1990 – 1991, Roland Garros

 French Open, Paris
May 28, 1990; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $2,700,000; Surface – Clay

It was wide open tournament, a long-time No. 1 in the world – Ivan Lendl was gradually declining, and withdrew from the competition in Paris for the first time since his debut in 1978, Michael Chang’s second miracle in a row was very doubtful, two-top seeded players (Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker) weren’t favorites on their least favorite surface; because of that Andre Agassi had to deal with tremendous pressure… 30-year-old Andre Gomez, one of the best players of the previous decade, took an advantage of the favorable circumstances and got his first and only major title. The Ecuadorian had showed his potential in the past but was rather unlucky – three times lost equal quarterfinals in Paris to Lendl (1984, 86-87), every time when the Czechoslovak became the champion.
All scorelines
First round: Stephen Wilson

For the first time ever two top seeded players were eliminated in the first round of a major, and it happened the same day (!): Stefan Edberg [2] and Boris Becker [3] might be familiar sights on Center Court at Wimbledon, but they did quick disappearing acts Tuesday in a historic pair of upsets at the French Open. Edberg and Becker, were bounced in the first round by two European teen-agers, showing once again that the slow clay of Roland Garros is no place for fast-court specialists. An error-prone Edberg was swept easily in straight sets by 19-year-old Sergi Bruguera of Spain 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. Two matches later on center court, Becker lost to 18-year-old Yugoslav [51] Goran Ivanisevic 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. It was the first time in history that the top two seeds, male or female, have lost in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament. The losses also marked the first time Edberg and Becker failed to reach the second round of a Grand Slam event and derailed their hopes of overtaking Ivan Lendl for the world’s top ranking. “That’s what Grand Slam tournaments are all about,” Becker said. “Even if you’re one of the top seeds, there are many players who are unseeded who can beat you.” Between them, Becker and Edberg have won four of the last five Wimbledons. And last year they both reached the semifinals in Paris, with Edberg beating Becker before losing to Michael Chang in the final. But both have struggled on clay this spring. “Last year Edberg and I proved we can play well on clay,” Becker said. “But it’s getting more difficult because there are so many good players right now. Even in the first round, you have to play 95 percent to win.”
Ivanisevic, who is 6 feet 4, served 19 aces, an extraordinary feat on the slow, red clay. He reached the round of 16 in last year’s French Open after appearing on the scene as a qualifier in the quarterfinals of the 1989 Australian Open. “He was just playing out of his mind,” Becker said. “I was hoping he would get tired, but it was the other way. He was getting better and better“. Ivanisevic said: “When I saw that Bruguera beat Edberg, I thought, ‘Why can’t I beat Becker?’… “I was confident from the start,” said Bruguera, ranked No. 46 in the world. “I play better on clay than fast surfaces, and it’s just the opposite for him. I didn’t let him play his own game. Andre Agassi, the men’s third seed, broke rackets, screamed at umpires and drilled his opponent in the back before settling down to post a 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-0, 6-1 victory over a weary [122] Martin Wostenholme of Canada. ”When I get mad, there’s really only one way, and that’s what I was today,” Agassi said. Jay Berger, seeded ninth, was swept in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, by Argentina’s Alberto Mancini. The result was hardly an upset, though, as Mancini is a dangerous, clay-court expert who reached the quarterfinals here last year. Emilio Sanchez, the sixth seed and a pre-tournament favorite in a wide-open field, lost to Nicklas Kulti of Sweden 4-6, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1. For drama, color and fireworks, the match of the day was on Court 2 and it was all provided by Agassi. Agassi was ahead 4:1 in the first set, but then lost five games and 11 of 12 consecutive points in one stretch. An outburst by Agassi in the second set cost him a warning and the loss of a racket. With the score 1:1, he fell behind 0-40. Enraged, Agassi stomped on his racket, snapped it in two and threw the handle into the stands. That drew a racket-abuse warning from British chair umpire Sultan Gangji. Two games later, Agassi slammed an easy put-away into Wostenholme’s back. The Canadian turned and took a few steps toward Agassi, but he had already headed back to the baseline. Wostenholme served for the set at 5:4, held two set points in the tie-break, but couldn’t convert and Agassi later stormed back to win. Agassi breezed through the last two sets while dropping only one game. ”My only advantage was being physically fit,” Agassi said. ”He got tired.” Former champion, Yannick Noah needed 7 match points to beat Francisco Clavet and snap his 7-match losing streak. Noah won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

