out the set. But Washington, who loves long matches as much as Chang, bore down to push the fourth set to a tiebreaker. Cruising for bruisings in the U.S. Open: There was Jim Courier getting clobbered in the stadium, Andrei Medvedev crumbling in the grandstand. It was a Friday afternoon of sunshine and sucker punches, players hardly anyone ever heard of sneaking up and knocking out four big names. Courier’s lassitude caught up to him against a fiery, fist-pumping Italian, 21-year-old Andrea Gaudenzi, who took out the No. 11 seed 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the second round – the same round Courier lost in at Wimbledon. A couple of weeks ago, Courier spoke of bagging his rackets, maybe the sport, if he couldn’t recover his desire. He almost stayed away from the Open, and perhaps now wishes he did. After losing in his 22nd straight tournament, Courier was asked how he might get back to the level he played at when he won two Australian Opens and two French Opens. “Do you want to tell me?” he said. “It is a process. You have to work through it. I know I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” Defending champion and top seed Pete Sampras had no such problems at night, serving 17 aces and neatly dismissing a potential threat in Daniel Vacek, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in just more than 1 1/2 hours – slightly longer than his opening match two days earlier (it was their third major match within 12 months). Sampras , whose injured left ankle sidelined him for six weeks before the tournament, looked much more impressive in his second match against a player ranked No. 54 than in his first against a less challenging qualifier. This time, Sampras raised the level of his play, serving and volleying with authority and chasing down baseline shots as if he never had been hurt. “My ankle feels great,” Sampras said. Courier’s performance, while not as utterly indifferent as some of the ones he has put on in the past year, lacked passion for the first two sets and revealed again why he has fallen so precipitously from the top of tennis. Courier plays at two paces, hard and harder. When those aren’t enough, when his timing or accuracy are a tad off, he doesn’t adjust to the conditions or his opponents. He might have thrown Gaudenzi off by coming to the net more, mixing up strokes, doing anything different. It took an hour and a half for Courier to try a drop shot, and though it worked, he never tried it again. Instead, he slugged and slugged until he was slugged out, dumping the last ball into the net. Karel Novacek played one of the best matches of his life to beat Andrei Medvedev 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Medvedev seemed slow on the court, stuck at times, unsure whether to come in or stay back. Novacek was playing as if in a dream, and Medvedev had no idea what to do. “I’m sure his impression before the match was kind of like, `I will go for my shots because I actually have nothing to lose,’ and you know, he played a very smart, tactical game,” Medvedev said. Andre Agassi says there are “six or seven guys” who can win the U.S. Open. And even though he is unseeded, Agassi puts himself in that select group. Agassi, ranked 20th in the world, certainly looked sharp in defeating veteran Frenchman Guy Forget, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2, in Thursday night’s featured match at the National Tennis Center. Agassi wasted a 5:2* lead in the 3rd set and 5:4* in the tie-breaker. He next faces No. 12 seed Wayne Ferreira in a third-round match, probably on Saturday. His likely fourth-round opponent would be No. 6 Michael Chang. A title at the Canadian Open in Toronto four weeks ago his first tournament win since February has Agassi in an upbeat mood. “That’s the most important thing in playing a tournament when you step into the arena out on stadium court, you actually believe you can beat who you are playing against. And I do,” said Agassi. “I think the win in Canada really helped me. If I continue to play my best tennis, I do have a shot to win the Open, absolutely.” Forget was ranked 108th but he was no pushover for Agassi. After missing almost a year after a serious knee injury suffered in 1993, Forget converted a wild-card entry at Wimbledon in June into a surprising quarterfinal appearance, which included a victory over Jim Courier. While Agassi is known as a brilliant service returner, Forget’s first four serves of the match were a blistering 114, 117, 123, and 106 mph (the last one on a second serve). The first two went for aces but the last two led to a double-fault. That would be a problem that would plague Forget all night. It ended abruptly, with Ivan Lendl  in his chair, his back too stiff to play, this year’s U.S. Open over too early for him. Lendl dropped the first set Thursday against  Bernd Karbacher, 6-4, but was up, 5:0, in the second when the pain began to get to him. He played on, trying to get through it, trying to find a way to win. There were nine set points (!), nine chances to put his man away and stretch the match. Each of them went