Masters Tennis Championship : Gilbert Upsets Connors; Edberg Defeats Cash
Eighth-seeded Brad Gilbert upset fourth-seeded Jimmy Connors, 6-4, 7-6, Wednesday night in the opening round of the $500,000 Masters tennis championship.
Gilbert, who lost to Connors in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, reversed that outcome in an error-filled match at Madison Square Garden.
“It was a tough two-setter,” said Gilbert, who had lost five of six previous matches to Connors. “With Jimmy against you on your serve, he makes you work really hard.”
In other opening-night matches, second-seeded Stefan Edberg of Sweden defeated seventh-seeded Pat Cash of Australia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, and another Swede, third-seeded Mats Wilander, beat sixth-seeded Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia, 6-4, 6-1.
Connors, who hasn’t won a tournament in more than three years, had 36 unforced errors in the match. But he said he wasn’t upset by his performance.
“To go 6-4, 7-6 and have a chance to win the match, I can’t complain about that,” he said.
Connors, who hadn’t played a tournament in 7 1/2 weeks, has been suffering from an ear infection.
“I don’t feel too good and I don’t like to play under these circumstances,” he said.
“This is my vacation time, and the Masters has always been a bad time for me. I like to spend time with my family and get away from tennis to heal physically and mentally.”
Gilbert and Connors are the only Americans in the Masters, a round-robin tournament involving the top eight players in the world. Each player plays three matches to determine who advances to Sunday’s semifinals.
Gilbert didn’t clinch the final Masters berth until last week, when he lost in the quarterfinals of a tournament in Brazil.
“I might have gone to the moon to get here,” he said. “I played the last 16 consecutive weeks since Cincinnati. I got here Saturday from Brazil, but I’m strong and eager.”
Gilbert served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Connors broke him at love on a cross-court service return.
Each player then held serve to force the tiebreaker, which Gilbert won, 7-5, with a forehand winner down the line.
The Edberg-Cash match was a rematch of the Australian Open finalists of January. Edberg won the Australian Open in five sets. Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, beat Edberg in their only other meeting of the year, at the Queen’s Tournament in England.
Edberg took command in the final set when Cash double-faulted to lose the fourth game.
Edberg broke Cash again in the sixth game to take a 5-1 lead and then held serve to win the match, closing it out with a backhand pass down the line.
“I started working very hard, and he was missing a lot of first serves,” Edberg said of the final set. “I took advantage of his second serve and got the break at 3-1.”
Edberg, who rarely shows emotion on the court, shouted a profanity after hitting a wide volley to lose the opening game of the second set.
“I should have been more careful,” he said. “After I won the first set, I relaxed a little bit and so I lost the second set. I have to concentrate better all the time.”
The 21-year-old Swede said the victory was important because “I was ill two weeks ago and I haven’t played competitive tennis in three weeks.”
The first two sets between the serve-and-volleyers were tightly played, with only one service break in each.
Cash had two break points in the ninth game of the first set, but Edberg fought back to win the game and take a 5-4 lead. Edberg then broke Cash in the final game to win the set.