Tim Wilkison came up with the biggest victory of his career Saturday when he upset Yannick Noah in five sets to gain the fourth round of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships on a day when top-seeded Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova also advanced.
Wilkison, a 26-year-old left-hander who never made it past the third round in nine previous Opens, finished with a bloodied right knee as he repeatedly went crashing to the ground in a 7-6, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over the fifth-seeded player.
Navratilova, seeking her third women’s singles title in the last four years, defeated Kathleen Horvath, 6-4, 6-2, after Lendl, the defending men’s champion, ousted Sweden’s Jonas Svensson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Other seeded women winning third-round matches included No. 3 Steffi Graf of West Germany, No. 5 Pam Shriver, No. 8 Bonnie Gadusek, No. 11 Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, No. 13 Stephanie Rehe and No. 15 Kathy Jordan.
Joining Wilkison and Lendl in men’s fourth round were No. 4 Stefan Edberg of Sweden, No. 8 Henri Leconte of France, No. 15 Brad Gilbert, Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union, Aaron Krickstein and Dan Goldie.
Wilkison, ranked 31st in the world, defeated Noah in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament. And when he had clinched the victory with a smash, the Asheville, N.C., left-hander blew kisses to the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd at the National Tennis Center.
“Being the Stadium Court at the U.S. Open and beating Noah, I’d have to say it’s my best win,” said Wilkison, who earlier this year defeated Wimbledon champion Boris Becker.
Noah noted he had the opportunities to win.
“I had a lot of break points and a lot of possibilities to be ahead,” he said. “I just couldn’t put him away.”
The battle lasted three hours, with first one, then the other player seemingly taking the upper hand.
Both players held serve easily in the first set, but Wilkison jumped to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Three points later, he held a 6-2 advantage and had four set points.
But Noah won the next four points. With each player trying to take the net first, they repeatedly turned back bids by the other to close out the tiebreaker.
In all, Noah had two set points and Wilkison seven--one too many for the Frenchman. Wilkison won the tiebreaker, 12-10, and the opening set.
The drama had just begun.
It was Noah’s turn, and he broke Wilkison in the second game to race to a 3-0 lead. It was the only break he needed as he leveled the match at one set apiece.
Noah then broke Wilkison in the ninth game of the third set to go ahead two sets to one.
But Wilkison, wearing a red baseball cap, picked up the tempo and won the first five games of the fourth set before Noah finally held after two deuces. Wilkison then closed out the set by holding service in the longest game of the match, one that went to deuce five times.
That brought it down to the decisive fifth set and to which player would break first. The two battled on even terms until the ninth game, when Wilkison, jumping on Noah’s second serve, ripped the ball past the net-charging Frenchman.
From 15-all, Wilkison took the next two points. That made it 15-40, and Wilkison closed out the break when he rifled a forehand service return cross court.
Wilkison then double faulted to begin the 10th game. But he won the next four points to finish off the biggest upset of the tournament so far and move into a fourth-round match against Chesnokov, a 1-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 winner over Marcel Freeman.
Graf was leading, 6-1, 1-0, when Beverly Bowes retired because of a viral infection; Shriver staved off an upset bid by Elise Burgin, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, in a night match; Gadusek defeated Canada’s Helen Kelesi, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2; Sabatini stopped Bulgaria’s Katerina Maleeva, 7-5, 6-2; Rehe routed Britain’s Annabel Croft, 6-2, 6-3, and Jordan beat Australia’s Elizabeth Minter, 6-1, 6-3.
Edberg needed almost three hours to beat Ramesh Krishnan of India, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; Leconte ousted Amos Mansdorf of Israel, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2; Gilbert eliminated Johan Kriek,6-2, 7-5, 6-2; Krickstein defeated Mel Purcell, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, and Goldie outlasted Barry Moir of South Africa, 6-0, 4-6, 6-7, 6-1, 6-2.
“I had more than I wanted,” Lendl said after his victory. “It wasn’t easy at all. It took over two hours. Even though the score was straight sets, it was very tough.”
Navratilova also had a battle on her hands. “I had a hard time seeing the ball,” she said. “I was miss-timing the ball.”