to Karbacher and progressively Lendl’s back got worse and his mobility vanished before he lost, 6-4, 7-6(5), 1-0, default. What was he thinking, Lendl was asked. “It wouldn’t help you to know,” he said. After Karbacher won the set in a tiebreaker, the trainer visited Lendl. “It got stiff fairly early,” Lendl said. “It’s the same thing. It has been going on for a while.” He tried to play on but Karbacher took him apart in the first game of the third set. And now it was over, Lendl wincing as he walked off center court, a place he has dominated. This is a man who played for the U.S. Open title every year from 1982 through 1989. But he’s 34 now, in the twilight of his career. And for the second year in a row, his Open would end with him injured, unable to complete a match. Last year, it was his knee that sent Lendl home in the first round. This time it was his back. Was it frustrating? “More than I can explain,” he said. “It is sad in a way, but it is normal,” Karbacher said. “What he reached in his career was great but he is 34. You can’t play 20 years. It is normal that some young guy will come up and beat him.” Lendl never came back on tour after that loss…
Third round: Steve Wilstein, Mark Woods
They were the perfect antidote to slam-bang tennis, Andre Agassi winning in three sweet sets, Michael Chang in just one and a half, each showing why baseliners are dominating this year’s U.S. Open. The way they played Saturday, Agassi and Chang looked as if they were sharpening up for the final. Too bad one must bump off the other in the round of 16. Agassi beat the tougher opponent, No. 12 Wayne Ferreira, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5, and he did it in thoroughly convincing fashion. Ferreira was so frustrated he was reduced to childish fits of racket-throwing and ball-whacking. Chang was equally in command of his match but got away in half the time when Jim Grabb retired with an aggravated shoulder injury while trailing 6-1, 4-1. Chang played his best tennis so far, serving like a bigger man and chasing down almost everything. It is no coincidence that Agassi and Chang are playing so well. So, too, are other baseliners like No. 3 Sergi Bruguera, who beat big Marc-Kevin Goellner 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(4) 6-1, and No. 13 Thomas Muster, who beat Thomas Enqvist, 6-0, 6-4, 6-2. Richey Reneberg, an unseeded baseliner who upset Boris Becker in the first round, reached the fourth round with a 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over Richard Fromberg. No. 9 Todd Martin, a classic serve-and-volleyer, struggled through five sets in the first round. He’s stayed back more ever since, and on Saturday night he approached the net about half as often as Patrick Rafter in beating him 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2. Roger Smith stood on the edge of the Stadium Court, a standing ovation filling his ears, a CBS camera in his smiling face. “Hello, Bahamas,” he said. “I’m still here!” Actually, he was on his way out of the U.S. Open. He had just lost a third-round match to top-seeded Pete Sampras. But the oldest (30) and lowest-ranked player (187th) left in the men’s draw had stuck around a lot longer than anyone expected. And he had managed to give the defending champion a surprisingly tense 2 hours, 22 minutes Sunday before losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. “He wasn’t intimidated by a big feature match on CBS,” Sampras said. “He was playing well. He had nothing to lose and I did. This was the first bad match I’ve played in a (Grand) Slam in a while.” All the seeds who played Sunday – other than two-time former champion Stefan Edberg – managed to get through to the second week of the Open. The highlights: – Edberg, the fifth seed, fell apart in his third-round match, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 to Jonas Bjorkman, a fellow Swede who is ranked eighth in doubles but only 71st in singles. Edberg, 28, won the tournament in 1991 and 1992. Edberg’s timing certainly was off. A prime example came when he was down 5:4 in the second set and serving. He double-faulted, his second serve flying off the frame of his racket and landing beyond the baseline. It took only 1 hour, 35 minutes for the 22-year-old Bjorkman to finish off Edberg and move into the fourth round. He made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon. In his only other U.S. Open appearance, Bjorkman lost in the second round. “I didn’t really get myself going,” Edberg said. “It’s very difficult when a guy tees off and basically everything goes in. He really did play well tonight.” Jaime Yzaga ousted last year’s finalist Cedric Pioline 1-6, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4, having lost their previous match a week earlier 1-6, 3-6 at Long Island. In other similar 5-setter, Todd Woodbridge  blew a match point in 3rd and 5th sets of his match against Karel Novacek, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-7(2). Woodbridge had lost a match from a 3rd set tie-break leading 2-sets-to-0 also a year before to his countryman Richard Fromberg.
