Stich highest seed left, but win is anything but easy U.S. OPEN

September 09, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- No. 4 seed Michael Stich lived up to the distinction of being the highest seed left in the men's draw last night, but not without a struggle.

Stich advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4 victory over Jonas Bjorkman.

Stich became the last semifinal qualifier, joining Andre Agassi, Todd Martin and his next opponent, Karel Novacek, who was credited with 28 aces yesterday for a 1994 tournament high.

"My serve let me down," said Stich, who had not lost a set prior to last night. "I was up a break in the third and I couldn't hold my serve.

"But he was fighting, he kept fighting and I congratulated him on that, because I don't think many guys do that for a whole match. He was not ready to give it to me."

But Stich took it at last in the fourth set, when the No. 71-ranked player in the world hit his final backhand lob long.

"I think in every match you have at least one bad match," said Stich. "And I think this was the worst match in the whole Open. But I gutted my way through it."

Teen labor curbed

The Women's Tennis Council has agreed in principle to the major recommendations of the Age Eligibility Commission that would prevent young players from competing in a full, unrestricted professional tour until age 18 and prevent any participation on the WTA Tour and at championship events until age 16.

"Until a kid is 16, she's not going to be in the big time," said Baltimore's Elise Burgin, who with Pam Shriver represents the tour players on the council. "The show will go on without them."

Included in the new rules package will be mandatory education, orientation, counseling and annual medical exams for players; a mandatory parental orientation course, and coach and agent registration.

Shriver, the former WTA Tour president, asked for the age commission study at the U.S. Open last year. The full report was presented yesterday morning. Last night, the council announced its intention to implement the new rules Jan. 1.

"It's a program that will protect a generation," said Shriver, who made it to the U.S. Open final as a 16-year-old amateur. "This is going to help players we've never heard of."

Because the rules affect players from the age of 14 through 17, junior players such as Martina Hingis, who turns 14 in two weeks and already had planned to turn pro next season, will be grandfathered into the system under the old rules.

That decision apparently was made to avoid immediate lawsuits.

Novacek a semifinalist

It took five sets, but Novacek claimed a berth in tomorrow's semifinals.

"I belong out there," Novacek said after beating Jaime Yzaga, 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, when asked if he belongs with stars such as Stich and Agassi. "I was one of them once. I was No. 8 in the world in 1991. I was beating them and I was maybe not winning any Grand Slam tournaments, but I was the one who could scare them.

"And now I am in the semifinal of a Grand Slam for first time and I am very happy."

Mixed champions

Top-seeded Jana Novotna and Todd Woodbridge were upset in the mixed doubles final yesterday by No. 8-seeded Elna Reinach and Patrick Galbraith, 6-2, 6-4.

Grand Slam remembered

Rod Laver, the last man to win a Grand Slam by winning Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. opens in the same year, stopped by yesterday to reminisce about his 25-year-old accomplishment and make suggestions on how to improve the sport.

He enjoyed watching some footage of the U.S. Open championship match against Tony Roche on a court that was then grass -- and churned-up muddy grass at that.

And he lamented the passing of the game as he knew it.

"Because of the speed of the ball coming off the racket, you can put so much excess spin on the ball, if you're just trying to return it, it doesn't allow you to put much angle into the shot," he said. "And there is no real chance to set up a point anymore, not with the heavy ground strokes these guys hit."

Laver suggested a way to combat the big serve in men's tennis is to allow just three second serves in each game.

"I just think it would stop the big serve from continuing," Laver said. "If you're playing a match and your first serve is not working too well, you better slow it down pretty quick, because you're going to run out of second serves in that game."

On boring tennis players, Laver laughed that he, John Newcombe and Fred Stolle were called boring in their time.

"I think you grow into fame," he said. "After that match Pete Sampras played the other day, people are going to look at him differently. He's not just the guy who serves 134 mph anymore."

MEN

Singles, quarterfinals

Karel Novacek, Czech Republic, def. Jaime Yzaga, Peru, 6-2, 6-7 6-1, 5-7, 6-3. Michael Stich (4) def. Jonas Bjorkman, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4.

Doubles, semifinals

Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis, Netherlands (3), def. Wayne Ferreira, South Africa, and Mark Knowles, Bahamas (16), 6-3, 7-5.

WOMEN

Doubles, quarterfinals

Jana Novotna, Czech Republic, and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain (2), def. Lindsay Davenport, Murrieta, Calif., and Lisa Raymond, Wayne, Pa. (5), 6-2, 6-4.

MIXED DOUBLES

Championship

Elna Reinach, South Africa, and Patrick Galbraith, Tacoma, Wash. (8), def. Jana Novotna, Czech Republic, and Todd Woodbridge, Australia (1), 6-2, 6-4.

TODAY'S FEATURE MATCHES

Stadium Court

Day session

* Men's doubles championship -- Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, Australia (4), vs. Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis, Netherlands (3).

* Women's singles semifinals -- Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Jana Novotna (7), Czech Republic. Gabriela Sabatini (8), Argentina, vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (2), Spain.

* Women's doubles semifinal -- Gigi Fernandez, Aspen, Colo., and Natalia Zvereva, Belarus (1), vs. Katerina Maleeva, Bulgaria, and Robin White, Del Mar, Calif.

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