1986 – 1987, US Open

U.S. Open, New York, U.S.A.
August 25, 1986; 128 Draw – $1,400,000; Surface – Hard

It was the highest point in Ivan Lendl’s career. The 26-year-old Czechoslovak had won in 1986 ‘Masters’ (January ’86), so-called “fifth Grand Slam” at Boca Raton and Roland Garros. With a slow decline of his arch-American rivals (John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors), he confirmed his powerful supremacy over the whole tennis world, losing just one set in the fortnight. The tournament indicated not only a decline of two great American players but also the entire generation of Yankees overall – for the first time in the Open era just one of them advanced to the US Open quarterfinals (Tim Wilkison), and for the first time in the era none of them appeared in semifinals.
All scorelines
First round: Bob Greene

John McEnroe [9] tamed his temper but not his tennis Tuesday and became a first-round casualty in the U.S. Open, falling to unseeded Paul Annacone 1-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. “I felt like I was in a reasonably good frame of mind,” McEnroe, playing in only his fourth tournament since a seven-month layoff, said. “I felt like I gave a pretty good effort and was trying the best thing that I could do.” Annacone stated: “I just hoped that I would go out and play well today. And if I did, then I’d have a chance. Fortunately, I got a lot of chances.” So McEnroe, who has won the Open four times, Wimbledon three times and who was ranked No. 1 until a year ago, thus became the first finalist to lose in the first round of the next U.S. Open since Tom Okker lost to Mark Cox in the first round in 1969. In 1968, Okker lost to Arthur Ashe in the title match. Last year, McEnroe fell to Ivan Lendl in the men’s singles final. On Tuesday, Lendl followed McEnroe onto the Louis Armstrong Stadium Court and crushed Glenn Layendecker 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Guillermo Vilas, the 1977 champion, was ousted by Paul McNamee, 7-5, 5-7, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3. David Pate upset 12th-seeded Thierry Tulasne, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4. It was Annacone [20], a hard-serving right-hander, who was dominant on this day as McEnroe constantly found himself out of position or committing unforced errors. The match ended when McEnroe, once almost untouchable at the National Tennis Center, hit a volley wide when he had most of the court to aim at. “I’m sorry that he lost,” Annacone said of McEnroe. “I want to see him come back because I think he’s great for tennis. “I’m not sorry that I won, but it feels kind of awkward beating him.” With the defeat, McEnroe dropped to at least 21st in the world computer rankings, his lowest in the 80s at the time. Annacone finished with 23 aces to only three for McEnroe. It was McEnroe’s first loss in the first week of a major tournament since he had been defeated by Paul McNamee at Roland Garros 1980 (third round). His strawberry-blond hair and the quick, boyish grin make Boris Becker look like an overgrown Tom Sawyer. The way he bounces around the tennis court, occasionally diving to make spectacular volleys, makes him a fan favorite. For Becker, the 18-year-old, two-time Wimbledon champion from West Germany, there is no scowling or pouting like John McEnroe. He hasn’t been called “The Terminator,” as has Czechoslovakia’s Ivan Lendl. But his serve is one of the most feared in tennis, and the velocity of it has given him the nickname of “Boom Boom,” a term of endearment that borders on cute. There is nothing “cute” about the results, however, which are devastating to his opponents. The latest to find that out was Canada’s Glenn Michibata, who, despite a gallant fight, became another statistic as the third-seeded Becker powered his way into the second round of the U.S. Open, winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. Another favorite with the U.S. Open crowds, five-time champion Jimmy Connors [5], waltzed into the second round last night by crushing Sweden’s Henrik Sundstrom 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. “I have played my best tennis here in New York,” Connors said. “The fans bring out the best in me.” The 33-year-old Connors, seeded sixth in this, the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, took one hour, 49 minutes to dispose of Sundstrom [87], once ranked in the top 10 in the world. And he did it in his all-court, all-out style, running down every ball and simply overwhelming his Swedish foe. “It’s quite a big change, I would say,” Becker replied when asked to compare the asphalt-and-concrete complex at the National Tennis Center to Wimbledon’s ivy-covered walls and grass courts. Becker broke Michibata, a former Pepperdine University student, in the third game of the opening set, then broke him again in the seventh game. Both times, Michibata had battled to deuce on his own serve. But the Canadian right-hander, ranked 96th in the world, found the passing lanes in the second set as the two traded groundstrokes from the baseline. Michibata earned the first service break in the second set, in the eighth game. Becker broke right back, but Michibata, leading 6:5, closed out the set when he broke Becker’s service at love. Although Becker controlled the match after that, he had to fight hard for every point. For example, in the final set, Becker launched himself to his left, looking for the airborne backhand volley that has become his trademark. But this time, Michibata’s forehand passing shot down the line glanced off the end of Becker’s racket. The reigning Wimbledon champion won. And, in the end, he wasn’t in deep trouble. But he had to win points instead of watching Michibata hit unforced errors. Becker finished with 13 aces, the final one giving him match point. Michibata had two aces, but finished with 27 service winners, the same as Becker. Seeded Swedes won their opening matches easily: Mats Wilander downed Todd Nelson 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4; Stefan Edberg crushed Stephan Bonneau of Canada 6-0, 6-3, 6-0, and Mikael Pernfors eliminated another Swede, Jan Gunnarsson, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Jonathan Canter stunned Tim Mayotte, 6-7(2), 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-1, 6-3, in a match that lasted three hours and 47 minutes. No. 14 seeded Mayotte, squandared three match points in the third-set tiebreaker. The future two-time champion, Andre Agassi [105] made his first US Open appearance at the age of 16. Agassi playing third tournament at the main level, lost in four sets 6-7(3), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6 to Jeremy Bates [128].