Fourth round: Steve Wilstein
This was the Andre Agassi who won Wimbledon, the one who once threatened to rule tennis, the one U.S. Open fans have been waiting to see ever since Pete Sampras blew him out in the final here four years ago. For one nearly perfect set at the start, another at the end, and three grueling sets in the middle, Agassi put on a show Monday that rivaled the best matches of his career as he beat No. 6 Michael Chang, 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, to reach the quarterfinals. Agassi, unseeded at the Open for the first time since 1987, knew he was playing well before this match but realized “you don’t really know that for sure until you are pushed” the way he was against Chang. “It allows me to believe that I can win the tournament. This is a perfect example of a match I never would have gotten through even a year ago. I should say, especially a year ago, with the year that I had last year.” The first set lasted only 23 minutes, but Agassi and everyone else knew that level of perfection couldn’t last. “The last thing I wanted is for Michael to just rally with me until he gets his ball, because there is nobody better at seizing an opportunity than Michael,” Agassi said. Chang lived up to his reputation as a relentless competitor, pushing the second set to a tiebreaker. There were points in this brilliant match – the best by far at the Open this year – that had fans gasping and cheering at the way Agassi and Chang each covered so much ground chasing balls and hitting winners on the run. Agassi got a crucial break point against Chang exactly that way in the third game of the fifth set when Chang popped up a defensive half-volley near the net. Racing diagonally across the court from the baseline, Agassi hammered a forehand at Chang’s feet that brought a standing ovation from the crowd and a glare from Chang. Agassi went on to break Chang at love, then put on another show of athleticism to hold serve to 3:1 with a rapid-fire exchange at the net that ended with a backhand volley by Agassi. He raised both hands in triumph, jumped a few times and heard the crowd’s cheers sweep down on him. “What made that point such a turning point for me,” Agassi said, “is that earlier that game I was up, 30-15, and I had him way off the court and I hit a backhand volley crosscourt into the wide-open court.” To get to Super Saturday’s semifinals, Agassi still must get past 13th seed Thomas Muster, a 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-4 winner over third-seeded Sergi Bruguera. Another unseeded player and a greater longshot, Richey Reneberg, seemed on his way to the quarters when he beat No. 9 Todd Martin 6-3 in the first set at night. But Reneberg, who upset No. 7 Boris Becker in the first round, felt a pop in the upper part of his left leg in the last game of that set, got treatment from a trainer at courtside twice, then retired after losing the first three games of the second set. “It’s very frustrating,” Reneberg said. “I felt something in my inner leg snap. I just can’t move. So I don’t see any point in trying to play him on one leg. I can’t even play 75 percent.” Martin will play unseeded Bernd Karbacher, who beat qualifier Gianluca Pozzi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Pete Sampras leaned on his racket like it was a cane. He took deep breaths. He mustered enough energy for another serve, his 165th of an afternoon that was rapidly turning into evening. And then it was over. Jaime Yzaga, a 26-year-old Peruvian  who has won eight tournaments in nine years as a pro tennis player, blasted a backhand across the court to finish off a stunning fourth-round, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 victory over the Sampras – the defending champion, the top seed, the player everyone kept saying was unbeatable. Sampras stumbled off the court after the three-hour, 38-minute match, keeping his head down while giving a weak wave to the crowd. He spent a half hour receiving medical attention. Then he came to the interview room and answered The Question – How could he lose? – before anyone even asked it. “It’s very simple,” he said. “I’m not in the greatest shape. To win a Grand Slam, you have to be in great shape.” Sampras injured his left ankle shortly after winning Wimbledon. He didn’t play tennis for six weeks. And even though he arrived at the Open with the best winning percentage in the tournament’s history, there were doubts about that ankle. The ankle held up. His lungs did not. “I just hit the wall,” he said. “I didn’t have anything left… Give him credit. He had the crowd against him. He came up with a huge match point.” The Peruvian won the second set and although he lost the third, he forced Sampras to work for it. “In the third set, my recovery time was getting longer and longer,” Sampras said. “I’d play a hard point and it would take a couple points to get over it.” In the 4th set tie-break Sampras led 2:0, earlier he was one game away from victory at 5:4, but Yzaga held to ‘love’. By the fifth set, Sampras was repeatedly leaning on his racket, reaching for towels, stalling for time any way he could. Yzaga took a 5:2 (30-all) lead in the final set, 5:3 (30/0) on serve. But then he began to struggle with his serve. And Sampras kept coming up with clutch shots. He won three consecutive games, tying the final set at 5:5. Each game ended with a standing ovation. Each lean on the racket was met by shouts of “Come on, Pete.” “The last three or four games, I was just going on the adrenaline from the crowd,” he said. “The crowd was great.” But it wasn’t enough. In the final game Sampras had a game point to enter another tie-break, but played too casual forehand and Yzaga passed him with a backhand down the line. Yzaga kept Sampras on the run long enough to force him to make 69 unforced errors – nearly half of them in the final two sets. “Everyone kept saying he was unbeatable,” Yzaga said. “He’s a great player, probably the best player in the world right now, and you have to play real, real well to beat him. But everybody is beatable.” In fact, every U.S. Open top men’s seed since 1987 has proven beatable. That was the year Ivan Lendl was seeded No. 1 and won the title. Yzaga had beaten Sampras in five sets at Flushing Meadows also in 1988, when 17-year-old Sampras played his first Grand Slam match.
