New Lendl resumes old ways in loss Edberg takes fifth to advance to semis

September 12, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- For a night and part of a day, he was the "new" Ivan Lendl, the Grand Old Man of American tennis, the people's choice, the wild and crazy serve-and-volley guy who shrugged off match points with guts and heart.

And then he lost.

Same old Lendl.

Yesterday, in the resumption of a dramatic U.S. Open quarterfinal interrupted two minutes past midnight by a misty rain three games into the fifth set, Lendl and No. 2 seed Stefan Edberg of Sweden battled for nearly an hour to a taut, terrific tiebreaker.

But in the end, it was Edberg who kissed the net after hitting a forehand volley off the tape, and it was Edberg who sent one last return clanging off Lendl's racket frame to win, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4).

So much for the all-American final four. Today, the Open semifinals will feature three Americans and a Swede.

In the morning, Edberg will play Michael Chang, the 1989 French Open champion and No. 4 seed. The afternoon feature will match No. 1 Jim Courier and No. 3 Pete Sampras.

Lendl could have been there. In what may have been his last, best chance of winning one more Grand Slam, Lendl, 32, ran through a gantlet of seeds and former champions -- Jimmy Connors in the second round, Boris Becker in the fourth, and Edberg in the quarters.

Although Lendl was hitting with power and precision during the Open, he is a long way from No. 1.

"I think he has played his best tennis," Edberg said. "He's not going to get back to the best of 1985 or 1986. That is impossible. It will be tough for him to win another Slam."

And yet, on the downside of his career, the fans were actually cheering for, and not against, Lendl.

The crowd turned his way Thursday near midnight, when Lendl saved four match points down 3-5 in the fourth set. He sent a couple of passing shots screeching by Edberg, rushed the net for three marvelous volleys, and then watched in relief as Edberg pushed one last backhand long, and some of the hardiest New Yorkers were up, in the mist, chanting Lendl's name.

The tournament referee called it a night after two brief rain delays with Edberg, on serve, up 2-1 in the fifth.

Play resumed yesterday, and Lendl had his chances. Up a break, serving to go up 5-3, he double-faulted to 30-40, fought long and hard through four deuces, and then gave the break back when his backhand sailed long.

Lendl never got an opening in the tiebreaker. The whole match turned back to Edberg with this forehand volley that clipped the tape and put him up, 3-2.

And there was Edberg, in the tensest moment of the tournament, kissing the net.

Edberg gave Lendl another point on a long backhand and then ran the table, closing out the match with a forehand service return that caught Lendl off balance. All Lendl could do was swing in desperation, clubbing the ball skyward.

"What can you do?" Lendl said. "You just try to win the point."

The old champion then got up and left, walking with his wife, Samantha, his racket bag over his shoulder, heading for a waiting Porsche for the trip home to Connecticut.

He didn't win. But he had given the Open a ride.

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