Second round: Dave D’Alessandro

I believe that if I play my best, I can beat anybody,” said Ivan Lendl. We’ve heard that before. “And if I don’t, I can lose to anybody,” he added. We’ve heard that before, too. Trouble is, Lendl has failed to provide any evidence that the second statement has any truth to it. Please, Ivan, give us something anything to indicate that you won’t smash everything in your path to a second straight U.S. Open men’s singles tennis title. Lendl is an accommodating, polite, and patient fellow these days, but he is fully aware that he looks virtually unbeatable, that he is ripping his ground strokes with stunning accuracy, moving very well, playing on his favorite surface, and is in perhaps better physical condition than any other player. Last night, he provided further proof that the top bracket is a foregone conclusion, dominating a lame but game Robert Seguso, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2, in the second round at Stadium Court. The win proved nothing, except that Seguso’s left knee is a great liability and that the tournament’s top seed obviously eager to change his stone-faced image has become a very gracious, humble opponent. “I know the score didn’t indicate it, but this was not an easy match,” Lendl had the audacity to say. “He moved well, served well, hit hard. I knew I had to win it on my own. It was by no means easy”. The sun broke through the clouds yesterday just as Aaron Krickstein double- faulted and fell behind, 4:3, in a fifth-set tiebreaker against Paul Annacone. But then it was Krickstein’s turn to shine. He hit a backhand passing shot and a sizzling forehand service return for winners, then moved Annacone out of position to force a weak backhander into the net. When Annacone, the conqueror of John McEnroe in the opening round, hit a backhand service return long, Krickstein had his second straight five-set comeback victory in the 1986 U.S. Open. “Once I won the third set, it was anybody’s match,” Krickstein said after subduing Annacone, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4), on the stadium court at the National Tennis Center. In the first round, the 19-year-old baseline standout rallied for a 5-7, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-3 victory over Karel Novacek of Czechoslovakia. While Krickstein struggled for 3 hours, 9 minutes on a cold, windy afternoon, Lendl followed an easier path to victory. Lendl, the defending men’s champion, captured 10 consecutive games in defeating Robert Seguso, in a night match. The start of the day’s program was delayed nearly three hours because of rain, and in other matches completed by early evening, eighth seed Henri Leconte crushed Horacio de la Pena, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, No. 15 Brad Gilbert beat Nduka Odizor, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, and Krickstein first made a splash on the circuit in 1983. At 16, he upset Vitas Gerulaitis in another comeback from a two-set deficit. He became the youngest men’s player to make the Open quarterfinals, where he lost to Yannick Noah. “I usually play my best games when I’m behind. If I get down two sets… I’ve got a chance,” he said. Krickstein, ranked 38th in the world, and Annacone, ranked 20th, are occasional practice partners. Krickstein’s game is better suited to slower surfaces, while Annacone is a power player. So Krickstein’s victory here certainly can be deemed an upset, especially in light of Annacone’s stunner over McEnroe in the first round. “I didn’t think about his beating McEnroe at all,” Krickstein said. ”It’s a big upset when McEnroe loses in the first round of the Open, but a lot of players looked at it as a better chance for them. I would have had to play McEnroe in the second round.” At the beginning, it didn’t seem to matter. Krickstein could not handle Annacone’s power and his own serve was shaky. “I feel pretty good when I’m down,” Krickstein said. “He was up a break at 4-2 in the fourth [set], and I usually play my best games when behind. I just end up going for my shots. If I lose it, it will be by my missing (shots) and if I win, it will be by my making shots.” Annacone blamed himself for “falling apart” late in the match. “That was a terrible way to play, too defensively,” Annacone said. “I didn’t deserve to win this match playing like that.” Tom Gullikson [176], who plans to retire after the U.S. Open, upset 10th-seeded Andres Gomez 3-6, 6-7(0), 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-4. Gullikson got a wild card at the last minute after Peter Fleming refused one to concentrate on doubles. “I wanted to play really well and make them proud that they gave me a wild card,” said Gullikson of Palm Cove, who turns 35 Sept. 8, along with his twin brother, Tim (Pete Sampras‘ coach who died in 1996). “It’s very satisfying, especially coming back from two sets to love down.” The usually mild-mannered Gullikson got an abuse of racket warning in the third set after he disagreed vehemently with a call. It spurred him on. “I think a little negative emotion does you good once in a while,” Gullikson said. “I played with a little emotion after that.” He defeated Greg Holmes [42] after unusual battle 7-6(1), 7-6(2), 6-7(8), 0-6, 7-6(6) in the first round. The US Open ’86 turned into the last Grand Slam tournament for Gullikson siblings. In the third round Tom lost in five sets to Matt Anger, Tim [265] had been already ousted in the first round as he lost to Miloslav Mecir in straight sets.

Third round: AP

Tim Wilkison, diving for balls and hitting hard volleys, upset fifth-seeded Yannick Noah 7-6(10), 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to move into the fourth round of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Joining Wilkison in the fourth round were No. 4 Stefen Edberg, No. 8 Henri Leconte, Andrei Chesnokov, Aaron Krickstein and Dan Goldie. Wilkison, ranked 31st in the world, knocked out the acrobatic Noah in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament. And when he had clinched the victory with a smash, the Asheville, N.C., left-hander blew kisses to the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd at the National Tennis Center. “Being the Stadium Court at the U.S. Open and beating Noah, I’d have to say it’s my best win,” said Wilkison, who earlier this year defeated Wimbledon champion Boris Becker (in Atlanta, the first quarter of the season). “I seem to raise my level of game when playing an athletic-style player.” Noah noted he had the opportunities to win. “I had a lot of break points and a lot of possibilities to be ahead,” he said. “I just couldn’t put him away.” The battle on the hard courts lasted three hours, with first one and then the other player seemingly taking the upper hand. Both players held serve easily in the first set, but Wilkison jumped out to a 5:0 lead in the tiebreaker. Three points later, he held a 6:2 advantage and had four set points. But Noah, thrilling the crowd with seemingly impossible shots and punctuating short volleys with smashes, won the next four points. With each player trying to take the net first, they repeatedly turned back bids by the other to close out the tiebreaker. In all, Noah had two set points and Wilkison seven – one too many for the Frenchman. Wilkison won the tiebreaker 12/10. The drama had just begun. It was Noah’s turn, and he broke Wilkison in the second game and raced out to a 3:0 lead. It was the only break he needed as he leveled the match at one set apiece. Noah, the 1983 French Open champion who now makes his home in New York, broke Wilkison in the ninth game of the third. When he held at 15, Noah had captured the third set and held the lead. But Wilkison, wearing a red baseball cap, just picked up the tempo, following his serve into the net more and hitting his volleys harder – so hard that the quick Noah couldn’t get his racket on the ball enough to control it. The fourth set was all Wilkison as he won the first five games before Noah finally held after two deuces. Wilkison then closed out the set by holding service in the longest game of the match, one that went to deuce five times. That brought everything down to the decisive fifth set. The two battled evenly until the ninth game when Wilkison, jumping on Noah’s second serve, ripped the ball past him. From 15-all, Wilkison took the next two points, the second coming on an inside-out forehand cross-court passing shot. That made it 15/40, and Wilkison closed out the break when he rifled a forehand service return cross court. Wilkison then double-faulted to begin the 10th game. But he won the next four points to finish off the tournament’s biggest upset so far and move into a fourth-round match against Andrei Chesnokov, a 1-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 winner over Marcel Freeman. Stefan Edberg needed nearly three hours to edge Ramesh Krishnan 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; Henri Leconte ousted Amos Mansdorf 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2; Aaron Krickstein defeated Mel Purcell 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, and Dan Goldie outlasted Barry Moir 6-0, 4-6, 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-2. “I had more than I wanted,” Ivan Lendl said after his victory over Jonas Svensson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. “I mean, the man plays tough. He hits hard. He serves very decent. He mixes it up. He comes in hard and he runs a lot and he hits a lot of balls back.” Todd Witsken, playing in his first U.S. Open, knocked off five-time winner Jimmy Connors Sunday to join another surprising winner, Gary Donnelly, in the fourth round at the National Tennis Center. Witsken upset Connors, the No. 6 seed, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 after Donnelly ousted 13th-seeded Anders Jarryd of Sweden, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. “Several years ago guys in my position never would feel they could beat Connors,” Witsken said. “But now he’s getting older and the guys realize he’s beatable, that we have a chance.” Witsken, a 22-year-old former U.S. Junior Davis Cup member from Carmel, Ind. and an All- American at USC, needed six match points to close out the two- hour, 11-minute victory over the 33-year-old Connors. “I came into the tournament with a good attitude,” Donnelly said. “I worked hard last week and I said I was going to go for it this week. I had a goal; it was not realistic, but I said I wanted to try to get to the quarterfinals.” Donnelly broke Jarryd’s service in the second game at 30, then held his serve to close out the set. He then took an early lead in the second set, breaking Jarryd in the first game. But Jarryd, in his first tournament since Wimbledon, evened the match with a service break in the fourth game, then took the lead when he broke Donnelly’s service in the 12th game at 30. “I thought I was getting tired,” Donnelly said about his feelings following the second set. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to go five sets.

