Matches border on greatness

September 01, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Court 16 is 396 paces away from Stadium Court, not far, perhaps, in distance, but make no mistake: When you're playing on Court 16, you're playing the U.S. Open's version of the outback, back among the pine trees, on the edge of the National Tennis Center property -- beyond the clothing, ice cream and champagne stands.

"It is a very nice, very cozy little court," said Jana Novotna, who played and won there yesterday.

Court 16 was receiving its first fans a little after 10 a.m. The first match, between Numo Marques and No. 7 seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov wasn't due to begin until 11, but the fans already were taking their places, drinking their morning coffee, eating bagels, mapping out their plans for the day.

"We wanted to get here early and stake out our place," said Janice Craig of Smyrna, Del. "This is where the action is in the first match. Then we're going to go to the Stadium to see [Monica] Seles and then come back here to see Martina Navratilova and Gabriela Sabatini play doubles."

For those who went to the 20,000-seat Stadium Court, there was Zina Garrison Jackson upsetting No. 10 Lindsay Davenport, 6-1, 6-3, and after that, Seles breezed by Erika de Lone, 6-2, 6-1.

And for those who started out on the 6,000-seat Grandstand Court, the first match of the day offered Daniel Vacek in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 upset win over No. 11 Sergi Bruguera.

But if they had come to Court 16 yesterday, and simply stayed in their seats, they could have seen future men's star, 21-year-old Kafelnikov; Novotna, the woman's No. 5 seed; and the aging brilliance of Stefan Edberg, who moved into a third-round showdown with Andre Agassi by beating Daniel Nestor, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-1. Agassi survived Spain's Alex Corretja, 5-7, 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.

The day on Court 16 also promised a doubles match featuring Navratilova and Sabatini, but that was moved to the Grandstand at the last minute, irritating the 3,200 fans packed into Court 16, many of whom had stood in line from 40 to 90 minutes to get into the smaller court, which was packed early by fans wanting to see Edberg.

"I'm staying here through the Edberg match," said "AB" Srinivasan, a software engineer from San Francisco. "Everyone playing on this court plays tennis the way I think it should be played. Kafelnikov and Novotna play aggressive tennis and Edberg is extremely graceful and at the same time quite powerful. I actually started playing tennis because of him and I'm eager to see him so close."

In the Stadium, fans bring binoculars. At Court 16, they simply use their natural senses.

The fans are so close to the players on Court 16, that they can hear Kafelnikov's fingers scrape the strings of his racket when he plays with them between points.

So close they could see Novotna's strained expression as she tried to think through the clinking of the metal stands as fans continued to move after the umpire called for everyone to take a seat.

"You notice the noise," said Novotna, who beat Asa Carlsson, 6-1, 6-2. "And yes, of course, it makes you very tired, trying to concentrate through it. . . . but this is New York. It is not like Wimbledon where you can hear a pin drop."

The outside courts at Wimbledon are not exactly quiet either, but nowhere on the Wimbledon grounds do you find the situation Pam Shriver experienced the last two days. Wednesday, she played and lost her singles match on Court 6, which is side-by-side with Court 5 here.

"I had never played a singles match on a side-by-side court," said Shriver, who lost to Nathalie Tauziat, 6-4, 6-3. "You get balls in your court [from the match on the other court]. You get ball kids in your vision area, balls flying past your head. It really is

difficult."

Yesterday, however, it was Sabine Appelmans and Miriam Oremans who had the trouble, as Shriver and Chanda Rubin won, 6-2, 6-1. Shriver and her mixed-doubles partner, Scott Humphries, didn't fare as well on Court 21, losing to Rene Simpson and Libor Pimek, 6-4, 6-4.

But back to Court 16.

By 11 a.m., the stands were half-full. Among the crowd were Joseph Bulko, a retired teacher from Annapolis, and his friend Peter Zmatlo, a 30-year-old school teacher visiting from Slovakia.

"It is my dream to come here to the U.S. Open," said Zmatlo. "We started out from Annapolis at 2 a.m. to be here for just the day."

Barbara and Floyd Humphrey of Stowe, Pa., came to Court 16 to see Kafelnikov "up close." Only two days ago, New York Times columnist George Vecsey thought he had seen too much of Kafelnikov, noting "Kafelnikov displayed a bit too much of himself by wearing only an athletic supporter beneath his drenched white, translucent tennis shorts -- can't some sponsor give the kid some underwear?"

Yesterday, the Humphreys learned that Kafelnikov reads the Times. "Look: He's wearing bikini briefs. He didn't have to do that," said Barbara Humphrey. "This is America, he can wear whatever he wants. I didn't mind."

And Kalfelnikov didn't mind that people came and went at his match on every changeover.

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