Becker's long battle ends in win As seeds fall, he digs in and waits

September 04, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- There were many factors going against Boris Becker yesterday at the U.S. Open. That he was the last player left in the tournament to finish his first-round match. That he had less than 16 hours to recover for Jakob Hlasek after a five-set struggle with Andrei Cherkasov. That the Stadium Court was a sauna, with temperatures reaching 110 degrees.

There was one huge factor going in Becker's favor: his resolve. He put aside all the scheduling problems that forced him to play his first-round match over two days and two rain delays. And then he put aside Hlasek, his former training partner, in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory.

So when somebody wanted to know if the fourth seed and former Open champion could overcome his staggered start at the National Tennis Center and have enough to win five matches over eight days, Becker merely shrugged. "I'm a strong son of a gun," he said. "I've done it before. Thank God, I have a day off tomorrow, and then we will see how I can play my third round. So far, I am still in the tournament, and I am happy about it obviously."

Becker could also thank Goran Ivanisevic for making his quarter of the draw completely devoid of other seeded players. Ivanisevic, seeded 11th, inexplicably decided to turn into a base-liner against clay-court specialist Carlos Costa of Spain and suffered an embarrassing 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5) defeat.

The strategy not only backfired, but befuddled just about everyone watching Ivanisevic stumble around the Grandstand Court. The match was summed up on what turned out to be match point, which came after Costa had erased a 5-0 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker to win the last seven points. Even Ivanisevic later second-guessed himself.

"I could finish the point 10 times to come in and I just hit like an idiot from the back," said Ivanisevic, who finally fired a forehand wide and then fired his racket at the net.

The elimination of Ivanisevic continued the de-seeding of the men's draw. After a first-round record in the Open was set Tuesday with five seeds being knocked out, another record was set yesterday. The departure of seven seeds after the first two rounds broke the record of six set in 1976.

Becker is certainly pleased not to join two-time defending champion and No. 3 seed Stefan Edberg, as well as former Wimbledon champions Michael Stich (No. 6) and Andre Agassi (No. 16), as an early upset victim. As for the scheduling that kept pushing back his first-round match, Becker wasn't exactly elated about that either.

"What can I tell you? Three days, I have been all day in the place here trying to play some tennis," said Becker, who didn't leave the court after his match with Cherkasov until 9:30 Thursday night. "Finally I could go out yesterday for a couple of hours to get something."

Was he upset with the scheduling?

"Very," said Becker, who had asked tournament officials for a first-round match on Monday. "Obviously you can imagine, playing your first round on Thursday. But I don't want to talk too much about it. You know I have to stick to my serve and my tennis. But the scheduling has been very poor concerning Becker. That is absolutely right."

Hlasek, a 28-year-old journeyman from Switzerland who ranked in the top 10 five years ago, had an interesting theory about his match yesterday with Becker. Despite the short turnaround, and the oppressive heat, Hlasek was expecting Becker to play better than he had against Cherkasov.

"I know Boris quite well and it seems to me always when he is tired he plays better, because he knows he cannot play long points," said Hlasek, who is coached by Austrian Gunter Bresnick, a recent addition to a long list of Becker's ex-coaches. "He has to go for two, three quick shots. I think that is where he is the most dangerous."

Said Becker: "Well, I also play pretty good when I am not that tired. But, of course, I was tired today and I beat him easily, so you know, that speaks for my game."

It also speaks well of Becker that, unlike other top-10 players who are known to whine as often as they win, he tried to deflect the controversy surrounding his scheduling. But given the opening, Becker couldn't help but take a few playful jabs.

When asked if he had been told when he will play again, Becker smiled.

"Actually I'm not sure if I get a day off. With these guys, you never know," he said. "I might play tomorrow night. I am ready for anything."

And from the look of things, anything is likely to happen.

BLOWN SEEDS

No. 11 Goran Ivanisevic yesterday became the seventh seeded men's player to lose at the U.S. Open. The lowdown on the top 16:

Player ... ... ... ... ... ... Status, round

1. Jim Courier ... ... ... ... Advanced, 3rd

2. Pete Sampras .. ... ... ... Advanced, 3rd

3. Stephan Edberg .. .. .. ... Lost, 2nd

4. Boris Becker ... ... .. ... Advanced, 3rd

5. Sergi Bruguera ... .. .. .. Lost, 1st

6. Michael Stich ... ... .. .. Lost, 1st

7. Michael Chang ... ... .. .. Advanced, 3rd

8. A. Medvedev ... ... ... ... Advanced, 3rd

9. Petr Korda ... ... .. .. .. Lost, 1st

10. R. Krajicek ... ... ... .. Advanced, 3rd

11. Goran Ivanisevic .. ... .. Lost, 2nd

T. Muster ... ... .. .. .. Advanced, 3rd

13. Ivan Lendl .. ... .. .. .. Lost, 1st

14. A. Volkov ... ... .. .. .. Advanced, 3rd

15. Cedric Pioline ... ... ... Advanced, 3rd

Andre Agassi ... ... .. .. Lost, 1st

TODAY'S KEY MATCHES

STADIUM COURT

Day session

Thomas Muster (12), Austria, vs. Patrick McEnroe, Cove Neck, N.Y.; Pete Sampras (2), Tampa, Fla., vs. Arnaud Boetsch, France; Martina Navratilova (3), Aspen, Colo., vs. Barbara Rittner, Germany.

Night session

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (2), Spain, vs. Chanda Rubin, Lafayette, La.; Henrik Holm, Sweden, vs. Brad Gilbert, San Rafael, Calif.

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