Fourth round: AP, Ray Sons

Top seed Ivan Lendl  posted straight-set victory Monday to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Lendl, defending the title he won last year, moved into high gear in the second set as he eliminated 15th-seeded Brad Gilbert 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. No. 4 Stefan Edberg also gained a quarterfinal berth by stopping Dan Goldie 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Gilbert fought Lendl on even terms in the opening set, breaking Lendl`s serve in the seventh game to put the set back on serve. But Lendl , ranked No. 1 in the world, closed out the first set by breaking Gilbert in the 12th game at 30. After that, it was all Lendl. “I started missing a lot of first serves and then he picked up his game a lot,” Gilbert said. “He started to pass really well. Then I got a little discouraged. I wasn`t sure what to do – if I should stay back or come in.” There was nothing indecisive about Lendl, who already has won seven titles this year, including the French Open. He broke Gilbert`s service twice in each of the next two sets to move one step closer to his second straight U.S. Open crown. “I think after the first set he got broken mentally,” Lendl said of Gilbert. “He felt he has to win now three out of four (sets), and he knows I`m going to run forever.Boris Becker advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis championships yesterday, while Mats Wilander, the No. 2 seed, fell to Czechoslovakia’s Miroslav Mecir. All of the Americans left in the running for the American singles championship were nobodies after the inglorious exit of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. But Gary Donnelly led the rest in reasons for modesty. The 24-year-old doubles specialist out of Scottsdale, Ariz., had been eliminated in the first rounds of two of the five tournaments in which he had played singles this year. He’d never won a singles championship. He’d had to survive a qualifier to get into this competition. Yet Becker had let this unknown push to the brink of squaring their match at two sets apiece. After winning the first two sets, Boris lost the third in a tiebreaker and had to fight off two break points in the final game of the fourth set before clinching victory 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4. “Boom Boom” finally rose to the occasion with a surprise, booming a second serve down the middle for an ace on match point. “When I feel pressure, I’m playing well,” he said happily. “When I’m not, I’m playing bad.” Mecir upset second-seeded Wilander 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Mecir, the leader of Czechoslovakia’s Davis Cup team now that Lendl, the top seed at the Open, no longer plays for his native country, was steadier than Wilander, who is known for steady though unspectacular play. Mecir also found the angles on his cross-court passing shots and strong volleys. “Normally I hit from the baseline. But early I didn`t feel very confident from the baseline, so I had to go to the net,” Mecir, seeded 16th, said. Although he dropped the first-set tiebreaker, Mecir gave notice to Wilander of what to expect when he broke Wilander`s service in the first game. Wilander broke right back and the two traded service breaks again in the fourth and fifth games. Mecir also gained the first service break in the second set to take a 2:0 lead. The two went back on serve when Wilander broke Mecir`s service in the fifth game, but again Mecir prevailed, solving Wilander`s service in the eighth game to break him at 30. “He makes you feel you`re playing bad, but he’s just playing too good,” Wilander said of Mecir. “It feels like when you’re playing him there’s nothing you can do. He controls your game.” Mecir did just that in the third set, breaking Wilander`s service in the first and ninth games. Mecir was up a service break and serving for the match in the ninth game of the fourth set. But Wilander, rising to the occasion, slammed a backhand passing shot down the line. Then, after Mecir`s backhand volley made it 15/15, Wilander captured the next three points to break serve. The two battled to 30/30 before Wilander took a 40/30 lead on a controversial point. Mecir wound up netting a backhand in a rally that saw Wilander hit a ball that appeared to be long. Mecir pulled to deuce with a smash, moved to advantage with a backhand passing shot. And when he rifled a backhand return cross court, a shot that Wilander never had a chance at, Mecir was in the quarterfinals. The story of the 1986 U.S. Open can be seen in the puzzled expressions of its spectators. We’re running a bit short of heroes lately, they’re saying. The John McEnroes and Jimmy Connorses are history, and the future of American tennis is a very real concern. Then, just when interest hits bottom, Tim Wilkison comes to the rescue. Through the seventh day of American tennis’s biggest showcase, Wilkison has emerged as the darling of the tournament. The enthusiastic 26-year-old, who Saturday eliminated fifth-seed Yannick Noah, muscled his way into the quarterfinal round yesterday with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 thumping of Andrei Chesnokov. That’s right, he beat a Soviet. Rambo took on a Russian and won. The cold war never was so one-sided. “It was pretty obvious the crowd was on my side,” said Wilkison, who meets fourth-seeded Stefan Edberg tomorrow in the quarterfinal round. “I think I’m fairly exciting to watch; you know, I fall down sometimes. But it’s rather obvious that there aren’t too many Americans left in this tournament. I think that had a lot to do with it. Obviously, the fact that I was playing a guy from Russia… the circumstances were definitely in my favor today.“It’s just like Rocky against Drago,” said Chesnokov, a 23-year-old native of Moscow, laughing at his own analogy. “[The outcome] was the same.” Wilkison, ranked 31st in the world, continued his superb play by hitting on 71 percent of his first serves, and winning the point on 67 percent of his frequent approaches to the net. Chesnokov, whose success at Flushing Meadow is expected to increase Soviet interest in the game, had difficulty with his serve throughout, and Wilkison pounced on his second serve at every opportunity.

 Quarterfinals: AP

Tim Wilkison‘s dream is over, and with it went America’s chances for keeping its men’s tennis championship at home. Either a Swede, a Czechoslovak or a German will wear the U.S. Open singles crown on Sunday. The unseeded Wilkison, the last American remaining in the tournament, was defeated by No. 4 Stefan Edberg of Sweden 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 Wednesday, night. “I know how much fun it is to do well and what is available for you,” Wilkison said. “And I don’t want to be the kind of guy who did well and then is never heard of again. I’m afraid of that and I will push myself to do well.” Edberg plays top-seeded Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia in a semifinal match on Saturday. Lendl beat No. 8 Henri Leconte of France 7-6(3), 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 Wednesday. Lendl historically has had trouble with Leconte, who carried a 5-5 record into the match against the top-rated Czechoslovakian. Only McEnroe has a better mark against Lendl among the world’s top 10 players, though Edberg is 2-2. In the first set, Leconte was leading 5:4* (40/0) before Lendl stormed back, aided by a superb return on a drop shot by Leconte to save one out of 3 set points. “I don’t know if you noticed,” Lendl said, “but after he hit the drop volley, while I was running, he raised his racket; he thought he had it. Then he realized I’m getting the ball. I didn’t believe I’m going to get to the ball when I was running but all of a sudden I was there.” Leconte said the Lendl of 1986 is a vastly improved model over the 1985 version, which Leconte beat at Wimbledon. “He is stronger, his legs are moving much better, he’s stronger in his mind,” Leconte said. “He doesn’t give you any points by himself.” West Germany’s Boris Becker easily advanced into the semifinals of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships Thursday, night, crushing Czechslovakia’s Milan Srejber 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. Becker, the reigning Wimbledon champion, will take on another Czechoslovak, 16th-seeded Miloslav Mecir, in Saturday’s semifinals. Earlier Thursday, Mecir eliminated No. 7 Joakim Nystrom of Sweden 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. One of only two unseeded players to reach the quarterfinals, Srejber spent the entire match hitting his volleys long or into the net – when he did make an effort to go for the ball. Several times Becker hit weak service returns across the net, only to see Srejber look at the ball, turn around and walk back to the baseline to serve the next point. “At the end of the third set I looked at the scoreboard and it said, 6-3, 6-2, 4-0,” Becker said. “And I said, What the hell is going on? This is a quarterfinal match.” In the third set, the crowd cheered Srejber every time he won a point. They didn’t cheer often. It was billed as a battle of big servers. It turned into the ‘Big Yawn.’ Becker finished the 81-minute blowout with three aces, and Srejber had two. Srejber won just 13 points in the second set and 14 in the third. “The fans paid pretty much money to see the match,” Becker said. “But it’s too difficult to win a match, and you have to play 100 percent. He’s a pretty strange guy off the court and I don’t think many players talk to him,” Becker said of Srejber. Srejber didn’t want to talk much after the match. “Last time I won, now I lost,” Srejber explained.

