Somehow, it was Open season for all but tennis

PHIl Jackman

September 09, 1991|By Phil Jackman

MTV. That's where the U.S. Open Tennis Championships belonged the last couple of weeks.

Psychologism took leave almost from the outset when a man given a heckuva shot to win his first Grand Slam event, Andre Agassi, lost in straight sets almost before the gates of the National Tennis Center opened. The kid was lucky; at least he got to take part via that awful Nike ad where the television set gets bounced around the room . . . kids, don't try this at home.

Not to be out-obtused, Reebok inundated us with those "Life is short. Play hard" commercials. Before buying a pair insist they explain the meaning.

And speaking of tennis shoes, wasn't it a class act by Jimmy Connors, disregarding his contract with Converse and playing in the competition's boots?

But, Jimbo, remember, ended up as a cult hero, a stupefying occurrence even if it is New York. The truth be known, Jimbo's draw to the semifinals was probably arranged by the networks. Patrick McEnroe, Michiel Schapers, Karel Novacek, Aaron Krickstein and Paul Haarhuis hardly reminds you of the guys Carl Hubbell struck out in the 1934 All-Star Game.

Rumor had it that if Connors made the final, his birthday was going to be declared a national holiday everywhere but Arizona.

Meanwhile, Pam Shriver, picking up a doubles partner on the No. 7 train out from the city, won women's doubs with Natalia Zvereva, kicking holes in the theory held by many that she was simply tagging along when Martina Navratilova was winning those 537 Slam titles.

Defending men's champ Pete Sampras showed up, brimming with confidence until a couple of victories reminded him that success in the Big Apple breeds attention, something he likes to avoid. Maybe you're better suited to a career in watch repair, son.

No doubt the worst thing that can happen to Monica Seles at the present time is winning, which she seems to do whenever she posts. The more successful the Queen of Squeal becomes, the worse the gossip and psychoanalysis gets, and she's not even into her first brassiere yet, according to Navratilova. What's the matter, haven't these people ever seen kids play make-believe and fool around with wigs before?

Ivan Lendl was his usual carefree and jovial self throughout, which always makes watching his matches a pleasure if you're down in the dumps and subscribe to the theory that misery loves company. Ivan mopped his brow a total of 4,553 times, about 21 more than he had planned, and this together with the Fuji blimp circling the stadium proved ample reason for his elimination in the semis.

One couldn't help but wonder how, with his city in worse shape than Hiroshima on Aug. 7, 1944, Mayor David Dinkins could spend so much time courtside. He cleared that up, though, by bringing along a Cellular One.

Women's defender Gabriela Sabatini disappointed, mightily. Not by losing to Jennifer Capriati in the quarters, but by showing up wearing a hat. And she's pushing a line of perfume?

USA cable far outstripped the network with its midweek soup to nuts coverage, which only went awry when Vitas Gerulaitis forgot he's no longer a player. Anyone who regards the antics and language of Connors and John McEnroe as "guys letting off steam" should check the definitions of two words, maturity and professionalism.

McEnroe, by the way, had the caught-by-the-courtside-audio quote of the fortnight when he yelled at the chair umpire, "Hey, my family understands that I curse every now and then." The audible obscenity cost John a bill with Grover Cleveland's picture on it.

Similar to the broadcasters, the print media carpet-bombed the event, although still missing is one stray syllable about the opening-round match between Gabriel Markus and Diego Niargiso. Is is possible the guy in the chair didn't turn in the scores?

Once again, Boris Becker gave indication that when things aren't going his way, he isn't enthusiastic about sticking around. The No. 1 seed, beaten in the third round by Haarhuis, buzzed home quickly, then called in regrets about missing Germany's Davis Cup semifinal match against the U.S. team in Kansas City Sept. 20-22. Something about a thigh.

While it's apparent the money changes too many of our pampered athletes -- Boris just moved past $9 million -- how refreshing when a Capriati happens along. Says the 15-year-old semifinalist, "I'm not allowed to use my money yet. Doesn't it go into a trust fund or something?"

Speaking of cash money, imported beer at the concession went for $4.50, suggesting it must have been imported from Neptune. Just wait until they toss another $150 million into the facility Ion Tiriac calls "Flushing Toilets," then you're really going to see some stiff prices.

Sometimes, the tourney got to be anything and everything but tennis. The thing is, it worked and there was nothing so gauche as a "Wimbledon Wave."

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