NEW YORK -- Jim Courier took a sabbatical from pro tennis for about 10 minutes last week and then decided he'd come to the U.S. Open after all.
That 10-minute "frustration" break was evidently all he needed to revive himself for a crisp opening-round victory last night.
In a match many thought would be a five-set marathon, Courier burned Aaron Krickstein, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
"I came out looking to play and fight through the entire match," said Courier. "I looked for the fire for a few days and it was there tonight. The focus is there. It was just hiding. I just needed to step away. I took six days off and got back to the heart of the matter."
Courier, the No. 11 seed here, has not won a tournament this year and dropped out of the Top 10 for the first time since 1991.
Speaking as the new president of the WTA Tour Players Association, Martina Navratilova said she hoped to be more successful than President Clinton in getting all sides to work together, and figured she would be "without a Dole undermining everything I'm trying to do."
She also said she does not have "a program" but does have opinions she's willing to discuss with the membership.
On crowd movement: She is for it. On breaks between sets: She is against.
Earlier she had suggested a return to wooden rackets to equalize competition, but said yesterday, "It's probably too radical."
Asked why she wanted to be president of the organization, she said, "I have the time. I have the time. And it's a great way to give something back."
Men's seeds survive
No. 4 Michael Stich and No. 9 Todd Martin made it out of their first- round matches yesterday, but for Martin it wasn't exactly a sure
Stich, who owns a dismal Grand Slam record having won one of four matches in the past four Grand Slam events, defeated Olivier Delaitre, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-3, and called it a relief.
Martin needed a tiebreaker in the fifth set to get by Guillaume Raoux, 6-7 (4-7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1).
Graf wins, McNeil doesn't
No. 1 woman's seed Steffi Graf, who lost back-to-back Grand Slam matches at the French Open (semifinal) and Wimbledon (first round), made it through her opening-round match here with ease, beating Anne Mall, 6-2, 6-1.
But No. 13 Lori McNeil fell, 6-2, 6-4, to Anna Smashnova.
"My back feels very, very well," said Graf, who is visiting a chiropractor nearly every day.
Before this tournament, it was suggested that the women's outcome is up for grabs because of Graf's aching back.
"I have lots of thoughts about that," she said. "But it doesn't make me mad. It makes me smile. I enjoy the competition and I hope to be ready for it."
Journeyman Richey Reneberg, who had not beaten a Top 10 player in his career, did it in style Monday night when he beat Boris Becker, the No. 7 player in the world.
It was Reneberg in a five-set thriller, 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5).
"I played one of the best summers of my life, and I am extremely disappointed, but Richey made a decision in the fifth set that he was going to go for all his shots no matter what the score is. He risked it all and he won," Becker said.
Reneberg played as if he was on some other planet. His serve worked. His groundstrokes were solid and on nearly every line.
"I felt some surprise," he said. "But when I play Boris, I have nothing to lose and I played, basically, the best set of tennis I have played in my life in the fifth set. No way I can play any better than that. And I never have and probably never will again."
Becker, who made 60 unforced errors in the match, saved three match points on his serve in the last game of the fifth set and then saved two more on his serve in the tiebreaker.
But he couldn't save the last one that sent Reneberg into the second round and Becker on a three-week vacation.
TODAY'S FEATURE MATCHES
Jacco Eltingh, Netherlands, vs. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (14), Russia. Pete Sampras (1), Tampa, Fla., vs. Kevin Ullyett, South Africa. Gabriela Sabatini (8), Argentina, vs. Meredith McGrath, Midland, Mich.
Nicole Arendt, Gainesville, Fla., vs. Conchita Martinez (3), Spain. Michael Chang (6), Henderson, Nev., vs. MaliVai Washington, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Mary Joe Fernandez (9), Key Biscayne, Fla., vs. Patty Fendick, Sacramento, Calif. Nathalie Tauziat, France, vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (2), Spain. Patrick McEnroe, Oyster Bay, N.Y., vs. Byron Black, Zimbabwe.