 Semifinals: Wire Services

Boris Becker was wary of Miloslav Mecir, a reluctant visitor from Czechoslovakia who said he would rather be back home fishing instead of playing tennis in the U.S. Open. Mecir expressed his feelings to Becker two weeks ago when the tournament began, and Becker believed him – until he noticed that Mecir had reached the Open semifinals. It suddenly sounded like a setup. If this is the way Mecir plays when he is homesick, imagine how good he could be with some peace of mind. Seeded 16th, Mecir shocked Becker yesterday 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the finals, in which he will play Ivan Lendl, the top-seeded player. Lendl, who was born in Czechoslovakia and now lives in Greenwich, Conn., easily defeated Stefan Edberg of Sweden, 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-3. For the first time in Open history, four native-born Czechoslovaks will play in the men’s and women’s finals (Martina Navratilova vs. Helena Sukova in women’s final). Becker was a favorite of the fans at the National Tennis Center. The affable 18-year-old West German was seeded third, and his big serve was expected to carry him to the finals. But he and Lendl will have to save their next meeting for another time and place: Mecir’s steady baseline game and well-timed approaches to the net kept Becker off balance and frustrated throughout the match. Mecir was not rattled by the surroundings or the pressure as the fifth set unfolded, and the fans cheered for Becker to survive. Mecir broke Becker in the second game, when Becker’s ground strokes strayed. The match finished on serve as Mecir kept Becker on the baseline, engaging him in rallies that Becker had hoped to avoid. The final point came when Mecir ventured to the net and slapped a deep volley that Becker hit into the net. “I had too much respect for him,” Becker said. “He’s a great player, maybe the fastest guy I’ve played against.” Becker is still a relative newcomer to the hardcourt surface, although none of his earlier opponents in the Open was able to exploit him. Ion Tiriac, Becker’s manager, wants his protégé to attack more, become a true serve-and-volley player as he is on grass. Becker, however, sometimes reverts to the baseline game he learned growing up playing on clay. Mecir covers the court as well as any player, keeping the ball in play with consistent groundstrokes. He wins mostly by rallying from the baseline, although in the quarterfinals he beat Joakim Nystrom of Sweden by coming to the net. He appeared over-matched against Becker, whose big serve was responsible for a number of easy points in the opening set. Becker broke Mecir in the ninth game, forcing three errors by pinning Mecir to the corners. In the next game, Becker closed out the set, although not before saving three break points. Once again, his serve came to the rescue. Mecir’s strategy was the same as the second set developed. He camped on the baseline, moving Becker from side to side with deep ground strokes. His serve was not intimidating, but accurate enough to keep Becker from attacking. He broke the West German in the fourth game with a backhand down the line, then broke again in the eighth game as Becker scattered his forehand around the court. Becker shook his head in frustration, unable to string together a succession of winners. The ever-steady Mecir broke Becker in the seventh game of the third set, eventually winning 6-4. Now, the improbable seemed possible. In the brief time he has been on the tour, Becker has made a reputation for fighting back. He does not give in. He won the fourth set, breaking Mecir in the sixth game, to lead 4:2. The crowd, which had been strangely quiet, sensed that Becker was in danger of losing and began to cheer him on. Still, as he walked to his chair after winning the set, Becker’s shoulders sagged. A lot of hard work remained. In the first match, a potential struggle became a rout instead, carved in typical Lendl fashion. He outlasted Edberg in a prolonged first set, then dispatched the broken Swede with ease.”The way he is playing now, he’s a little bit better than all the others,” Edberg said. “I mean, we’re not very far away, but for the moment, he’s a little bit too good. He’s got a lot of confidence.” The evolution of Lendl is noticeable on and off the court. He is a self-made player, who was, as he puts it, born on clay in Czechoslovakia but has now become the best all-court player in the world. As much as he dislikes the grass at Wimbledon, he reached the finals there this year. And he now has no equal on the hardcourts that are favored by the American players. But he paid his dues along the way, losing twice to Jimmy Connors and then to John McEnroe in the Open finals before beating McEnroe last year. “I speak from my own experience a bit,” he said. “It is very difficult for Stefan or anybody to play a tough first set, play as well as they can, and lose. You begin pressing too hard and you lose the little edge.”

Final: Sarajane Freligh

He studies the faces of his opponents as if they were books. Often, there is something there to learn. In the second set yesterday serving for a 3:1 lead, Ivan Lendl looked across the net and noticed that Miloslav Mecir was showing him “a little bit of a no-interest tactic.” It was the slightest chink in the armor of his opponent. It was the opening that Ivan Lendl had sought. Like a shark who senses blood in the water, Lendl moved in on his fellow Czechoslovak for the kill. He won 12 of the last 13 games of the match, including eight straight, to win his second straight U.S. Open title in impressive fashion, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. One would have to turn the Open record book back to 1974, when Jimmy Connors defeated Ken Rosewall, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, to find a final-round victory that was as decisive as Lendl’s. But coming off an emotional five-set upset of Boris Becker on Saturday, Mecir, after a competitive first set, went strangely flat, like a bottle of champagne that had lost its effervescence. Lendl, meanwhile, grew stronger and more determined as the match wore on, so that by the third set he was invincible. He simply was extending the pattern that he had begun last year at the Open. He has won 14 consecutive matches and 42 of 44 sets over the last two years at the National Tennis Center. He dropped a set to Peru’s Jaime Yzaga in the fourth round last year and lost one to France’s Henri Leconte in the quarterfinals this week. Lendl has appeared in the last five U.S. Open finals, tying him for third on the list for most consecutive appearances in singles finals. His victory yesterday established him as the first man since Frank Sedgman (1951 and 1952) to win two consecutive finals in straight sets. The outcome also brought back to earth the high-flying Mecir, who had fashioned something of an Open fairy tale. Seeded only 16th, Mecir ambushed No. 2 Mats Wilander in the fourth round, ousted No. 7 Joakim Nystrom in the quarterfinals and then pulled off a huge upset of Becker, the No. 3 seed, just as CBS was salivating for a rematch between Becker and Lendl, who had met in the Wimbledon finals. Mecir, who insisted throughout the tournament that he would have preferred to be back in Czechoslovakia fishing, appeared not to be awed in the least by his rise at the Open. Against Becker, he had played relaxed, confident tennis. Then, yesterday, the enormity of what he had done in the tournament seemed finally to occur to him. “In the beginning, I had almost the same feeling (as he had earlier), and I think I wasn’t nervous at all before the match,” Mecir said. “And when I started to play, I missed a few easy balls. I got more nervous, and I lost it with my confidence.” He had played a canny game in the first set, hitting often to Lendl’s backhand and going to the net behind good approach shots. He won 11 points at the net, and after dropping the opening game on his own serve, he even managed to break Lendl’s serve in the second game. But in the second set and third sets, he could manage no breaks. His net game seemed to desert him in the second, when he managed only four points on 14 trips to the net. In the third set, he went to the net only five times, winning only one point. After Lendl built a 3:1 lead in the second set, he began to realize that he could win the match – and easily. “I saw him giving me a little bit of no-interest tactic,” Lendl said. “Then I realized I probably had him and if I fight really hard and don’t make any silly mistakes, don’t let him get back into the match, then I shall have it. I served two good games to get the set, and once I had the set, I loosened up and I started playing so much better. I started moving again like last year. I felt so comfortable, so excited that I can get to any ball and hit any shots.” It was only fitting that, on match point, Lendl should serve an ace – his 10th of the day – leaving Mecir as helpless as he had seemed after the close first set. The normally undemonstrative Lendl leaped into the air and pumped his fists in triumph, then went to the net where he shook the hand of the opponent he had defeated so decisively. It was Lendl’s 61st title, fourth major. Stats of the final.


