Courier upsets No. 1 Edberg, serves loud notice

June 06, 1991|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,Knight-Ridder News Service

PARIS -- 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. Jim 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 seventh game of the fourth set, it was Courier who had the 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."

That was a fact proved on the second-to-last point of the match. With Courier serving and the score at deuce, Edberg hit what looked to be an unreachable lob. Courier ran, head-down as if were trying to steal second base, looked up and slid on the clay, just in time to see the ball land out of his reach.

And, it turned out, just a hair beyond the baseline. Courier let the ball bounce and turned immediately to the chair umpire, shouting: "The ball's long. I know it's long. Look at the mark." RTC The referee, though, had called the lob good.

"I wasn't worried," Courier said. "The ball was obviously long, and I knew someone would see the mark."

That's the wonderful thing about clay. The ball always leaves a mark when it lands. And sure enough, the referee left his chair, checked the mark and signaled that the ball was long -- point to Courier.

On the next point, Courier winged a bullet forehand that landed, yes, right on the sideline. It left a big, red clay mark on the white line, and Edberg just shook his head. The match was over.

"My whole day was like that," Edberg said. "My balls were just inches out, and his hit the lines. Sometimes it goes like that."

Tugging at his baseball cap constantly, spitting into his hands and pawing at the clay with his feet, Courier looked a little like a baseball pitcher yesterday. He said he wanted to be one when he was 13, and he's still a big baseball fan.

"Tennis is like pitching," he said. "When you serve, you think like a pitcher. Change the speed. Change the spot."

After beating the top player in the world, will Courier suffer a

letdown in the semifinals against Stich, who was unchallenged by Davin? Can he be as excited playing Michael Stich? "If you can't get up for a Grand Slam semifinal, you might as well pack it in, there's no hope," Courier said. "I'll be ready, don't you worry about that."

In tomorrow's other semifinal, second-seeded Boris Becker of Germany will meet Andre Agassi of Las Vegas, the fourth seed.

The women's semifinals will take place today.

Monica Seles of Yugoslavia, the top seed and defending champion, will face third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, and second-seeded Steffi Graf of Germany will meet fifth-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain.


Men's singles, quarterfinals

Jim Courier (9), Dade City, Fla., def. Stefan Edberg (1), Sweden, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Michael Stich (12), Germany, def. Franco Davin, Argentina, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Women's doubles, quarterfinals

Larisa Savchenko and Natalia Zvereva (2), Soviet Union, def. Kathy Jordan, Palo Alto, Calif., and Meredith McGrath (5), Midland, Mich., 6-3, 5-7, 6-0. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain, and Helena Sukova (3), Czechoslovakia, def. Sandy Collins, Odessa, Texas, and Mary Pierce, France, 6-3, 6-2. Mercedes Paz, Argentina, and Gabriela Sabatini (8), Argentina, def. Mary-Joe Fernandez, Miami, and Zina Garrison (4), Houston, 6-1, 6-2. Gigi Fernandez, Aspen, Colo., and Jana Novotna (1), Czechoslovakia, def. Elise Burgin, Baltimore, and Patty Fendick (7), Sacramento, Calif., 6-3, 6-4.

Mixed doubles, quarterfinals

Caroline Vis and Paul Haarhuis, Netherlands, def. Tracey Morton and David Macpherson, Australia, 6-4, 6-4. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain, and Jorge Lozano, Mexico, def. Larisa Savchenko, Soviet Union, and Libor Pimek, Belgium, 7-5, 6-3. Helena Sukova and Cyril Suk, Czechoslovakia (12), leads Kathy Jordan, Palo Alto, Calif., and Mark Woodforde, Australia (8), 4-6, 6-4, 3-1, suspended due to rain.

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