No. 1 Courier, Becker ousted at U.S. Open U.S. OPEN

September 08, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- There will be no more complaining about the bumpy practice courts at the National Tennis Center. No more being inconvenienced by the lack of privacy in the players' lounge or the locker room. No more problems with the commute or the crowds or the accommodations.

No more U.S. Open for Jim Courier, either.

Courier, who seemed to be out of sorts throughout his week as the men's top seed, is now out of a few more things. Out of the tournament, as a result of yesterday's stunning, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4 fourth-round upset by No. 15 seed Cedric Pioline of France. And, possibly, out of his No. 1 ranking.

"Over a two-week period you're going to have one match where you don't play your best, and to get through, you know you're going to have to win those matches," said Courier, who beat Pioline halfway through his run to the semifinals here last year. "Most of the time I do, but today I didn't."

Neither did fourth-seeded Boris Becker. After an adventurous first week, which included two rain delays and a five-set, opening-round comeback, the 1991 Open champion was eliminated last night in a 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 fourth-round loss to Magnus Larsson of Sweden.

Becker became the eighth men's seed to be knocked out by an unseeded player and, with the departure of Courier as well as No. 10 Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, who was beaten by No. 8 Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), only six seeds remain. Four of the top five seeds have been eliminated.

Pioline, 25, might have been the same man Courier had beaten in their three previous hard-court matches and as recently as three weeks ago in Indianapolis, but he was certainly not the same player. He surprised Courier with whip-saw backhands, pummeled him with laser serves and ultimately discouraged him by refusing to bend.

Even after Courier won a second-set tiebreaker to even the match, Pioline did not back down. After breaking Courier to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth set and fighting off a break point to build a 3-1 lead, Pioline never looked back.

When told that he looked happy, Pioline blushed. "What can I say?" he said, shrugging. "I mean, I played on center court against the No. 1 seed. I beat him. I am happy." Asked if he played the match of his life, Pioline said: "I didn't think I played better today. I was just more consistent, and I played very good on the important points. That is the difference."

Courier said: "I didn't play my best, but I think a lot of that is due to what he was doing. He didn't miss much."

Pioline had 12 aces to one for Courier, converted four of six break chances to one of five for the 23-year-old Floridian, and had 66 winners, 39 more than Courier. He finished off the match with four straight winners: a forehand down the line, a backhand volley as Courier tried to pass, a backhand crosscourt and a forehand volley coming in behind a strong first serve.

"I was very nervous," Pioline said about the last service game, which he won at love. "I made the first point with a good shot,

then I made a second point volley, he missed a passing shot [that was] not so difficult. After that I was confident. It is always the first two points are difficult to win."

It was the first time since the seeding system was introduced in 1927 at the then-U.S. Nationals that a Frenchman defeated the No. 1 seed. (For you history buffs, Rene Lacoste beat Bill Tilden, 11-9, 6-3, 11-9). It was also the sixth consecutive year that a men's top seed won't win the tournament.

Courier's loss could cost him the No. 1 ranking if No. 2 seed and 1990 champion Pete Sampras reaches the final Sunday. Sampras, who overtook Courier by winning Wimbledon this year and then dropped to second last month, plays No. 7 seed Michael Chang tonight in the quarterfinals.

Asked what he thought of the year he had, Courier said testily: "Well, when I finish it I'll let you know. The majors weren't too bad. Three finals, one win [at Australia]. Any year that I can get at least one major is a successful year, I think."

Pioline's victory yesterday was bigger than his clay-court win over Stefan Edberg in the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Open. Pioline is somewhat of a mystery on the tour, a late-bloomer who didn't start playing seriously until he was "16 or 17" and has had a running feud with the French tennis federation. He never played in its junior program and then quit the Davis Cup team this year when officials wouldn't let him bring Henri Dumont, his coach.

In the six years since he turned pro, Pioline's ranking has jumped every year: from 954 in 1987 to 33 last year to his current 15.

"It is a long work," he said. "A lot of months ago, we start to work this with my coach, and he just [got Pioline] believe more in my game and believe I can beat the best player in the best tournament."

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