U.S. Open, New York
August 31, 1987; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $1,666,667; Surface – Hard

Ivan Lendl wins US open for the third straight year, and like in the two past years he drops just one set during the fortnight. Ken Flach survives the longest fifth set tie-break in history.
All scorelines
First round: Bill Halls

lendl_uo87_Two-time defending champion Ivan Lendl scored an historic shutout in the U.S. Open today in New York. Lendl overpowered South African Barry Moir 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in 71 minutes. It was the first shutout in men’s singles at the Open since 1977, when Ilie Nastase beat Frew McMillan 6-0, 6-0 on clay at Forest Hills. In those days, early round matches were best-of-three sets. Lendl’s shutout on the hardcourts at the National Tennis Center in Flushing was the first since the tournament moved there in 1978. Lendl hit 21 winners to Moir’s six, led in aces 5-0 and won 79 of the 108 points in the match. “He just doesn’t have any power,” said Lendl, who has been an Open finalist five straight years. “His best shot is his return of serve, but I don’t come in and it didn’t hurt me. He plays basically the same game as me, but I hit it a lot harder.” Fourth-seeded Boris Becker survived a shaky start and staggered home with a gutsy 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 victory over unseeded Tim Wilkison in the first round of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships Tuesday night. The victory came on the heels of a fairly routine day as most of the top-seeded players advanced. The two men exchanged service breaks early in the fifth set. Becker finally managed to break Wilkison in the 6th game of the 5th set to take a 4:2 lead. After that, he raised his game a level, becker_uo87winning the final two games at love to clinch the 4-hour and 3-minute marathon. Wilkison, the only American to reach the quarterfinals of the Open a year ago, really had little to lose. By contrast, Becker faced a dangerous serve-and-volley opponent in a first-round match. Both players are known for their hell-for-leather styles. The 19-year-old Becker made his skinned-knee reputation by winning Wimbledon in 1985 and 1986. However, the West German teen was eliminated in the second round of the All England Championships this year. He’s had an up-and-down season but has won three tournaments. Wilkison, 28, wears a baseball cap and is known around the tour as Dr. Dirt and Rambo because of his free-for-all style that often sends him diving after balls. Wilkison defeated Becker in Atlanta in 1986 but Becker won a rematch at Indian Wells earlier this year. Wilkison almost proved a bit of a tongue-in-cheek prophet last Friday when, after learning he had drawn Becker in the first round, told The New York Times, “Anyone who wants to see Boris Becker had better come on Tuesday because you won’t see him after that.” He almost made good on the prophecy. Wilkison got the only break of the 1st set when Becker double-faulted twice in the 7th game. In the 2nd set, Wilkinson, trailing 15/40, broke Becker in the 1st game with a forehand winner down the line. But Wilkison saved his best heroics for the 3rd set. Trailing 4:5, he fought off two set points to rally and hold serve with a forehand lob executed against a Becker volley. But Becker held at 6:5 and then finally broke Wilkison in the 12th game with a pair of passing shot to win the third set. Becker broke Wilkison again in the 6th game of the 4th set and hung on to even the match at two sets apiece. Earlier in the day, feisty John McEnroe ousted Matt Anger in a match wags christened Anger vs. Angry. It was one of several played before a record single session crowd of 21,630 fans. Another 19,440 showed up for the night session at Louis Armstrong Stadium. McEnroe, who has embarrassed the tennis establishment with his hot-headed demeanor through the years, wasn’t quite up to the hype with either his game or notorious temper. However, aside from a couple of half-hearted arguments over line calls, the four-time Open champion fairly sailed to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Anger in 1 hour and 40 minutes. It was a vast improvement over his stunning first round upset a year ago when Paul Annacone trounced him in four sets. “It feels nice,” said McEnroe, who last won the Open in 1984. “You know, I’d always reached the round of 16 or better and to have that (the upset) happen was very disappointing.” His victory came on a day when play held pretty much to form. American Brad Gilbert, the 13th seed, and Sweden’s Anders Jarryd, No. 16, both advanced with straight set victories. But amateur Michael Chang upset Aussie chang_uo87veteran Paul McNamee 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4. As polished as he looked for his age on the court, Chang was every bit the 10th grader he is off it. He looked dazed by all the attention and not particularly comfortable. ”When things around me get to be too much,” he said, ”my parents take me away. We relax or go fishing, take my mind off everything.” Chang, at the age of 15 years and 6 months, became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam match in the Open era. Second-seeded Stefan Edberg eliminated unseeded Derrick Rostagno today 6-3, 7-6(0), 6-2 in a first-round match at the U.S. Open. “I didn’t play well, but it was good enough to win,” said Edberg, who has won five tournaments this year. “I was a little nervous at the start, but it’s always that way in the first round of a Grand Slam event. It takes you a while to settle down.” Third-seed Mats Wilander needed only 94 minutes to defeat qualifier John Ross 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. Wilander broke his opponent’s serve eight out of a possible 10 games. Peter Lundgren of Sweden upset Pat Cash for the second time in three weeks Wednesday night, ousting the Wimbledon champion, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in an opening-round match at the U.S. Open. Lundgren, ranked 47th in the world, skillfully covered the court in neutralizing Cash’s serve-and-volley game. Lundgren, 22, had beaten the seventh seed from Australia at the Canadian Open in August. That tournament is played on the same hard-court surface as the Open. “I felt I was in the match all the time, right up to the stage I lost,” Cash said. “I’ve played him twice and played badly both times.” 17-year-old Andre Agassi [70], second consecutive year was beaten at the US Open in four sets in his opening match, as he lost to Henri Leconte 4-6, 6-7(6), 6-4, 3-6.

Second round: Mike Delnagro

From a historical perspective, John McEnroe‘s tennis match here Thursday night will warrant little more than a line or two in a tennis log book somewhere. Something like: McEnroe defeated mcenroe_uo87Richey Reneberg in four sets to advance to the third round of the 1987 U.S. Open. Or perhaps even more simply: McEnroe d. Reneberg 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. “I started out very slowly,” McEnroe said. “I was lucky to get back into the first set. It was just awful playing on my part.” For all his problems Thursday, McEnroe had his moments: a number of timely offensive lobs helped bring him back into the first set. His volleying – while somewhat inconsistent early – often was sharp, and he looked nearly as fresh walking off the court as when the match started. “As the match went on, I felt like I was hitting the ball better,” he said. “For whatever reason, I think he (Reneberg) got a little tired toward the end.” With the victory, McEnroe moves to a third-round date Saturday with big-hitting Slobodan Zivojinovic. No. 1 seed Ivan Lendl breezed by 78th-ranked Jean Fleurian of France Thursday, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Lendl faced eight break points and lost only one of them. Boris Becker, ranked No. 4 in the world, struggled but advanced to the third round via a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3) victory over 102nd-ranked Jonathan Canter of Los Angeles. No. 6 Jimmy Connors crushed Wayne Hearn of Charlotte, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. Confucius say 15-year-old boy can’t win two matches at U.S. Open. Confucius right. Michael Chang‘s U.S. Open fairy tale ended Thursday, but not before the youngster made a dramatic comeback. It fell short, and Chang lost to Nduka Odizor 6-2, 6-1, 6-7(7), 3-6, 6-4 in the 2-hour 52-minute contest. ”I read how Jimmy Connors came back to beat Michael Pernfors at Wimbledon, and I’ve done the same thing to people,” said Chang, who Tuesday became the youngest player in the Open era (post-1968) to win a match at the U.S. Open. ”I put the first two sets behind me and took it game by game. The mental toughness was there, it was just little points here and there that made the difference.” No one ever has accused Tim Mayotte of not being a fighter. Rallying back never has been a problem. It’s the going forward once he gets there that’s killing him. Mayotte, seeded 12th, lost to Australian Mark Woodforde, 7-6(2), 7-6(5), 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(5), Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open. In the night matches, second-seeded Stefan edberg_uo87Edberg defeated American Dan Goldie, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, and third-seeded Mats Wilander beat Johan Carlsson, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. It was Mayotte’s sixth loss in seven five-set matches this year. It is also the third time in three matches this year that he has come back from two sets down only to lose in the fifth. Another dismal statistic for Mayotte: In five-setters at the U.S. Open, he is 1-4. His most recent problems include a loss in the third round at Wimbledon, his worst showing there ever; two defeats in Davis Cup, a second-round loss at Stratton Mountain, and a loss in the second round of the Canadian Open. ”There’s nothing I can really put my finger on,” Mayotte said. ”I’ve played some good tennis. I’ve just lost a lot of close matches. It’s been unfortunate. I think sometimes you get stuck on a hump. ‘It kind of hedges into your confidence a little bit. But there’s still over a third of the year left and I feel very confident that I can get my game together.” Woodforde, a qualifier ranked 134th in the world, has not advanced past the second round in eight previous Grand Prix tournaments this year. Yet Woodforde said he was confident going into the match. ”I’ve played Tim before and I should’ve beaten him,” Woodforde said. ”I was up a break in the third set on grass in the Queens Club tournament, which is his best surface.” In the fifth-set tiebreaker, Mayotte was leading, 3:2, after Woodforde double-faulted. But Mayotte followed with a serve that hit the bottom of the net. ”It’s a pretty nervous situation,” Mayotte said in trying to explain his double fault. ”You feel bad about things like that but you’re out there on the line and you do the best you can.” Ken Flach, a man known for his doubles heroics, had six match points and had beaten Australia’s Darren Cahill, 1-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(15) – the longest fifth set tie-break to this day. “I’ve never played worse than early in this match,” said Flach, who, along with Robert Seguso, is seeded second in men’s doubles but ranks 187 in the world in singles. “As bad as I played early in the match, I never thought I’d win. I was a bit lucky.” Flach won the match with a backhand volley to Cahill’s backhand. Aussie’s return shot went wide. The winner leaped in air, thrust both hands high and allowed himself a victory war cry after taking the incredible tiebreaker from Cahill. It was an extraordinary tiebreaker with 11 match points on the line before Flach managed to clinch it. Cahill had five match points and Flach six before it was decided. “I stayed back and he was more aggressive and came to the net,” said Cahill. “That was my downfall. He’s a good competitor and deserved to win.” Cahill has recently popped into the top 100 on the computer (91) while Flach is No. 187. That made Flach’s escape unexpected. Two matches concluded in the fifth set tie-break highlighted an active fourth day, one that finally produced some upsets. Mayotte’s was the most significant. India’s Ramesh Krishnan took out No. 10 Joakim Nystrom, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. “The average guy seems to respond to big booming serves and smashes,” said Krishnan, whose father Ramanathan was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1960 and 1961. “But you have to realize there are other ways of getting your message across.” That outcome was hardly shocking since Krishnan did the same thing to Nystrom a year ago at Wimbledon. The only man to upset a seed before Friday, Peter Lundgren, lost. Lundgren, who beat Pat Cash two nights ago, lost to Soviet Andrei Chesnokov 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 2-6, 6-0.