Quarterfinals: Richard Finn
Todd Martin added to his glittering 1994 Grand Slam record Wednesday by beating Bernd Karbacher in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Martin’s sometimes uneasy 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 defeat of the unseeded German put the ninth-seeded Lansing, Mich. native into his third Grand Slam final four, a mark unequaled by any other male this season. Yet, Martin is remarkably low-keyed about his exceptional results at the majors or about his chances Saturday against Andre Agassi, who advanced with a victory over Thomas Muster Wednesday night. “It’s anybody’s tournament. I have a one-in-four chance,” said the 24-year-old. “What I’ve done in the past round and in the past months doesn’t really matter. It matters how I play on Saturday and hopefully, it will matter how I play on Sunday.” Martin reached the Australian Open final and the Wimbledon semifinals – both times losing to Pete Sampras, who went on to win the titles. “I think I’d be impressed with myself if I’d done what Pete has done,” Martin said. In the second set tiebreaker, up 4:3, Martin unloaded one of his 11 aces in the match, followed by a service winner for 6:3. After Karbacher had stiffened with two aces of his own to wipe out two set points, Martin responded with an 111 mph first-serve winner for the tiebreaker, 7/5. In the final set, after an exchange of early service breaks, Martin scored the decisive break in the ninth game for a 5:4 lead. He then served out the match, ripping a forehand approach winner on the first match point. “I’m pleased with the way I did certain things out there,” Martin said. “Most of all, I’m pleased that I get to play another match here.” The Andre Agassi Show continued Wednesday night. And its run will last at least until Saturday. Agassi, attempting to become the first unseeded player to win the U.S. Open since 1968, advanced to the semifinals – the so-called Super Saturday of tennis – with a 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 victory over Thomas Muster. Giving up a point might seem like a minor act to Muster. He is the player who in 1989 made it to the final of the Lipton Championships, only to get hit by a drunk driver in the parking lot. Ligaments in his left knee were severed. He spent nine months away from tennis, then had a special wheelchair built, so he could hit tennis balls. To this day, Muster has problems with that knee. But he refused to blame the loss on the soreness – or his unwillingness to accept a bad call in his favor. ”It is not a question of one shot,” he said. “He obviously was playing better today.” Agassi breezed through the third set without committing a single unforced error, backing up a guarantee he had made earlier in the day on television. He had said that, despite a 1-4 record against Muster, he would win the big match. ”I was just popping off,” Agassi said. “I have a lot of respect for Thomas. We’ve had some close ones, and I felt I was overdue.” Michael Stich served with all the consistency of a once-a-week hacker, double-faulting 15 times Thursday night in his worst match of the U.S. Open as he stutter-stepped into the semifinals. The highest-seeded man left in the tournament, Stich (No. 4) created trouble for himself and got plenty from young Swede Jonas Bjorkman before escaping with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-4 victory. Stich’s next opponent is Karel Novacek , the quintessential journeyman of tennis, who served 28 aces to beat Jaime Yzaga 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 and reach his first Grand Slam semifinal after 30 early exits. Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion, had never gone past the quarters at the U.S. Open. There were times in this match when it seemed he wouldn’t make it this time. “I was serving very, very badly,” said Stich , whose double-faults more than offset his 13 aces against the player who knocked out Stefan Edberg. “Right now I’m really, really tired. All the credit to Bjorkman, the way he kept fighting. He never gave up. Not many guys are doing that. Today I played my worst match of the Open. But it’s very important to me that I made it into the semis, that I stayed in there.” Stich knew his performance would not convince many people he could win this tournament, but he didn’t much care. “Let everybody think Agassi’s supposed to win,” Stich said. “I like that.” He cruised in the first two sets, held a 4:2 lead in the third, but let the opportunistic Bjorkman back in by serving erratically. Stich, who also blew a 5:2 lead in the third-set tiebreaker, succumbed to tiredness and lost his rhythm as the match wore on. Stich ‘s loss in the tiebreaker cost him his first set of the tournament, and the way he was serving it seemed he could quickly lose another. But he broke Bjorkman to take a 3:1 lead in the fourth set, overcame one more poor service game, and broke him again for the match with a lob that Bjorkman leaped to hit and tapped just wide. Novacek, a 29-year-old from the Czech Republic who logs more miles and plays more tournaments than anyone else, relied on his serve to get him out of trouble as he scored a victory over the man who upset defending champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round. After playing so well against Sampras, Yzaga played sloppily and slow in a terribly tedious match, spraying 73 unforced errors and