Finishing kick lets Edberg win Open marathon Sampras tires as Swede wins fourth match in four days

September 14, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- There were two guys. Two tired guys.

One was bouncing on his toes, trying to shake off the stiffness from a 5-hour, 26-minute tennis match turned marathon. The other was wobbling from side to side after staying up nearly half the previous night recovering from stomach cramps.

But this was the U.S. Open. The tournament hunkered down in a stadium that resembles a factory under construction. The event witnessed by spectators so obnoxious they head for the exits during tiebreakers. The Grand Slam that hands over the schedule-making to a television network.

So yesterday, the show went on.

And it didn't even take five sets.

Stefan Edberg won his second consecutive Open title and reclaimed the No. 1 spot atop the men's computer rankings with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory over 1990 champion Pete Sampras.

If the Open is the toughest of the Grand Slams, then Edberg, the 26-year-old Swede, won his title the hardest of ways.

He made four consecutive appearances over four days on the Stadium Court. He played three five-setters. And, in seven matches, extending over 22 hours and 22 minutes, dodging every conceivable passing shot ever hit, he went to the net 981 times.

Make that 982, counting his leap over the tape to offer congratulations and condolences to Sampras.

That's a lot of potholes encountered on the way to a tournament victory on hard court.

"Bumpy," Edberg said. "I've earned it this year. I've worked very hard. I've had unbelievably tough matches."

Edberg had what could only be described as an unbelievable Open. He beat Richard Krajicek in five sets. He beat Ivan Lendl in five sets spread across a night and a day.

And he beat Michael Chang, again in five sets, over 5 hours and change, Saturday morning, early afternoon and late afternoon.

But believe it or not, Sampras was in a lot worse shape. All he did was KO the former No. 1 player in the world, sending Jim Courier out of the Open in four sets Saturday night. Unfortunately, though, Sampras became dehydrated, got stomach cramps, and spent the two hours after the match receiving intravenous fluids between attacks of diarrhea.

Sampras got to sleep at 3:30 yesterday morning. The final started about 12 hours later. He woke up with a bellyache. He finished the match rubbing lotion on his painful shin splits. But he didn't alibi.

"I just ran out of gas," he said.

And he ran out of serve. Sampras had 11 double faults, most of them occurring at awful times.

"I've had some bad serving days, but this was not the day to have it on," Sampras said. "I was going for too much. I was going for the lines."

The worst one came in the third-set tiebreaker, moments after Edberg's double fault brought Sampras to 4-5. Plop. Plop. Sampras' double fault made it 4-6, and Edberg closed it out two points later with a serve and forehand volley.

"He gave me a present," Edberg said. "That was surprising."

Not really. Sampras was all over the tennis map in this Open, surviving two five-set scares against Todd Martin and Guy Forget. But he played with an uncommon maturity. Two years ago, at 19, when he became the youngest man to win the Open, Sampras was along for the ride. But, this time, he said at every step that he understood the stakes involved.

"I felt like if I had won this one, it would have meant more to me," he said. "I didn't know what it all meant when I won two years ago against Andre Agassi. I thought it was just another tournament."

But the Open is a major. Edberg knows that. Being No. 1 is nice, he said. But winning his sixth career Slam is even better.

And to do it, he had to beat Sampras, who was only the hottest player on the tour, winning two straight tournaments coming into the final.

"Sometimes, when you've won that many matches, when something goes wrong, it really goes wrong," Edberg said. "Once the wheels come off, you'll lose that edge."

The Sampras edge was dulled in the fourth set. By the final games, Sampras wasn't even running down retrievable shots. He was spent. And the Open belonged to Edberg.

"This one is a bit surprising for me after all the other Opens I've had here," Edberg said.

The Open and New York used to torture Edberg. He once lost here to Jimmy Connors in straight sets. He was a No. 1 seed who was taken out by Alexander Volkov in the first round.

Forget the distractions. Forget the fans. Forget the crummy schedule that forces the players to go back-to-back in the semis and the final to win the Open.

"Any time you can defend a title in a Slam, it's great," Edberg said.

Two Opens. Two triumphs. The Swede owns the joint.

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