Don’t look for any “I Love New York” stickers on the bumper of Kevin Curren’s car. The Big Apple? Curren will tell you it’s rotten to the core.
Frank Sinatra had it all wrong. Sure, Curren wants to be A-No. 1, top of the list, king of the hill, but he realizes that if he makes it anywhere, it will not be here.
“It’s almost tempting to pass the U.S. Open up,” said Curren, a finalist at this year’s Wimbledon tournament and the world’s fifth-ranked tennis player. “I come to this tournament with a very negative attitude. I hate coming to New York. I hate the city, I hate the environment and I hate Flushing Meadow.”
How is Curren’s hatred reflected? Let us count the ways:
7-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Those were the scores in Curren’s straight-sets loss to France’s Guy Forget (pronounced For- gay) in his first-round U.S. Open match Wednesday afternoon. His was the first major upset of 1985 at Flushing Meadow, a disappointing follow-up to his head-turning run through the men’s field at Wimbledon.
In England, Curren served his way past John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors into the final, where only a child prodigy named Boris Becker prevented him from claiming tennis’ most prestigious championship.
In England, Curren, at 27, finally succeeded at grabbing some international attention. And, with his rollicking serve and the fast concrete courts of Flushing Meadow, he was fully expected to grab some more at the U.S. Open.
First-round elimination at the hands of the world’s 63rd-ranked player was not on the agenda.
“I just never got going,” Curren said. "(Forget) is a big hitter and I had no chance to get any consistency. He goes for big points, like I do, and he’s a left-hander. I have trouble with left-handers.”
That should come as news to lefties McEnroe and Connors, who became consecutive victims of Curren at Wimbledon.
“Neither McEnroe nor Connors served nearly as well as Forget did today,” Curren pointed out. And then, there was the matter of the change of venue.
“This is a very difficult environment to play tennis in,” Curren said. “The USTA should be shot for the setup they have here.
“Today, I complained to the umpire that through the entire match, we never had the people seated behind the baselines. People were constantly moving back and forth. Articles and paper were dropping from above, and the noise is ridiculous.
“Most of the year, we do not play tennis in this sort of environment. It is usually very quiet, with ideal conditions. It is sad that this is the U.S. Open and these are the conditions we must play in. If you consider all the money they make from the damn TV revenue and they couldn’t build a finer facility and accommodate the players and the spectators in a better way--it is sickening.”
Curren has an idea on how to remedy the situation.
“They should drop an A-bomb on this place,” he said.
Curren has never advanced beyond the round of 16 at the U.S. Open. He got that far once, in 1981.
His chances for improvement in 1985 got nuked by Forget right off the bat Wednesday. Forget is capable of this sort of thing--the French have been waiting for him to fulfill his potential as the next Yannick Noah--and most impressively, he beat Curren at Curren’s game, the service game.
Curren, who aced Connors 33 times in a 1983 Wimbledon match, was pressed just to get his first serve in play against Forget. His serving percentage was only 52.6, and he managed a total of only 16 service winners.
Forget scored 16 aces, twice as many as Curren, including three in the final game as he whisked Curren off the court.
That surprised even Forget.
“When I saw (Curren) at Wimbledon, he served so much better than he did today,” he said. “I was amazed at the way he served there, so many aces, and today he missed a lot of first serves.
“Today, I think maybe I got lucky.”
Entering the match, Forget estimated that his chances for victory were “perhaps 3 out of 10. It depended on his serve and whether I served well.”
Forget served well. The elbow problems that have retarded his development apparently have subsided.
If Curren had seemed poised to deliver a serious challenge to the reigning princes in men’s tennis, that quest apparently has been put on hold.
As they used to say across town in Brooklyn, wait till next year.
“I’d like to be No. 1 but I am not obsessed with it,” Curren said. “I know I am a good player and that there will be other events. I do not see myself as being a consistent winner, week in and week out. But, I’m certainly capable on certain occasions of beating anyone.”
Except, perhaps, when the occasion is the U.S. Open.
And, although Curren does make valid points--it is noisy and there are many distractions here--that hasn’t seemed to bother McEnroe and Connors, who combined have won the last seven men’s U.S. Open singles titles.
“Some guys have nerves of steel and excellent concentration,” Curren said. “Other guys are not that mentally tough, and maybe I categorize myself as that.
“This is a major championship that you have to play, and that is why I am in the draw. You are obligated to play, due to your companies (i.e., sponsors) and everyone focuses in, but if Kevin Curren had his way, he’d probably be somewhere else.”
Today, Kevin Curren is somewhere else.
Out of the tournament.