French Open Tennis Championships : Lendl, Navratilova Make It to Semifinals--and So Does Kriek
Top-seeded Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova, along with a surprising Johan Kriek, advanced to the semifinals at the French Open Tuesday, but the dreams of a Grand Slam championship for 14-year-old Mary Joe Fernandez came to an abrupt end.
Helena Sukova, the women’s sixth-seeded player, beat the Miami teen-ager, 6-2, 6-4, in a match that took just 1 hour 6 minutes.
Lendl, from Czechoslovakia, lost his first set of the match before rebounding to beat No. 9 Andres Gomez of Ecuador, 6-7, 7-6, 6-0, 6-0.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning and didn’t want to give him easy points,” Lendl said. “However, in the second set I felt there was a barrier and once I broke through it was easy for me.”
Navratilova and Kriek are both naturalized American citizens--Navratilova from Czechoslovakia, Kriek from South Africa.
While Navratilova had been expected to reach the round, Kriek’s presence is a major surprise.
Navratilova struggled before beating another American, Kathy Rinaldi, 7-5, 6-4. She will meet Sukova in the next round, on Thursday.
Kriek, playing only his second French Open and first in seven years, beat clay-court specialist Guillermo Vilas, 3-6, 7-6, 7- 6, 7-6, and faces Lendl next, on Friday.
“This is like Disney World all over again,” said Kriek, who has not won a tournament since mid-1985. “It’s like a little fantasy world.”
In a match played on a blustery afternoon, before only about 200 people on Court 1, Sukova used a steady baseline game and occasional trip to the net to beat Fernandez.
She breezed through the first set and was on the verge of breaking for the match when Fernandez showed some of the strength that helped her to earlier upsets of Helen Kelesi, Anne Hobbs and fourth-seeded Claudia Kohde-Kilsch.
Fernandez held off the break point, then fought through four set points before winning when Sukova sent a forehand long.
But Sukova quickly moved to match point on her own serve and won it when Fernandez sent a forehand long.
“I had a great week and a half,” Fernandez said.
Navratilova, reaching the semifinals in Paris for the third straight year and the fourth in the last five, came from behind to win the first set and then struggled in the second.
She was one point away from holding serve to make it 4-1 in the second set but needed five tries to close out the game.
And, as Navratilova was serving for the match, Rinaldi broke her at love. Navratilova then broke back for the victory.
“It was close,” Navratilova said. “I told her when we shook hands, ‘I don’t think either of us played well.’ She could play better and so could I.”
Kriek has played the French Open only once before, losing in the first round in 1979, and had been idle for almost two months before Paris.
He plays a serve-and-volley game not usually successful on the slow clay of the French courts, but his risk-taking paid off against Vilas, a more traditional baseliner.
“If I hadn’t risked it, I wouldn’t have won,” Kriek said. “If I had stayed back and played his type of game, all I would have done was turn myself into a ball of cramps.”
A two-time winner of the Australian Open, Kriek said the victory over Vilas was “the toughest match of my life.”
Kriek squandered three match points in the ninth game of the fourth set, as Vilas, the 33-year-old Argentine who won this championship in 1977, displayed his steadiness.
But in the end, Kriek, seeded 13th, used power to help win the final tiebreaker, tying it 3-3 on a service winner and taking the lead 4-3 on a volley launched in full charge to the net.
Vilas, seeded 12th, then sent a forehand long and double-faulted. Kriek put the match away with another powerful volley, coming in behind a strong serve to end the 3-hour, 49-minute match.
At the end, Kriek dropped to his knees, looked to the sky and smiled. The fans stood and cheered.
Today, West Germany’s Boris Becker plays Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors, and France’s Henri Leconte faces the Soviet Union’s Andrei Chesnokov to complete the men’s quarterfinals. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday with Navratilova against Sukova and Chris Evert Lloyd against Hana Mandlikova.