Second round: Jim Sarni

Defending champion Michael Chang struggled Wednesday to avoid the fate of the top two seeds in the French Open tennis championships. Chang, seeded only 11th despite becoming the youngest French Open men’s champion at 17 last year, survived a tough test from Switzerland’s Marc Rosset [27] for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. Chang joined fellow American Andre Agassi in the third round. Agassi, the highest remaining seeded player at No. 3, beat Australian [136] Todd Woodbridge, 7-5, 6-1, 6-3. Rosset, 19, has jumped to 27th in the world after an impressive showing on the European clay-court circuit in recent weeks. An erratic but powerful hitter, he continually played himself into strong positions only to ruin his chances at crucial moments. His most serious blunder occurred in the first set at 4:4. Chang fell behind, 0/40, on his serve, but Rosset squandered all three break points, then earned a warning when he threw his racket at the advertising boards during the changeover. Chang held on to win the set, 7-5. After dropping the second set, Chang regained his composure to seal victory in just over three hours. “It was tough at the beginning because he has such a big serve,” Chang said. “But in the end, he apparently had a stomach problem and it got much easier.” Rosset said he began suffering from stomach cramps in the third set. “I felt like lying down,” he said. “I played very well up to that point, but Chang was very fast. He never missed any balls. People say he’s gone down, but I think he’s going to make people talk a lot about him in the second week.” ”I’m disappointed Edberg and Becker got beat,” said Agassi, the third seed, who could have met Edberg in the semifinals and Becker in the final. ”I would have enjoyed playing them. But whether they won or lost makes no difference in how I feel for this tournament. My confidence level is not based on who lost.” The twin killing made Agassi reflect a moment before his match with Woodbridge, a qualifier ranked No. 136. Agassi did not want to get the guillotine, too. ”When the top two seeds lose, you realize it can happen to anyone,” he said. ”It’s easy to come out and take it for granted that you’re playing well and you don’t have to worry for a few rounds. I didn’t take this match lightly.” Agassi jumped to a 4:0 lead, then lost the next five games. Woodbridge had four set points, but Agassi saved them all and regained command. Woodbridge, hit-or-miss, made 52 unforced errors and lost his serve eight times in 14 games. ”He played well in the first set,” Agassi said. ”It was more his doing than mine that he led 5:4.” Paul Haarhuis [40] aced Jim Pugh [73] on the final point and raised his arms in victory. It was a short raise. Haarhuis was too tired for a big celebration. It took the former Florida State star 4 hours and 48 minutes to subdue Pugh 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-7(6), 7-5.  It was also the longest Roland Garros match in terms of time since the 1982 finalIt took seven match points in three different sets!  ”I’m very happy I won, but I can’t enjoy it, I’m too tired,” said Haarhuis, munching a sandwich, after the match, with doubles still to come. Haarhuis ate six bananas and some bread, and drank six bottles of water and three Pepsis (“I needed a sugar kick, because the water wasn’t working”) for energy. Haarhuis fought off cramps. At one point, he could barely walk. Haarhuis had three match points, serving at 5:4 in the 3rd set – Pugh saved one with a net cord. Haarhuis had two more in the 4th set tiebreaker. Pugh led 5:2* in the final set, but Haarhuis came back to take the final five games, however, in the last game the American saved another match point to get back to ‘deuce’ – so he was 10 points away of becoming the first man in the Open Era to prevail saving match points in three consecutive sets! He tied the record for the most games in a match at the French Open since tie-breaks started in 1973. The tie-breaker record was set by Wojtek Fibak, who beat Aaron Krickstein 6-4, 2-6, 6-7, 7-5, 10-8 in 1984. The overall record here is 76 games from a 10-8, 7-9, 8-6, 5-7, 9-7 victory by Eric Sturgess over Ken McGregor in the good old days of 1951. Only two minutes less than Haarhuis’ victory, lasted other thriller that day, in which Martin Jaite outlasted Michael Stich 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3. Sergi Bruguera, the unseeded Spanish teen-ager who beat Edberg on Tuesday, couldn’t keep up the magic. Again he was overwhelming the Swedish opponent, but squandered a two-set & 4:2 lead, and lost 2-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0, to Jonas Svensson. Jim Courier defeated Milan Srejber of Czechoslovakia 7-6(3), 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 and proclaimed himself in better form than when he beat Agassi and reached the Round of 16 here last year. “I’m definitely in better shape,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m more confident out there. I know when the going gets tough, I’m ready to stay out there.”

Third round: Larry Siddons

Defending champion Michael Chang needed another of his center court comebacks today to stay alive in the French Open. His opponent said he got some unfair help from the officials as well. Andre Agassi , the top-ranked man left in the tournament as the No. 3 seed, advanced against the lowest-rated survivor, but lost a fashion battle with French tennis officials. Chang, who escaped from numerous tight spots a year ago to become the youngest man to win the clay-court Grand Slam event, did it again in the third round with a 2-6, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Swedish qualifier Christian Bergstrom [106]. The 18-year-old American turned the match around by winning nine games in a row in the third and the start of the fourth sets. Bergstrom argued a line call on a key point in the last of those games and accused officials of favoring top players such as Chang on close shots. But by the time that point was played, Bergstrom already was tiring noticeably and Chang’s shots were finding the mark. “You can’t let it bother you,” Chang said of the disputed call. “It’s frustrating when you have a call against you on a big point, but when the guy comes down from the chair and says it’s out, you’ve got to go along.” Chang served out the fourth set with an ace, then got the break he needed in the final set when Bergstrom netted a backhand to give the defending champion a 4:3 lead. By the end of the match, both players were spent, bending over to catch their breath between points. But Chang had enough strength left to serve out the victory, getting the final point on a backhand passing shot after 3 1/2 hours. “I knew it would be a tough match,” Chang said. “He’s a Swede, which means he’s good on clay. I had prepared my mind to be out there for quite some time, whether it was three sets, four sets or five sets.” Other early matches on the tournament’s fifth day found seeded players having easier times. Andre Agassi beat Arnaud Boetsch [263] of France 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. But the long-haired 20-year-old was told that his neon-bright pink-and-black tennis outfits would not be allowed back in the tournament next year. The French Tennis Federation said, it was “very bothered” by the colorful clothes and, as at Wimbledon, white must be the dominant color of a uniform. Yannick Noah is out of the French Open, and it took a guy with three names to do it. Guillermo Perez-Roldan [21] of Argentina toppled the French favorite and 1983 champion 7-6(5), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in a match that stretched over two days at Roland Garros. Perez-Roldan, the 15th seed, won the first two sets Friday night, but Noah fought back to take the third set before darkness suspended the match. Noah, who won his first-round match against Francisco Clavet, did not have another comeback in him Saturday. “‘I was feeling better and better each match, but I had to play against a player who was too good for me today,” Noah said. Andrei Chesnokov, the men’s eighth seed from the Soviet Union, beat Jordi Arrese of Spain 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, while American Jim Courier, the 13th seed, beat Johan Anderson of Australia 6-0, 6-2, 6-1. The Agassi and Courier victories set up a rematch of last year’s meeting, when Courier upset Agassi in the third-round meeting. “We’ve always been sort of rivals,” Courier said. The young Americans tied a record of three consecutive matches at the same Grand Slam tournament.

Fourth round: (Associated Press)