Third round: Bill Halls

leconte_uo87Henri Leconte could face two teenage Americans and future stars within one weeks. The Frenchman had beaten Andre Agassi in the first round, and could have met Michael Chang in the round 3, if Chang had defeated Nduka Odizor, to whom lost in five sets. Leconte dismissed Odizor 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 advancing to the last 16 in the US Open for the third year running. John McEnroe almost self-destructed Saturday but somehow managed to keep his troubled psyche afloat long enough to move into the round of 16 at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Just a hairbreadth away from being defaulted for abusive language by Australian chair umpire Richard Ings, the four-time U.S. Open champion managed to rally for a 6-4, 5-7, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3 victory over Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia in a marathon third-round match. McEnroe, seeded eighth, was leading 6-4, 5:3 and serving for the 2nd set when the trouble began. After wasted second set point, McEnroe complained that a Zivojinovic shot was long but had not been called out. Zivojinovic broke McEnroe’s serve in that game to cut the lead to 4:5. At the changeover, McEnroe complained about the call and was warned by Ings for using abusive language. McEnroe continued to use profane language and was assessed a point penalty by the umpire. Zivojinovic led 15/0 before he served a point in the 10th game. He held serve and broke McEnroe in the 11th game to lead 6:5. McEnroe continued to argue with Ings during the changeover and was assessed a game penalty, giving Zivojinovic the set, 7-5. The game penalty was assessed after McEnroe screamed an obscenity at a CBS-TV worker who was aiming a directional microphone at McEnroe. Tennis rules specify that a player is warned for abusive language before being assessed a point penalty. The next penalty costs a game. A third penalty would have awarded the match to Zivojinovic. “I thought at least one of the two shots (during the rally) was out,” McEnroe said later. “It cost me dearly. I lost my mind. I lost my momentum. I lost my concentration.” Two-time defending champion Ivan Lendl easily advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jim Pugh. It was your typical Ramesh Krishnan serve. The ball krishnan_uo87moved off the little guy’s racquet with the pace of a taxi fighting rush-hour traffic in Manhattan. Chakko Kuruvila, a Times of India reporter, said it best. He once wrote that Krishnan’s serve, “couldn’t waft the steam off curry.” Johan Kriek, who fell to the munchkin from Madras 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, was thinking along similar lines Sunday when he deposited Krishnan’s snail of a serve into the net. “This guy has got to have the worst serve,” he muttered. Kriek could very well be right. What he forgot to say was that Krishnan’s game also has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing. In short – no pun intended – Krishnan is a sweat-stained artist. At 5-foot-7, he could be used to measure the height of the net. “My serve isn’t very hard,” Krishnan admitted. “I’m not going to hit many aces, but it doesn’t fall short.” Stefan Edberg won more convincingly, crushing Kelly Evernden 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the round of 16 on a humid, overcast afternoon, during which form held once again and the buzzing around the grounds was more the result of McEnroe’s fines than the tennis. All eight seeded men in the top half of the draw reached the round of 16. Only in the bottom half have there been upsets. Edberg’s compatriot and potential semifinal opponent, No. 3 Mats Wilander blasted Libor Pimek 6-2, 6-0, 6-1. “I’m playing very good tennis right now; everything is working quite well,” Edberg said. “Today was the easiest match I’ve had so far, but I’m playing about as well as I can.” Fourth-seeded Boris Becker sprained his right ankle but went on to beat Britain’s Andrew Castle, a former Wichita State University player, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. Trainer Todd Snyder, who taped Becker’s ankle early in the 3rd set, described the injury as a minor sprain. “There might be a little swelling, but that’s about all,” he said. Jimmy Connors coasted into the fourth round winning easily third match in a row, this time eliminating Jim Grabb 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. No. 9 Andres Gomez of Ecuador rallied to beat Thomas Muster of Austria 1-6, 6-7(12), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, Brad Gilbert, the 13th seed, edged Guy Forget of France, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, and No. 16 Anders Jarryd of Sweden beat Israeli Amos Mansdorf, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Fourth round: Lisa Dillman

