French Open Tennis : Navratilova, Edberg Fall to Youth Movement
Natalia Zvereva, a teen-ager from the Soviet Union, left the French Open without an American in the women’s singles quarterfinals for the first time in 25 years.
Zvereva, seeded 13th, surprised herself and No. 2 Martina Navratilova, 6-3, 7-6, Sunday with a mix of crisp backhand passing shots and feathery drop shots in a fourth-round match interrupted by rain for 40 minutes. It marked the first time in five years that Navratilova had failed to reach the final of this Grand Slam event.
Navratilova made numerous unforced errors and appeared helpless at times against the sharp ground strokes of her 17-year-old opponent.
“I can’t imagine I won today, I’m so surprised,” Zvereva said. “I played lucky today. I was so much luckier than her.”
The men’s second-seeded player, Stefan Edberg of Sweden, was no luckier than Navratilova.
Edberg was eliminated by an 18-year-old clay-court specialist from Argentina, Guillermo Perez-Roldan, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Perez-Roldan, seeded 15th, capitalized on a solid serve and superior ground strokes.
Perez-Roldan, who will face ninth-seeded American Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals, was never seriously challenged after the first set by Edberg, a player more comfortable on hard surfaces than the soft red clay at Roland Garros stadium.
He led Edberg, 5-2, but then lost three straight games. The Argentine recovered to win the next two games to claim the set. He pounded away from the baseline in the final two sets while waiting for Edberg to make errors or succumb to his passing shots.
“I thought I was playing pretty well in the first set, I was playing reasonably,” Edberg said. “Then I really didn’t have any chances after that.”
The other upset in the men’s draw came when Parisian favorite Yannick Noah, seeded sixth, lost to No. 12 Emilio Sanchez, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2. Sanchez, brother of Arantxa Sanchez, who had ousted Chris Evert, was celebrating his 23rd birthday.
In other men’s matches, No. 3 Mats Wilander of Sweden defeated unseeded Ronald Agenor of Haiti, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3; and Agassi overpowered Magnus Gustafsson of Sweden, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.
The 18-year-old Agassi dominated with his booming forehand. Up 1-0 in the fourth set when the rain hit, he came back after the delay to win five games in a row, including the last two at love, and blasting a forehand against Gustafsson’s serve for match point.
“I don’t spend much time between points but he was quicker than me, so it was good,” Agassi said. “When I get on a roll, I like to keep it that way.”
Overall, it was a day when youth prevailed. Of the eight winners Sunday, five were 18 or younger, and the women’s field has only one quarterfinalist older than 19.
Unseeded Nicole Provis, an 18-year-old from Australia, beat 28-year-old Sylvia Hanika of West Germany, 7-6, 7-6. Hanika was seeded 15th.
Arantxa Sanchez, the 16-year-old from Spain, advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Catherine Tanvier of France.
No. 6 Helena Sukova of Czechoslovakia breezed by No. 10 Zina Garrison, 6-1, 6-2.
Since 1963, the women’s field had had an American quarterfinalist, and Americans had won the women’s title 11 times in that stretch, including seven of the last nine years.
Navratilova, 31, admitted that she had underestimated Zvereva, whom she had beaten 6-1, 6-2 twice before.
“If I played her right now, I know I wouldn’t lose two sets,” said Navratilova, who saved two match points in the tiebreaker before losing it, 7-5, when she rapped a backhand volley into the net. “Every time I have a match like this I go into the locker room afterward and say, ‘I must be dreaming.’ I’m pinching myself. Maybe it’s not real. But I didn’t play the tennis I’m capable of.”
In the first set, Navratilova, renowned for powerful game, won only 11 points on her serve.
It was 3-1, 30-30 in the second set when the rain came, and it seemed to be a new Navratilova who greeted the capacity crowd and Zvereva when play resumed.
She won six straight points to pull even, 3-3, and was applying pressure to both Zvereva and herself. When she double-faulted, giving Zvereva a 4-3 lead, Navratilova cursed, threw down her racket and was so distraught that she never sat down on the changeover.
An exchange of breaks had Zvereva serving for the match. But Navratilova broke again when a Zvereva drop shot fell into the net, and the American moved in front, 6-5, at love in a game that displayed her best two forehand volley winners, a running backhand passing shot and a service winner.
But a beautiful backhand passing shot by Zvereva sent the match into a tiebreaker, which Navratilova never led.