Andre Agassi out-slugged his boyhood rival Jim Courier [17] in a brutal display of power tennis Sunday, establishing himself as the front-runner for the French Open men’s title. “I was really up to play Jim,” Agassi said. “I felt like I had a few more gears to shift into.” Agassi came out swinging off the court, too, accusing the top official of world tennis of being a hypocrite for trying to ban his fluorescent clothes. Wearing his usual pink-and-black outfit, the third-seeded Agassi lost a first-set shootout but came back to wear down No. 13 Courier 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-4, 6-0, and move into the quarterfinals. The victory, which avenged a loss to Courier in the third round here last year, set up an all-American quarterfinal duel between Agassi and defending champion Michael Chang. Chang, who seems to be getting stronger every round, downed Spain’s Javier Sanchez 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. There were no service breaks in the first set as Courier saved two break points and Agassi one. In the tiebreaker, Agassi had three set points but could not convert. During a long rally on the third set point, Agassi fell down, giving Courier an open court. Courier crunched a clean backhand winner for a 9:8 lead and closed out the tiebreaker on the next point when Agassi slapped a backhand into the net. Despite the first-set loss, Agassi said he felt the match was his. “Jim always comes out just banging balls in the first set,” he said. “I was just hoping to stay close in the first set. That was icing on the cake. Then I kicked into high gear.” Agassi escalated the feud after his match. He accused Chatrier of setting a double standard by allowing sponsor’s billboards on center court while complaining that bright clothing goes against tradition. “When it comes to him reaping benefits, he doesn’t care a whole lot about tradition, does he?” Agassi said. Chatrier refused to comment on the allegations but said he hoped Agassi wins the tournament.
In two matches postponed until today because of rain, Henri Leconte defeated Andrei Chesnokov, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, and Jonas Svensson beat Guillermo Perez-Roldan, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Thierry Champion saved two match points in the fourth set and beat Karel Novacek of Czechoslovakia, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. Leconte, who had two disk operations last year, fell to 158th in the rankings at the start of this year’s clay-court season. He also separated from his wife. By the last week of April, Leconte’s record was only 4-6, but he reached the semifinals in Monte Carlo and Hamburg in consecutive weeks. Intense physical training overseen by Patrice LeClerc and by Eric Debliker, the Davis Cup coach, began to pay off. The French Tennis Federation gave him a wild card into the French Open, and his ranking of 33d will improve with his quarterfinal showing. “A lot of things have changed in my tennis and in my life,” Leconte said. ”I just want to be well and be fit and enjoy my tennis.” “I think the very important moment was whether I lost my serve in the fifth set,” said Chesnokov, who after the match rushed away from the court without waiting for Leconte and irritably thumbed through a magazine during his news conference. “My fault was that whenever he went to net, I was in a rush,” said Chesnokov, 0-6 against Leconte.

Quarterfinals: Jim Sarni

Andre Agassi [5] muscled defending champion Michael Chang [14] out of the French Open today, while 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati pranced into the semifinals with another straight-set victory. Stubble bristling and hot-pink outfit brighter than ever, the third-seeded Agassi reached his fourth Grand Slam semifinal and his second in three years in Paris with a 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 victory built on sheer power. Two streaks – five games in a row in the first set, the last six in the second – put Agassi in a dominating position. And when he is in such a spot, he seems to get even stronger. He finished the match by breaking Chang with a sledgehammer backhand volley. “I think I had an edge over him in my serve, and I was going for winners more,” Agassi said. “We both played well and I just came out on top.” “Andre played too well today,” Chang said. “He was too strong off the ground for me. He didn’t miss too many balls. He’s learning when to hit hard and when to play safe.” Agassi next plays Jonas Svensson. The unseeded Swede [24] beat Frenchman [33] Henri Leconte 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to the disappointment of hometown fans who jammed center court. Immediately after his match Agassi did not know who he would be playing next. But he can see a championship on Sunday. “Two guys stand in my way,” Agassi said. “As the tournament goes on, the better I feel. I’m going to fight and sweat. It could be one of the biggest tournaments of my career.” Svensson advanced to the Parisian semifinals for the second time in career as an unseeded player, previously in 1988 when he had stunned Ivan Lendl. Paris was a lucky city for the Swede, in Autumn ’90 he reached also semi-finals at Paris-Bercy Andres Gomez [7] swept past ailing French qualifier [191] Thierry Champion 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal. Thomas Muster [9] beat unseeded Goran Ivanisevic [51] of Yugoslavia 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, another milestone in his comeback from a career-threatening injury. None of the four ever semifinalists has won a Grand Slam event. On a dark, cloudy day, Gomez needed just 98 minutes to beat Champion. The 6-foot-4 left-hander set the tone by breaking Champion’s serve in the first game. The center court crowd had little to cheer about as the Frenchman made error after error. Despite Gomez ‘ 57 percent first serve percentage, Champion managed only one break in the match, giving him a 4:3 lead in the third set. But Gomez recovered quickly and ran off three of the last four games for the match. It was a bittersweet ending for Champion, who became the first qualifier to reach the French quarterfinals since the beginning of the open era in 1968. Already bothered by a groin strain suffered in his victory over Karel Novacek in the fourth round, Champion said he also felt nauseous on the court Wednesday. `I couldn’t get into my game,‘ he said. “I was thinking about other things.” Gomez reached the semifinals without playing a seeded player, benefiting from a fourth-round walkover against injured Magnus Gustafsson [19]. “I had a bit of luck in the draw,”  he said. “And even if I don’t believe in luck, sometimes you want some. To play Champion in the quarterfinals of the French Open was too good to let it go by. He’s not going to hurt me with any shot. I’ve been working for this tournament for 12 months. This is the tournament I’ve always wanted to win. I feel ready. I’m confident of my chances.” In the other match, Muster stayed at the baseline and slugged away with heavy topspin ground-strokes. Ivanisevic, who upset Boris Becker in the first round, tried to attack but was worn down by Muster’s assault. The Yugoslav’s big serve, which connected for 16 aces, helped him take the second set. “I lost my rhythm a little bit in the second set,’ Muster said. `It was getting dark and he was serving so hard. My eyes got tired. I was playing short, giving him the chance to put on the pressure.” During that set, Muster also slammed himself in the shin with his racket. ‘It was cracking like something was broken – either the racket or my leg,’ he said. But it turned out to be a bruise, and Muster dominated the next two sets.

Semifinals: (Associated Press)