American tennis, given up as dead, seemingly sprang back to life Monday at an appropriate forum, the U.S. Open. Spectators had gathered at the National Tennis Center to see whether Jimmy Connors could coax one more Open victory from his 35-year-old body, and whether John McEnroe could somehow weather the latest storm. What they certainly didn’t expect to see was an American, Brad Gilbert, pull off the upset of the tournament, defeating No. 4-seeded Boris Becker, 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-1, in a 4-hour, 17-minute fourth-round marathon. All of which means there are already three Americans in the quarterfinals. McEnroe, seeded No. 8, defeated No. 9 Andres Gomez of Ecuador, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-3. No. 6 Connors, the highest-seeded American in the field, looked strong despite an injured right foot and beat No. 11 Henri Leconte of France, 6-7(0), gilbert_uo876-4, 6-4, 6-3. The other player to reach the quarterfinals on Monday was two-time defending champion Ivan Lendl, who might as well be an American. The native-born Czech has lived in the United States for the last seven years and has applied for citizenship. Lendl defeated No. 16 Anders Jarryd of Sweden, 6-2, 7-6(2), 6-4. While not many gave him a chance against Becker, Gilbert had different ideas. He defeated Becker earlier this summer, in Washington on cement. Somehow, it was fitting that Gilbert came from behind again. He dropped the first set, and began returning serve better but still lost the second-set tiebreaker. “I was down two sets and a break in the third and I felt I was in a lot of trouble, and then he played a not-so-great game,” said Gilbert, who is seeded No. 13. The game Gilbert referred to was at 3:1 with Becker serving. Becker, apparently in control, double-faulted twice in a row and the momentum swung with those two points. Gilbert fought his way back to send the match to the decisive fifth set. It was almost a repeat of Washington – a final-set shutout. But Becker held his serve for 1:5 and lost the match in the next game when he hit a forehand wide on Gilbert’s first match point. And, once again, Becker had come up short at Flushing Meadow. Becker is still feeling repercussions from the breakup with Gunther Bosch. “Well, my friend, I had a very, very difficult year,” Becker said. “Many things happened which I didn’t expect would happen. Especially at the beginning of the year. It was very bad for me the way Gunther was going away from me. It was hurting me very much as a human being. And from then on it was just so much pressure on me that everybody was saying let’s show us how you play without Bosch and without a regular trainer. And the pressure was just too much. Everybody was waiting for the mistake and for me losing matches. And that pressure was a bit too high.” After Becker’s sub-par 1987, could a reunion with Bosch be in order in 1988? “If someone is going to hurt you like that, I don’t think you’re ever going back to him, no?” Becker said. And so, just 14 months after becoming Wimbledon’s first two-time teen-age champion, Becker was faced with a new question: can Boris Becker come back? “One good thing is that I’m 19 and not 32,” Becker said. “And I’m going to be back, don’t worry.” Miloslav Mecir, the Lipton champion, has won five matches without setting a foot on center stage. Wednesday, the Czech was mecir_uo87farmed out to Court 16, where he defeated Mark Woodforde of Australia 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Mecir has familiar company – a Swede. Last year, the renowned Swedish Basher defeated Wilander and Edberg, whom he could play in the semifinals. Mecir has beaten Mats Wilander in their last three matches, and the third-seeded Swede feels a little jinxed. “Every time I play him, it feels like I played bad and he played really good,” said Wilander, who defeated Ken Flach, the final American left in the bottom half of the draw, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4). “It always feels that when I play him I have a chance. It is just that after it is over, I do not understand what happened.” Mecir doesn’t believe he has supernatural powers. “I saw him in the locker room and he didn’t look very scared,”  Mecir said. “I played Wilander many times and he beat me many times, too. He is a tough opponent to play against.” Stefan Edberg defeated fellow Swede Jonas Svensson 6-2, 7-6(8), 6-3 and will play against Ramesh Krishnan, who ousted Andrei Chesnokov 6-4 6-1 6-2. Krishnan came back to US Open quarterfinals after six years. The Edberg-Svensson match was halted at 5-all in the 2nd set and resumed on the following day.

Quarterfinals: Jim Sarni

Ivan Lendl is still the best tennis player in the world. John McEnroe has a lot of work to do if he hopes to regain the title. Lendl blunted McEnroe’s comeback with a brutal 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal victory at the U.S. Open Wednesday night. With that win, Lendl became the first player since 1969 (!) to reach semifinals at all majors within a season. “It wasn’t that I played badly, but he’s able to do that to anyone,” McEnroe said. “That’s why he’s the No. 1 player. At this point, he’s playing the best tennis. He’s dedicated to the game and it’s paid off. You can’t beat someone like that unless you’re at the top of your game.” America’s hope to recapture the Open title, which connors_wb87Lendl has owned the last two years, now rests with Jimmy Connors, who turned back Brad Gilbert 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 to earn a semifinal berth against Lendl Saturday. Lendl has won their last 13 matches, including stormy semifinal encounters the past two years at the Lipton International Players Championships. In their first full match since the 1985 U.S. Open final, Lendl once again overpowered his long-lost rival – McEnroe never had a break point. He only got to ‘deuce’ once. At one point – from *2:3 in the 1st set to *4:2 (15/0) in the 2nd – Lendl ran off 21 consecutive points on his serve (it means five games held at love). “I played good, solid tennis,” said Lendl, who has not lost a set in five matches. “If John doesn’t play great, the match ends up like this. John is not playing as well as he did in 1984.” Connors, a four-time Open champion, overcame Gilbert, the conqueror of Boris Becker. “He couldn’t miss one ball in the beginning,” Connors said. “I thought I was playing quite well, but he ran down every ball and hit passing shots when he had to. In the second set, I started serving better, and I didn’t give him a whack at the ball right off the bat.” Connors broke for a 4:3 lead to take the 3rd set, and Gilbert deflated like a balloon in the fourth. “I think he got a little bit tired,” Connors said. “He was short on getting to balls and he didn’t have time to make the passing shots.”… He is short and stocky, hardly imposing-looking with a boyish face, quiet manner and a serve that could not put out a match. But Ramesh Krishnan of India has the kind of tennis game that can unnerve even the most mild-mannered opponent, inspiring courtside soliloquies and racquet tossing. He would be a good test for Stefan Edberg, a barometer of how much progress Edberg has made in the past 12 months. Krishnan hits a ball soft, softer and softer still, which prompted Johan Kriek to mutter, ”Can’t this guy serve,” after he was unable to return Krishnan’s serve in their match last Sunday. Edberg, however, did not fall into that trap. The second-seeded Edberg showed that he might be a worthy contender for Lendl should both reach the final Sunday, as expected. Edberg routed Krishnan yesterday, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, advancing to the semifinals. ”It doesn’t matter if you are yelling or cool,” Krishnan said. ”The bottom line is the ball going over the net.” The 3rd game of the 2nd set was an excellent example of persistence on the part of both players, especially Edberg, whose serve-and-volley game would figure to make him more impatient. Krishnan served and served and served. The game went to deuce 16 times (24 minutes !), Edberg holding 10 break points. ”It could be the longest game I ever played,” Edberg said. ”He couldn’t win and I couldn’t win.” Edberg finally did break Krishnan, getting his 10th break point when he hit a running forehand winner down the line. That prompted a clenched fist from the usually reserved Swede. On the next point, Krishnan netted a midcourt backhand that gave Edberg a 3:0 lead. He sensed that Krishnan had lost some of his fight, the game draining both players, physically as well as mentally. ”But you still have to concentrate against someone like him,” Edberg said, ”or it’s so easy for the match to slip away.” A men’s quarterfinal at the U.S. Open should provide quality tennis and a reasonable amount of drama. All last night’s Mats WilanderMiloslav Mecir match did for the first three hours was set men’s tennis back 40 years. With the two baseliners hitting as if they had been programmed by computers, there was none of the anticipation and fire that is present in a Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe match. Wilander-Mecir was more like a night at the library. They should have sold No-Doz with the nachos. Baseline wilander_uo87_tennis might be a hit in Europe, but it had the restless New York fans hollering, “Come on, ladies” in a derisive reference to the tennis style many women play. During the first half of the 3-hour, 37-minute match, Wilander and Mecir came to the net as often as Pete Rozelle invites Al Davis over for dinner. There were so many long rallies, people thought the United States Tennis Association had resurfaced the DecoTurf II court with green clay. Finally, the third-seeded Wilander won, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(0), and mercifully prevented a fifth set. “I do not have enough power in my ground strokes to control him,” Wilander said. Wilander did not exactly control the 1986 Open finalist last night. Mecir broke Wilander’s service seven times. But the usually consistent (Czecho)Slovak made an incomprehensible 69 unforced errors to just 17 by Wilander. And Wilander crumbled Mecir’s serve nine times. “I didn’t feel as confident as I did last year, and Mats played better,” Mecir said, “I didn’t have as good timing and I didn’t run as well.” “I played the game I wanted to play,” a relieved Wilander said. “Maybe I was a bit more defensive than I was thinking, but I played well on the important points.”