carrying on a non-stop conversation with himself about his mistakes. He changed his shoes near the end of the first set, changed his rackets several times, but couldn’t change the way he was playing. “The Sampras match took a lot out of me,” Yzaga said. “I was sore yesterday and I was sore today. It was hard.” Novacek, who hit 78 unforced errors while playing mostly from the baseline, wasn’t much livelier in one of the worst matches of the tournament. Some fans talked on cellular telephones, others read newspapers, and long silences were interrupted on occasion by snores and yawns. Most of those in the two-thirds full stadium awoke at last to cheer Novacek at the end, perhaps grateful that the match was finally over after nearly 3 1/2 hours. But none of that really mattered to Novacek, happy to get this far no matter how he did it. In five previous U.S. Opens, he never got past the third round. Despite his height – at 6 feet 3 inches he towered eight inches over Yzaga – Novacek’s style is best on clay, and hardcourts have rarely been kind to him. Novacek, ranked 56th, has been a professional since 1984. He’s always been a good enough player to threaten the best. He just never came close in the Grand Slams, getting only as far the quarterfinals at the 1987 & 1993 French Opens. “It was the dream destination to break the quarterfinals of the Grand Slams, and I am endlessly happy that I did it today,” Novacek said. “I won 13 tournaments. I have been playing Davis Cup. I have been playing Masters. I have been playing everything basically that exists in tennis, but I never went to play semifinal of Grand Slams.” The Czech player kept his composure after squandering chances to win this match much more quicker: he wasted six set points since leading 5:2* in the 2nd set, and a 5:4* (30/0) lead in the 4th set. If Yzaga had won that match, it would have been his third consecutive 5-set win despite winning less points than opponents! “I am really proud of myself that I was able to push myself to the limit in the end to play my best points,” said Novacek.
Semifinals: Charles Bricker
Michael Stich picked up his serve, and Andre Agassi picked up his feet. And when both had finished working on a blustery Saturday afternoon they found themselves, not unexpectedly, in the final of today’s U.S. Open tennis tournament. “This is what you’ve been hoping for,” said Todd Martin, who committed a whopping 60 unforced errors and went out 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Agassi. “Not the fact that Agassi is there, but the fact that the two best players in the tournament are there. Michael is playing great and Andre is playing great. So you’ve got a guy who has a much better serve than I do. But if Andre controls the point, Michael is going to be challenged by a lot of the same things I was today.” The No. 4-seeded Stich, who has had the easier route to this final, thumped unseeded Karel Novacek 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(4). Stich has lost only one set in six matches, but has played only one top opponent – No. 14 seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov. His job also was made easier by Novacek’s fatigue. At 29, his legs are not as resilient as they once were and he had to play 14 sets in his last three rounds to make the semis. It was a match in which Stich needed to reassert the power of his most potent weapon, his serve, and he did. He had come into the match getting only 50 percent of his serves into play. Against Novacek he hit 62 percent and won 81 percent of the first serves he popped in. At one point beginning the second set, Stich won 21 consecutive points on serve, leaving Novacek shaking his head, wondering how to get back into the match. Like Stich , Martin’s game flows out of his serve, but he couldn’t get enough firsts in and Agassi was all over his slower second. The victory took Agassi, who has reinvented himself here for at least the third time, to within one win of re-establishing himself as a major force in the game. “Quite honestly,” he said, “the public’s or press’ expectations of me to `do it’ or `not do it’ is not making me want this any more or less. I want this because I want this. This is very important to me. I am going to do everything in my power to win it.” Agassi called Stich “a gifted, great tennis player who can go out there and play the match of his life.” But, he added slyly, “The way I am hitting the ball, yes, I do think I can win.” Incredibly, Agassi committed only 16 unforced errors in 36 games. “Todd’s game is very predictable in the sense that you know his strengths, and you know what he is going to throw at you,” said Agassi. “He’s not the kind of guy that is going to sit back there and want to push the ball around the court and rally. He’s going to take chances from the ground, going to get to the net on any short ball. I pretty much expected what he was going to do.” It was Agassi’s quick feet, so much quicker than the feet of the 6-foot-6-inch Martin, that made the difference in the raging wind. It takes quick steps to make last-second adjustments to movement of the ball, and Agassi can do that as well anyone in the game. “The ball was getting back a lot quicker than I’ve been used to this week,” said Martin. “I never made a successful attempt at changing the momentum or changing just the sway of the match. He was controlling every point, and that’s when he’s at his best.”