Andres Gomez of Ecuador moved into the finals of the French Open and to within one victory of achieving his career dream, by defeating error-prone Thomas Muster of Austria today. Gomez, the fourth seed who says he wants to win this clay-court Grand Slam tournament above all others, defeated Muster, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5 in 1 hour 56 minutes. The Gomez -Muster match promised to be a clay-court classic. They are among the best players in the world on the surface, with big ground-strokes and the ability to stay out there forever until an opponent falters. Gomez didn’t have to wait long for that to happen, and the match never lived up to expectations, despite a third-set comeback by Muster, who was seeded seventh. And, after 10 years of frustration, Gomez was in his first Grand Slam final. “This isn’t the day I’ve thought about. It’s another one. I knew one day I would be the player who would be on top and that’s the way it’s working at the moment.” Gomez won the first three games, saving two break points in the opener, before a passing shower stopped play for about five minutes. The break was so quick that the players did not even have to warm up when they returned from the locker rooms. Muster, like Gomez in his first Grand Slam semi, picked up the challenge after the interruption, holding the fourth game and breaking on a double fault for 3:2. He fought off four break points before Gomez broke for 4:2, but broke back in a game that featured a soccer-kick on break point. Gomez dropped his racket on a serve and kicked the return. At the World Cup, it would have been a winner, but not at Roland Garros. Both players were making mistakes, but Muster’s came at bigger moments and Gomez made some important shots. Muster had break point for 4:4 but couldn’t convert, Gomez saving the game with a volley, an ace and a service winner. Gomez broke for the set on a Muster forehand that went long. Muster’s problems continued at the start of the second set. Gomez won 24 of 28 points at one stretch and took a 5:0 lead. Muster stopped the seven-game slide for 5:1 but Gomez held on a forehand winner for the set, with Muster managing just 11 points in the seven games. They met three weeks before in the semi-finals in Rome, and Muster survived three match points winning the 3rd set tiebreaker.
Andre Agassi reached his first Grand Slam final today with the help of his own muscle and the mistakes of a stubborn Swede. He will meet Andres Gomez of Ecuador for the title on Sunday. Pounding winner after winner from the baseline, running down drop-shots and lobs, and jumping on weak serves, Agassi defeated Jonas Svensson, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Agassi had no trouble with Svensson at the start, racing to a 3:0 lead with brutal forehands and precise passing shots. Svensson held his serve for the only time in the first set in the fourth game before Agassi finished out the set 6-1. Agassi raced to a 4:0 lead in the second with overpowering ease. Svensson narrowed it to 5:4 but Agassi still had too much and went up two sets with a 6-4 win. In the third set, Agassi went up a break and appeared to be headed to an easy victory. But Svensson refused to fold and took five of the next seven games to force the match into a fourth set. But Agassi came back and went up 3:0. Svensson again came back to close to 4:3. However in the eighth game, Svensson made a pair of backhand errors to give Agassi a chance to break. Svensson attempted a serve-and-volley but popped the ball long to have Agassi serve for the match. Agassi controlled the game, getting a match point when Svensson hit a service return long.

Final: Thomas Bonk

Gomez’s 20th title, he won 1 tournament afterwards but in majors never passed even second round after Roland Garros ’90. As it turned out, the race to the French Open championship was not won by the swift. Instead, the world’s premier clay-court title went to 30-year-old Andres Gomez [7], owner of the unlikely nickname of “Go Go.’ Possibly the only thing slower than Gomez is the slow red clay center court of Roland Garros Stadium, where he stood Sunday and won his first Grand Slam title in 27 attempts. Gomez, a part-time shrimp farmer in Guayquil, Ecuador, wove a net of booming serves and big shots to catch [5] Andre Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the first Grand Slam final for both players. “I have come here for 12 years, and I have been thinking about this moment,” Gomez said. “It just took too long.’ Gomez needed 2 hours, 31 minutes to reach his goal and end Agassi’s quest to match Michael Chang’s victory a year ago and become the second consecutive American to win in Paris. Said Agassi, who was favored to beat Gomez : “I guess if I don’t feel disappointed about coming in second, I wouldn’t be one heck of a competitor. But you’ve got to accept these things.’ Gomez accepted a check for $370,000 after the match. Moments earlier, he concluded his finest day in tennis with a forehand down the line. Agassi could only turn and watch it bounce away. Gomez spun and covered his face, still holding his racket. He ran off the court and into the stands, where he held his 2-year-old son, Juan Andres, and kissed his wife, Anna Maria. He thought about last year, when he lost in the second round and returned to Ecuador to watch the final on television. Ecuadoran television asked him to come to the studio and comment on the match, but Gomez declined. “I say, `Next year I do it for sure,'” Gomez said. “But over there, I think they are happier that I am over here.’ The match turned happily for Gomez in the ninth game of the third set. Agassi was serving at 4:4 and led 40/15, but he did not win another point. When Gomez reached a drop shot and slashed a forehand winner that dribbled off Agassi’s racket, Gomez broke to 5:4. Gomez , who had 10 aces, had two of them in the next game, closing out the set with a service winner that Agassi lofted far over the baseline. “That was bad, but I don’t feel as bad about that game as how I started the match,” Agassi said. His game plan was to stay back, hit deep and move the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Gomez from side to side, taking advantage of Gomez’s lack of mobility. “I am not a Wilander,” Gomez said. “I don’t have a great pair of legs to keep me going for six hours. I can’t do that.” Throughout the match, Gomez’s game alternated between brilliant winners and breathtaking errors. He had 58 winners and 72 unforced errors. “What is important is not how many errors I make, but how many winners I make,” he said. “Some people don’t like that. I like it.’ Agassi’s dislike for what happened in the first set centered on his problems with making Gomez tire. Instead, the set lasted only 30 minutes with Agassi making the crucial mistake. He was broken to 3:5, and Gomez finished the set with a sizzling ace down the middle. But as soon as Gomez began depending on his serve, it deserted him. He lost all four service games in the set and Agassi was right back in the match. It took him one game to start backpedaling. Gomez broke him in the first game. “That was enough to keep me going,” Gomez said. But that advantage lasted only until the seventh game, when Gomez double-faulted on the first point and saw Agassi break back at love for 4:4. The next game proved to be Agassi’s downfall. “The only thing he did that gave me trouble was his serve,” Agassi said. “If he had missed more on his first serve, I think I could have worn him down. He slid it in there pretty good.” Many years after the final, Agassi declared in his autobiography that at the time of the French Open ’90 he began to be thin on top, and was wearing a toupee to cover his baldness. “Then a fiasco happened. The evening before the final, I stood under the shower and felt my wig suddenly fall apart. Probably I used the wrong hair rinse. I panicked and called my brother Philly into the room“. Allegedly Agassi couldn’t play his best tennis in the final affected by problems with his wig 🙂 “During the warming-up training before play I prayed. Not for victory, but that my hairpiece would not fall off. I imagine millions of spectators move closer to their TV sets, their eyes widening and, in dozens of dialects and languages, ask how Andre Agassi’s hair has fallen from his head.” Stats of the final


French Open, Paris
May 27, 1991; 128 Draw – $3,481,550; Surface – Clay

Second consecutive French Open without a three-time champion, Ivan Lendl, who played in Paris his first main level tournament and participated in 12 editions in a row. Withdrew also defending champion, Andres Gomez. The tournament was unexpectedly won by Jim Courier – the American established his three-year reign, not only in Paris, at the tennis pinnacle too.
All scorelines
First round: Josh Young