Semifinals: Jim Sarni

Mats Wilander staged a mini-protest over the early starting time of his U.S. Open semifinal match Saturday. He and his opponent, fellow Swede Stefan Edberg, entered the stadium court 15 minutes late, after being hustled along by tournament officials. Wilander, if he has any sense today, might want to skip the final entirely, in protest of playing Ivan Lendl. Who can beat this guy? Lendl has won the last two U.S. Opens, dropping but one set in each championship. This year, the top-ranked Czech has improved. Lendl hasn’t lost any sets. Saturday, Lendl devoured Jimmy Connors 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, beating the five-time U.S. Open champion for the 14th consecutive time. Wilander, meanwhile, in the breakfast special, outlasted Edberg, the No. 2 seed, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. “I didn’t want to give Jimmy any unnecessary chances, especially with the crowd here starving for an American player to do well,” said Lendl, who relentlessly trounced Connors as he did John McEnroe in the quarterfinals. “My mission is to win and get on with the next one. I’m not trying to take the crowd out of the match or beat up on McEnroe or Connors for personal satisfaction.” Connors had love-40 on Lendl’s serve to tie the first set at 5-all, but Lendl refused to bend. “If I had won that game, it might have been different,” Connors said. “My plan was to get to the net and I scared him coming in. He made a lot of good shots.” Connors, the winner of the most matches in U.S. Open history (84-12), played his 13th semifinal – and maybe his last. The crowd sent him off with a salute. “I have great memories here,” said Connors, who beat Lendl in the 1982 and 1983 finals. “I have won good matches and lost good matches. I’ve been part of the rise of tennis. This place holds a lot of fond memories for me.” Louis Armstrong Stadium does not hit the same high note with the Swedes. Wilander and Edberg were scheduled to play at 10 a.m., an hour earlier than originally scheduled because of a threat of rain. They didn’t like it. “I was very upset about it when I found out last night,” Wilander said. “That`s why we came out late. We didn’t think it was fair. Stefan and I both played our quarterfinals Thursday, then Stefan had a five-set doubles match Friday. Lendl and Connors haven’t played since Wednesday.” Of course, it wasn’t fair, but this is the U.S. Open, which is run under the guidance of CBS – wanted Lendl and Connors, the wilander_uo87marquee players, in the second semifinal, for the larger viewing audience. The Swedes would go up against the Smurfs. without going as far as saying that CBS dictated the schedule. “Lendl-Connors was more attractive.” Ken Farrar, the Men’s International Pro Tennis Council supervisor, said he ”The bottom line is the ball going over the net.”would have defaulted both Wilander and Edberg if they had tarried longer. “We feel the responsibility to play more than some of the other players,” Wilander said. “We were going to play.” Wilander got his wake-up call first, winning the first four games. That won him the 1st set, which is pretty important in these Swedish slugfests. In the 10 previous Wilander-Edberg matches, the player who won the first set won the match. “A good start is important,” said Edberg, who has lost two straight semifinals (last year to Lendl). “I led 40-love, then I lost the next five points. Mats played a great match. I was fighting but I lost to a better guy.” Wilander showed his determination by winning the two longest games of the match – the 11-deuce 2nd game of the 3rd set and the 10-deuce 6th game of the 4th set. Edberg “had his chances”, as the Swedes like to say, but his 44 unforced errors – to nine for Wilander – proved too much. Wilander, who is 6-11 against Lendl, will try to become the first Swede to win the U.S. Open. Bjorn Borg lost four finals.

Final: Bill Fleishmann

And, if Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander are playing, it also takes 4:47 to play the men’s final in the U.S. Open. In a match that began in bright early afternoon sunshine and was completed as the sun set over the distant Manhattan skyline, top-seeded Lendl won his third consecutive U.S. Open yesterday, 6-7(7), 6-0, 7-6(4), 6-4. Unfortunately for Lendl and No. 3 seed Wilander, the Fortnight of Flushing Meadow, plus one day, will not be remembered for great tennis as much as it will be for its length. Lendl, only the second male to win three singles titles in a row in the modern era (since 1968), and the gallant Wilander played looonnnggg points, looonnnggg games and looonnnggg sets. Wilander’s opening-set victory, the first set Lendl dropped in the entire tournament, took an hour and a half to complete. With points frequently extending through 25 to lendl_uo8730 hits, the 3rd set droned on for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Matches often are finished in the time Lendl and Wilander took to play two sets. Romances are over in that time. The final was long enough for their hair to grow an inch. While these soon-to-be Greenwich neighbors were playing the longest U.S. Open final of the modern era, the 15,003 who showed up yesterday at the National Tennis Center following Sunday’s rainout faced a dilemma. There was no American to cheer for against Lendl, an Open finalist for the sixth consecutive year. Both Lendl, 27, and Wilander, 23, displayed more fist-pumping emotion than ever. But since neither player ever will be a prince of personality, the crowd was left with no choice but to root for the underdog Swede. Wilander, the first Swede to reach the Open final since Bjorn Borg ended his disappointing 0-for-4 run in 1981 and retired, rewarded the fans. By winning the first set in a tense tiebreaker (saving a set point at *6:7), Wilander gave hope to those who find Lendl a racket-carrying zombie. Lendl, who revealed after the final that he has been weakened by the flu for several days, reacted to only his third loss of a set in the last three Opens by tossing a love set at Wilander. The 3rd set included six service breaks (three each). Reversing form, there were no service breaks in the 4th set until the final game. Wilander saved one match point, but Lendl finally won on a backhand service return that momentarily froze the Swede. “Mats always makes me work,” Lendl said after winning $250,000, “but I didn’t expect it (to last that long). I can’t believe I won it. It (winning three Opens in a row) is something I never dreamed of. It’s just unbelievable.” Wilander, who has won five tournaments this year, likes playing hardcourts as much as Jack Nicklaus likes playing water hazards. But throughout the Open, Wilander has acted like a man determined to erase his image as a mellowed-out top five player who regards achieving the world’s No. 1 ranking, and then maintaining it, as a toxic waste dump to be avoided. When Wilander first broke Lendl’s serve, in the 5th game of the opening set, he stunned the crowd with his best Jimmy Connors imitation. Fists clenched, face contorted in exultation, the normally expressionless Wilander alerted Lendl and the crowd that this would not be a three-set sweep. “I was very pumped the whole tournament,” Wilander said. “I tried from the beginning today to be really pumped because sometimes Monday finals are not easy to play. It feels like the tournament’s over and the stadium’s not full. I tried not to look around.” Even though Wilander had lost the four previous meetings with Lendl, including this year’s French Open, he felt confident all day yesterday. “I played him the way I have to play him,” Wilander said following his $125,000 payday. “I can’t attack every point. My volleys aren’t that good and his passing shots are too good. Maybe I should have played more aggressive on a few of the big points. (But) it felt like I was ahead. I had so many lendl_wilnader_uo87break points, especially in the third set.” Serving at 4:3 in the 3rd set, Lendl saved four break points and had the advantage when Wilander drilled a forehand cross-court volley past the disbelieving Czech at the net. Lendl committed two unforced errors and Wilander had broken, as it turned out, for the last time during the match. Lendl’s first-serve percentage for the match was a mediocre 50 percent, compared to Wilander’s 66 percent. But, as Wilander said, “The big difference was, Lendl served very well when he had to.” Lendl serves well and he hits all the other shots well. What he still has failed to do is excite people the way Connors or McEnroe can. “I think people appreciate how good I play,” Lendl said earlier in the Open. “They would like something more with it, but that’s not the way I was brought up. If they expect tantrums and comedy out there, they shouldn’t come and see me.” Yesterday, someone again asked Lendl what he must do to win over the fans in his adopted country. “Maybe if I win 15 in a row,” he said. “Only 12 more to go.” He was smiling as he spoke.  At the time, the 27-year-old Lendl had won 67 tournaments (six majors). Stats of the final.

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