Final: Greensboro News & Record
Andre Agassi, navigating the most perilous path to the U.S. Open championship in history, battered Michael Stich from the start Sunday and slammed him with a shot at his wrist at the end of a thoroughly ruthless performance. Agassi never lost his serve in his 6-1, 7-6(5), 7-5 victory, putting on such a commanding show that he beat the former Wimbledon champion in every phase of the game. “I’m still in a state of shock,” Agassi said after receiving the $550,000 winner’s check and the silver trophy. Girlfriend Brooke Shields stood by, snapping photos of the moment. “It’s quite amazing what I pulled off,” Agassi said. “I can’t believe it. It’s been an incredible two weeks for me.” No unseeded player had ever run a gantlet of five seeded players as Agassi did. None even beat more than three. To win this title, Agassi had to beat, in order, No. 12 Wayne Ferreira, No. 6 Michael Chang, No. 13 Thomas Muster, No. 9 Todd Martin and No. 4 Stich. The only other champion to beat five seeds was Vic Seixas in 1954, when 20 players were seeded. No player ever won a Grand Slam dressed like Agassi with his black cap, black shorts and black socks, nor did any other champion have his shoulder-length hair and gold earrings. But the image-is-everything Andre Boy once again proved there is substance behind his style, and it came in the form of rocketing returns of serve, compact ground-strokes and all-court pressure. He played better in this match than he did even in winning Wimbledon two years ago in five sets. Agassi dominated Stich at the start and at the most crucial times later in the match. He broke the German at love in the first game, held with the help of three aces, broke him again in the third game, then held at love for a 4:0 lead. The set was effectively over, and it ended officially after just 24 minutes with a bit of luck for Agassi and a double-fault for Stich. The luck came for Agassi with Stich serving at deuce. They had a rapid exchange, which Agassi capped with a reflex volley on a volley by Stich at his chest. and pranced around the court, as if saying, “I can do no wrong.” That shot and show by Agassi rattled Stich enough that he double-faulted to lose the set, his second serve sailing five feet long. Stich got his serve working in the second set, holding all the way to the tiebreaker. But Agassi gained the advantage he needed in the tiebreaker with a bullet backhand return that ticked the net cord and threw off Stich as he came in. Stich dumped the half-volley into the net to fall behind 4:2, and Agassi served out the set. Nothing was working for Stich, least of all his most important weapon – his serve. His frustration was visible in the way he bowed his head and it was audible in the way he shouted angrily at umpire David Littlefield, asking him at one point, “Are you American?” Littlefield, from Florida, didn’t penalize Stich for any of his repeated outbursts, and he let Stich have his way when he asked for a change of a linesman. “I was holding serve so handily, it threw him for a loop,” Agassi said. In the final set, when Agassi broke Stich for the last time for a 6:5 lead, one of the shots came at close range and hit Stich in the wrist. The aim was purposeful. “I’m a big guy. I’m easy to hit,” Stich said, admitting he would have done the same himself. “I just wanted to make him a little hesitant to get that close to the net,” Agassi said. “I don’t come here to hit somebody, I just wanted to win the point.” Agassi tossed away his racket and dropped to his knees when his last backhand into an open court sealed the match. Stich came over to help him up and hug him. Agassi, 24, won Wimbledon in 1992 and reached the final of Grand Slam events two other times – the U.S. Open and the French Open in 1990. “Nothing can touch my winning Wimbledon,” Agassi said. “Nobody believed I could win it. Winning this has its own place. It’s the greatest thing I experienced after Wimbledon. I can’t believe it’s all over. I can’t believe I did this.” Agassi’s 22nd title. Stats of the match
U.S. Open, NY, U.S.A.
August 28, 1995; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $4,282,400; Surface – Hard