Michael Chang, himself a little-known player when he became the youngest man to win the French Open in 1989, says another outsider could win the clay-court tournament this year. Chang, 19, had little trouble Monday, winning his first-round match 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 against Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands, and said he feels good about his chances this spring. But he also has a feeling that Roland Garros could produce another surprise this year. “My advice is to watch out for the people who don’t get a lot of press. Like Prpic, for example,” Chang said. “There are so many good players capable of winning, that no one stands out. For the last couple of years, this tournament has been pretty unexpected.” Goran Prpic, a Yugoslav, is a clay-court specialist who was a finalist at Nice sampras_rg91this year. The French Open has always been the yuppie version of a Grand Slam tournament. It’s the only tournament in the world where the lines-people, sporting Hugo Boss suits, are better dressed than the agents. Its stadium is in the Paris suburb of Boulogne, which is about as far from Flushing Meadow as you can get. The two weeks of tennis at Stade Roland Garros that began Monday are like those of an unscripted prime time TV series. Never in the tournament’s distinguished 100 years have there been so few favorites yet so much to talk about. There is not the slightest hint of a favorite on the men’s side. Pete Sampras rallied from 0-2 in sets and *1:4 in the 5th set Tuesday to beat 1990 semifinalist Thomas Muster 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. Sampras, who fell behind in the final set but then won the final five games, said he was upset with his serving despite unloading 17 aces. “I don’t think I was hitting the ball that well the whole match,” said the sixth-seeded Sampras. “After I lost the first two sets I just told myself to hang in there for the rest of the match.” Sampras lost in the second round in his only previous trip to Paris. Top seeded Stefan Edberg rolled over Belgium’s Bart Wuyts 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, while Boris Becker, the No. 2 seed, disposed of Spain’s Jordi Arrese 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. A French championship would give Becker the only Grand Slam title he has never won and another 1991 Grand Slam victory to go with the Australian Open he won in January. He has never won a clay-court tournament but said of Roland Garros stadium, “It’s not a bad place to start.” Edberg, like Becker, is seeking his first French Open title. Both were ousted in the first round last year. France’s best hope, No. 7 seed Guy Forget, also advanced, but after difficult match – the Frenchman ousted MaliVai Washington [84] in a bizarre scoreline 7-5, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5. Two generations of American tennis outlaws serenely passed first-round French Open tests Monday, but the ultimate rebel John McEnroe fell meekly to Andrei Cherkasov in four sets. Jimmy Connors, 38, splitting his time as a player and TV analyst, overwhelmed Todd Witsken 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 with a methodical display of baseline mastery on an eerily quiet Court No. 1. Andre Agassi, 20, wearing a purple, gray and white outfit that pales in comparison to last year’s hot pink ensemble, played like a zombie for nearly two sets before rallying to defeat Marc Rosset. McEnroe gently argued a few line calls but displayed little of his old fire as he collapsed after dominating the first set against Cherkasov. The Soviet won 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6, capping a 7/0 tie-breaker with an ace on match point of the 3-hour battle. McEnroe, who recently became a father for the third time, said the recent lack of match experience affected his mental toughness. “My mind told me I shouldn’t come here but my heart said to come, that some positive things could come out of it,” he said. “But the bottom line is I lost in the first round, so it’s hard to get overly positive.” McEnroe used his magic bag of drop shots, lobs and passing shots to dominate the first set against Cherkasov, a qagassi_rg91uarterfinalist at the Australian and U.S. Opens last year. But the American seemed to become rattled after an overruled line call at 4:4 in the 2nd set, losing the next two games and never controlling the match again. He faded as the light became dimmer on center court. “I felt like I played all right,” McEnroe said. “I think my concentration cost me the match. The points I needed to win I didn’t. I think I let the fatigue get to me a little bit. I was thinking about what I should do if I won the set too much, and I forgot the part about winning the set.” Agassi, who was 2 years old when Connors played in his first French Open in 1972, woke up in time for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Rosset. The Las Vegan seemed to have his internal alarm clock set an hour late. He appeared uncomfortable and listless for the first 60 minutes of the center court match, spraying balls out in all directions. Agassi was down a set and trailing, 5:3, in the 2nd when a fan with a decidedly non-French accent yelled, “Whip his butt, Andre!” He complied, winning the next four games. “I was lucky to win the second set,” he said. “If he had gone up two sets, then the possibilities of me winning would have been pretty slight.” Agassi was in control after that, though he had to withstand 15 aces from the 6-foot-5 Rosset.

Second round: (AP)

Who the heck is Sergi Bruguera and why was he seeded No. 5, two spots ahead of Guy Forget, before withdrawing yesterday because of back problems? Bruguera won first two sets easily against Omar Camporese (6-1, 6-2), then back problems appeared and when the Italian won the 3rd set (6-4) and the opening game of the 4th set, Bruguera retired. Andre Agassi, the men’s No. 4 seed, won almost as easily, eliminating Petr Korda of Czechoslovakia 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. That set up a third-round match between Agassi and John McEnroe‘s younger brother, Patrick, who beat Australian Jason Stoltenberg 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4. The No. 1 seeds – Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, a 1989 French Open finalist who is trying to protect his No. 1 ranking from Boris Becker, suffered lower back problems as he defeated Austria’s Horst Skoff 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3. A trainer twice massaged his back between games. “I am not exactly sure what it is, but I have had some problems the last couple of weeks,” said Edberg, who suffered a thigh injury while playing in Germany last weekend. “When champion_rg91you have a problem it makes it more difficult to concentrate.” Asked what he would do to prepare his back for a third-round match against clay-court specialist Andrei Chesnokov (a 4-hour winner over Patrick Kuhnen), Edberg said he would continue his daily exercises. “You have to look after your body, it is the only one you get,” he said. “You can’t go and pick one out of the wardrobe.” Goran Ivanisevic, who knocked Becker out in the first round last year, fell, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1, to Paul Haarhuis. “He could have tried a little harder at certain points,” Haarhuis said. Pete Sampras, whose serve-and-volley game does not translate well onto slow clay, lost, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, to Thierry Champion, a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros last year. “Today I was just kind of tired and sluggish. I just really wasn’t on my game today,” Sampras said. “I didn’t feel like I had any spring on my serve. I didn’t snap it like I usually do.” Jimmy Connors defied age and exhaustion to keep alive his impossible dream at the French Open Wednesday, while Boris Becker overcame a thigh injury and a two-set deficit to advance his quest for the No. 1 ranking. The 38-year-old Connors shrugged off a mid-match collapse to defeat Ronald Agenor, who is a dozen years younger and nearly 300 places higher-ranked. Connors, a wild-card entry in the only Grand Slam tournament he has not won, celebrated his 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 0-6, 6-4 victory by tossing his racket skyward. “I don’t throw my racket in the air for just anybody,” he said. “I was in the trenches. I felt once it got into the fifth it was a matter of who was going to get down and dig and grind and do whatever it would take to win the match.” Connors’ dramatic victory agenor_connors_rg91overshadowed an improbable comeback by Becker, who also has won every Grand Slam event except the French. Becker, his mobility limited and his game in disarray, lost the first two sets to Australian Todd Woodbridge and was trailing 3:1 in the 3rd when he won four straight games. Then it became a question of which would last longer – Becker’s leg or Woodbridge’s nerve. The Australian cracked first, allowing Becker to escape, 5-7, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in 4 hours 21 minutes. “He’s a champion. Those players have the ability to do that,” Woodbridge said. “I didn’t expect him to give up.” Fabrice Santoro, hero of France’s recent Davis Cup quarterfinal victory over Australia, routed Mats Wilander, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, in a center court match of unseeded players, leaving Michael Chang as the only former winner of the tournament left in the men’s field. Wilander who won the tournament in 1982, ’85 and ’88, was fined $2,000 for refusing post-match interviews. Wilander didn’t play another match at majors more than two years, at the age of 27 he was burned out. Guy Forget, cheered on by a noisy center-court crowd, defeated Jimmy Arias 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(4). 11th-seeded Emilio Sanchez, another Spaniard with success this year on clay, was ousted by Switzerland’s Jakob Hlasek 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5). Michael Chang, seeded 10th, outlasted Sweden’s Lars Jonsson, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, raising his career record in five-set matches to a remarkable 8-1. He wasted three match points at the end before winning when the umpire overruled a line call in his favor. The match lwasted 3 hours 37 minutes, Chang won just one point more. Marcos Ondruska won one of a 5-setters consisted of the fewest number of games as he ousted

Third round: Robin Finn

Jimmy Connors withdrew in the fifth set of his dazzling match with Michael Chang at the French Open today after the 38-year-old thrilled a center-court crowd with brilliant and gutsy play. Connors, who was treated for a strained back in the third set, quit with the third-round match tied chang_rg91two sets apiece. He was taken to the infirmary at Roland Garros stadium for examination of his back. Connors had earned repeated standing ovations from the 16,000 fans as he battled heroicly for more than 3 1/2 hours against a player half his age. He won the first set 6-4, lost the next two 5-7, 2-6, came back despite obvious fatigue to win the fourth set 6-4 and took the first point of the fifth set on Chang’s serve before walking over to the umpire and saying, “I just can’t play any more.” The umpire tried to persuade him to continue, and Connors replied: “Believe me, if I can stay out here and play, I would. I was run ragged for four hours. My back is stiff. But it was fun,” he said. Chang said the fifth set could have gone either way. “Honestly, I didn’t think Jimmy still had the energy to go out there and win the fourth set,” Chang said. “Jimmy Connors doesn’t get tired… He gets all his energy from his gut.” Chang, seeded 10th, won the tournament as a 17-year-old in 1989. It is the only Grand Slam title to elude Connors, who missed most of the 1990 season with injuries. Boris Becker, the No. 2 seed, overwhelmed hard-serving Australian Wally Masur 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Andre Agassi, the No. 4 seed who lost in the final last year to Andres Gomez, pounded out a 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 victory over Patrick McEnroe. This clay court tournament is the one Grand Slam event Becker has never won. “It would be good for tennis if a serve-and-volleyer could win the French Open,” said Becker. He said his right thigh that troubled him Wednesday was much better. Becker’s fourth-round opponent will be Spain’s Francisco Clavet, a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Olivier Delaitre of France. Agassi next meets Alberto Mancini. Jim Courier, one of the clay-court artisans with legitimate designs on winning this Grand Slam event, always allows his friend Todd Martin [243, qualifier], a Grand Slam and clay-court novice who retains a smattering of French from his days as a linguistics major, to do the ordering. “‘Spaghetti Bolognese avec beaucoup de Bolognese’ – that’s his big line,” said Courier, who made it into the French Open’s fourth round Saturday for the third consecutive year after surviving a five-set scare from Magnus Larsson of Sweden, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. But Martin took a very hard line this chilly Saturday afternoon against Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands, a player who eliminated eighth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic in the second round and is ranked 53rd in the world, a full 190 spots ahead of Martin. Haarhuis found it improbable that he couldn’t defend himself against Martin’s serve and baseline winners, but he fell nonetheless, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to a hardcourt stylist who won just once on clay before coming here. The respective achievements of Courier and Martin have set up a curious scenario, one that won’t affect their dinner plans but will cancel their practice sessions until further notice. On Monday, in a development that has come as a surprise to both 20-year- old Americans, they’ll be together again, but they’ll be adversaries for the first time. Courier, who claims to have embellished his slugger technique with a thinking-man’s game plan, expected himself to get this far and beyond. But Martin, whose 6-foot-6-inch frame is better suited to the flash-fire of the hardcourts than the point-making usually demanded by clay, didn’t. Whenever he had a free moment, he haunted the spectator stands around the show courts, searching out the secrets of the courier_rg91clay-court experts on display there. “It’s amazing what they can do,” he said of the competition. “It takes me out of this profession and makes me a spectator, it helps a lot. You learn a lot.” Martin admitted that he was having such a grand time absorbing his surroundings that he occasionally forgot to focus on his own job. “I was having too much fun just being there instead of having fun playing good tennis,” he said of his second-set lapse against Haarhuis.  Courier, coping with a 2-1 deficit in sets, eventually outlasted and out-blasted the 21-year-old Larsson, who was the more fatigued player by far a full set before the end of their 3-hour, 34-minute match. “I thought I’d try and prolong the points, that if I could make him hit more balls, I’d come out on top,” Courier said. “I would have preferred a straight-set victory physically, but mentally it’s probably better to claw my way back out of the hole and get going.” Courier was 0/40 against Larsson at *1:2 and 2:3 in the 4th set. Stefan Edberg, top-seeded here, had two tiny lapses in his third-round match against Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union, but he reversed 1:3 deficits in the 2nd and 3rd sets to down an uninspired Chesnokov, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

Fourth round: Robin Finn

Top-seeded Stefan Edberg, getting stronger with each match, crushed Soviet Andrei Cherkasov in three sets today to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open. Cherkasov had beaten two other serve-and-volley specialists in the early rounds, former Wimbledon champions John McEnroe and Pat Cash. But Edberg, who says his power game can win on the clay of Roland Garros Stadium, encountered no serious trouble en route to a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-3 victory. “Things are looking good at edberg_rg91the moment,” said Edberg, who has never won the French or U.S. Opens. “It would be nice to finish a career having won all four Grand Slams, but there’s still quite a way to go… This is probably the toughest for me.” The 57-minute first set was the hardest for Edberg, who said he was bothered by a chilly wind. Cherkasov had set point at 5:4* but squandered the opportunity with a groundstroke that sailed past the baseline. In the tiebreaker, Edberg made several unforced errors, but won the last two points on service winners. In the final two sets, he mixed his attacking game with long rallies from the baseline. Andre Agassi ran off 15 straight points at the end of the first set to begin a 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 rout of Alberto Mancini in a fourth-round match Sunday. Michael Chang was in the enemy camp again at his favorite tennis tournament. On Friday, he had to weather the chants and cheers for Jimmy Connors. Yesterday, he heard more of the same for France’s own Guy Forget. Despite the racket, the composed and precocious Chang, 19, prevailed again on Court Central. For the third consecutive year, he has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. “I’m not getting used to having the crowd against me, but I do prepare myself when I know it might happen,” said Chang, a 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victor. “Today was like a Davis Cup match in a sense. For a while, it was Guy hlasek_rg91hits a ball, ‘Yea.’ I hit a ball, ‘Boo.’ You just have to try to block it out.” Oddly enough, it was the seventh-seeded Forget, 26, who needed to block out the crowd in the second set. He had come into the match with lofty ambitions and a carefully devised strategy. “We had a bunch of little pieces of paper in the locker room, and we were writing everything down that I needed to do,” Forget said. Boris Becker defeated Francisco Clavet of Spain, with a scoreline identical to Edberg’s, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-3. Becker fought off two set points in the opener. Jakob Hlasek [20] defeated Argentinian qualifier [222] Christian Miniussi 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 after 3 hours 13 minutes. “Each player, when they are young, dreams to play well in any of the Grand Slams,” said Hlasek, a round-of-16 loser at Wimbledon ’87, U.S. Open ’88 and French Open ’89. The Swiss player born in Czechoslovakia, needed 29 major appearances to finally advance to the quarterfinals. He won’t repeat this result to the end of his career in 1996… Becker, who has won every Grand Slam event but this one, midway through the third set, he summoned ATP tour trainer Bill Norris to treat his thigh. “After 2 1/2 hours out there, it was a bit sore,” Becker said. “But I should be fine.” Agassi’s victory represented a measure of revenge over Mancini, who had beaten him in their only previous meeting: the final of the 1989 Italian Open. “I got pushed around a little bit last time, and I wanted to see where things stood now,” Agassi said. Jim Courier, a 20-year-old American in search of his first Grand Slam title on his favorite surface, ended the Cinderella saga of qualifier Todd Martin, his countryman and sparring partner, in the fourth round of the French Open Monday afternoon. Courier, seeded ninth, advanced to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal after dominating an davin_rg91overmatched Martin 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. “It’s a nice hump to get over,” said Courier , who broke into the top 10 in March. “I always knew I was capable of getting to the quarterfinals, and maybe even further.” Also advancing to the quarterfinals were 12th-seeded Michael Stich of Germany, who eliminated Fabrice Santoro in straight sets, and unseeded Franco Davin [69] of Argentina, the future coach of Gaston Gaudio & Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated Arnaud Boetsch [140], a French wild-card entrant, 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. The achievement is an unprecedented one in each player’s professional career, and they have never faced each other before. “It’ll be a case of him serving and volleying and me ripping my returns at his feet and seeing what he comes up with, and usually he comes up with good stuff,” Courier predicted the progress of his quarterfinal match-up with Edberg.

Quarterfinals: Diane Pucin

Wearing a white baseball cap and a cockeyed grin, Jim Courier didn’t try to act cool. He pumped his fist, twirled like a ballerina, waved to everyone and jumped up and down. Courier was a French Open semifinalist, and he was thrilled. “It’s a big deal to me,” he said, “and I couldn’t help myself.” Courier, a 20-year-old Floridian with a short backswing and a big heart, upset top-seeded Stefan Edberg yesterday, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the quarterfinals. In tomorrow’s semifinals, Courier, seeded ninth, will play 12th-seeded Michael Stich. Stich, a 22-year-old German, won his quarterfinal match, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, over an unseeded Argentine, Franco Davin. The expensively dressed, urbane crowd at Stade Roland Garros was firmly behind Edberg, the 25-year-old Swede who seldom shows emotion and never has a hair out of place. The spectators didn’t quite know what to make of Courier, the American teen-ager who thanked God when he felt he was lucky and kissed his racket when he felt it had acted properly. “I got a break. Thank you, God,” Courier said in the third set when Edberg, who was aiming for a break point, instead sailed an errant forehand wide to send the game back to deuce. In the 7th game of the 4th set, it was Courier who had edberg_courrier_rg91the break point. Edberg kicked in a slicing serve that hit the wooden part of Courier’s racket as he tried to hit his backhand. The poorly hit shot turned into a lazy lob that landed softly on the baseline and kicked out of Edberg’s reach. Courier kissed his racket, front and back, as the crowd gave a collective Gallic shrug and murmured in sympathy for Edberg. “What could I do?” Edberg said later. “It wasn’t my day.” Boris Becker, whose recent memories of Paris are bad, switched on his power at the start of his three-set demolition of Michael Chang. He did not flick it off until after the final point, a service winner, grazed the loser’s racquet. Becker lost in the first round here last year, but today he humbled Chang, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to his third semifinal at Roland Garros Stadium, where he has never reached the finals. Chang, who was no threat to Becker’s serve, had to strain to hold his own serve, and wound up submitting to Becker’s power precisely as he had predicted Chang would. Becker, who considers himself a heavyweight, will face Andre Agassi, who feels he plays like a heavyweight despite his medium stature. “He does have a bigger chest now,” Becker said, “but I think that’s more for his mind than his tennis. He never played soft before, anyway.” Agassi routed Switzerland’s Jakob Hlasek, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, in just 75 minutes and advanced to his third French Open semifinal. “I expected a really tough match,” Agassi said, “but he had a lot more to do with the score than I did. He wasn’t playing up to his game.” Agassi said he felt “fairly confident” about facing Becker. They are 3-3 in career clashes, but Agassi has won the last three: “This year playing him on clay would favor me normally, but he’s shown he can play world-class tennis on clay when he wants to.”

Semifinals: Robin Finn

Two American players planted their feet firmly on the baseline and proceeded to batter their German opponents into submission today in the semifinals of the French Open, setting up the first all-American men’s singles final at this Grand Slam event in 37 years. Andre Agassi advanced to his second consecutive final here by systematically removing the sting from Boris Becker‘s arsenal in a 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 2-hour-44-minute victory. Clean-shaven, blond-streaked and garbed in royal purple, Agassi provoked Becker to distraction with a steady stream of groundstrokes that probed like lasers and left Becker conducting an irritated, self-deprecatory monologue in his native tongue from the middle of the second set on. “He spoke a lot of German out there today,” Agassi said. In the other semifinal, 9th-seeded Jim Courier defeated 12th-seeded Michael Stich of Germany in a four-set becker_agassi_rg91dogfight that left both splattered with red clay on this dank, misty afternoon. Courier, the less erratic competitor of the two, advanced, 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-2, 6-4, into his first Grand Slam final. In the 3-hour-7-minute encounter, Courier wasted a set point leading 6:5 in the tie-break. “It will be a fantastic final,” said Courier, “I’d like to slap around all those people who said where is American tennis about five years ago. Well, here we are, where are you?” “I wasn’t convinced I had the match under control at any time,” said Agassi, who lost to Andres Gomez in last year’s final. “After the second set I was feeling more comfortable, but it didn’t last long. You never know what Boris is going to do.” Had Becker managed to prevail in this semifinal, his third in Paris, he would have seized the No. 1 spot in the world from Stefan Edberg. Had he advanced to his first final and managed to win the tournament, he would have achieved his first career title on clay. But once again, Becker’s ardent pursuit of a felicitous relationship with Roland Garros Stadium remained unrequited. “I’m not a machine, really,” Becker, seeded second, said of his lack of bravado today. “When I started the tournament, I didn’t think I had such a good chance here, and then all of a sudden it’s 12 days later and I’m in the semifinals with a good chance against Agassi, but on this day it was maybe too much for me.” “The first set was the most important set of the match,” said the 23-year-old German, who dueled to a 5:5 deadlock with Agassi before he felt a shift of momentum over to Agassi’s side of the net. Becker had saved two set points as he served in the 10th game and gained a break point in the 11th game only to be undone by three unlikely Agassi winners: a second-serve ace, a let-cord pass that struck the net, jumped over Becker’s racquet and shivered down the line, and a game-ending backhand to the corner. “Shots like that can decide a match, and it did today, really,” Becker said. “That game at 5-all just killed me.”

Final: Jim Sarni

Jim Courier tugged on his cap, then fired a fastball on the corner, an ace to win the French Open. Andre Agassi watched it fly by. Strike three-three Grand Slam finals lost in a row. At the moment of his 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory, a joyful Courier collapsed on his back in the red clay of Roland Garros. “I’ve had a lot of happy moments and I’ll have a lot more, but this is the happiest one right courier_rg91_now,” said Courier. Agassi, 21, was red about the eyes when he spoke about losing three Grand Slam finals in 12 months. “Who knows how many shots you get?” said an anguished Agassi, who lost last year`s French Open to Andres Gomez and last year`s U.S. Open to Pete Sampras. “I’ve had three, and I feel fortunate about that. I’d rather lose in the final than where 126 other guys did. The pessimistic side of me questions when I’ll get another chance.” Agassi had trouble getting the words out. “I was confident and playing well,” he said. “But sometimes things just happen like that, and there’s not much I can do.” Neither could Agassi do much about the rain that began when he was rolling 6-3, 3:1. During the 20-minute delay, USTA coach Jose Higueras went into the locker room and told Courier to stand farther back on Agassi’s serve. “Jim was returning early,” said Higueras, who has turned Courier into one of America’s best players. “Win or lose, you have to do your best to win the match.” Courier, 20, held serve (saving two break points), then broke in the next game for 3-all. After a second short rain delay, Courier closed out the second set, breaking Agassi again in the final game. “That was the beginning of the match for me,” said Courier. “That was the turnaround. It got me into the match.” “The rain worked to Jim`s advantage,” Agassi said. “If it had not rained, I might have kept the momentum, but I don’t know how long that would have lasted.” Down 1:2 in the 3rd set, Agassi turned the momentum back his way, reeling off five straight games to win the set. But then, surprisingly, Agassi let it slip. He lost 12 of the next 13 points. Courier led 3:0, Agassi had a break point for 2:3 but missed a backhand, and Courier put away the set. “It doesn’t take much,” Agassi said. “He played a good game to break me. I was thinking I could get back into it, but he played a couple of good points and it was 4:1, and then, suddenly, he’s serving for the set.” “Andre’s game dropped in the fourth set, but I just kept fighting. Andre’s got to be a little disappointed,” said Courier, who relished beating Agassi, his former Nick Bollettieri’s Academy roommate, here two years ago. “He’s been in three Grand Slam finals in a row. [Courier referred to Agassi’s participation in Grand Slams, Agassi skipped Wimbledon ’90 & Australian Open ’91] He’s lost all three, but it’s quite a feat to get there. He’ll have his day, he’s too good a player. I think he’ll be even more determined and work harder.” Courier has played four finals and won them all. All went the distance. This year, he beat Guy Forget at Indian Wells and David Wheaton at Lipton. courier_rg91-championCourier started the year ranked No. 25. After Lipton, he was in the Top 10. Today Courier is No. 4, the highest-ranked American, two weeks before Wimbledon. Agassi, the best-known American, is left with his hype. Michael Chang won the French Open two years ago; Sampras won the U.S. Open last year; Courier is the French champion. Agassi must wait for his day. “I don’t know how I will respond from this defeat,” Agassi said. “I don’t expect it to last long. The other ones didn’t. When I sit back and think about it, I’ll find things to be thankful for.” For the fifth time in the Open Era (since 1968), the French Open final went to a fifth set. Agassi up first, then Courier, then each held to 3-all. Courier broke first for 4:3 with a forehand cross-court return on Agassi’s serve at 30/40. Agassi broke back for 4-all. The rain was gone, the early evening sun was out, but with it came the wind. Saving a break point at 15/40 in the next game, Agassi lined up an overhead, but his shot-and the French Open championship-skewed wide. “The ball was floating around, it was like facing the Niekro brothers,” said Courier, the Cincinnati Reds fan. Courier sat down and tried not to think he would soon be serving for the match and a Grand Slam title. “When my brain started working, I told myself that it was the first game of the match and just hit some balls,” Courier said. Agassi netted a forehand return and Courier missed a backhand wide. Agassi missed two more forehands down the line, and Courier had a pair of match points. Courier’s seventh ace was a lightning bolt. Stats of the match