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U.S. Open Men’s Matches : Becker, McEnroe Are Sent Down Under

Special to The Times

The Aussie contingent, sub-Patrick Cash division, arrived at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Thursday hoping for at least one upset.

What did happen had three degrees of significance--mild, big and very big, as in upsets. By the time the last ball was struck just a little after 11:30 p.m., EDT, the group from Down Under had this kind of day at the U.S. Open, in increasing order of shock value:

--John Frawley over Paul Annacone, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.

--Mark Woodforde over No. 16-seeded John McEnroe, 7-5, 4-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1.

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--Darren Cahill over No. 5-seeded Boris Becker, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

After Thursday, the saying back home might go like this: Instead of throwing another shrimp on the barbie, why not toss another seeded player out of the tournament?

Out of the Open are two more seeded players--the four-time Open champion, McEnroe, and the supposed future champion, Becker.

Two local guys who grew up fairly close to the Open, McEnroe and Annacone, are out the door before the end of the first week. Almost lost in the drama was No. 2-seeded Mats Wilander’s five-set battle against, and victory over, Kevin Curren.

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For an Australian tennis fan--or any tennis fan, for that matter--there was drama in Frawley’s 7-3 fifth-set tiebreaker, in Woodforde’s second victory over McEnroe in the last three weeks, and in Cahill’s thorough dominance.

Pat who?

In all this commotion, Cash’s name was mentioned--once--in connection with the great day for this trio. At a pre-Wimbledon tournament, Cahill traded words with Becker after they played each other in the semifinals. It was about a prognostication.

“He gave me a bit of a stink,” said Cahill, ranked No. 33. “I chose Cash to win Wimbledon, and he (Becker) said that I wasn’t that good of a player. . . . He got a little uptight about that. He said that match (we had) in the semifinals was like playing a first-round match and that I wasn’t a very good player. So I had something to prove today.”

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Becker was relegated to being just another second-round loser in his fourth U.S. Open disappointment. In 1985, he lost in the fourth round to Sweden’s Joakim Nystrom, one round short of meeting McEnroe in a much-anticipated quarterfinal. A year later, he lost to Miloslav Mecir in the semifinals. Last year, he lost in the fourth round to Brad Gilbert, who also lost Thursday.

To be fair, Becker was nursing a foot injury against Cahill, and his mobility was extremely limited, especially if the rally lasted more than a couple of strokes. However, Becker had told a reporter Wednesday night that both feet were fine.

Neither foot was fine.

“Sometimes you cannot tell the truth,” Becker said, shrugging.

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He has an inflammation in the left heel area. Also, he was hampered by a quarter-sized blister on the bottom of his left foot.

When asked what else was wrong with his foot, Becker, 20, replied: “Everything. Any problem you can imagine. I’m too old, I guess.”

Cahill found it difficult at times to handle playing an injured opponent.

“With the injury, he probably gave the impression that he was sort of 50-50, trying half of the time, not trying,” Cahill said. “He’s very dangerous like that, he hits the ball so hard. I was trying to concentrate as much as I can and try to beat him as easily as I could.”

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Becker said he briefly thought about bagging it.

“I was in the first set and I almost said that’s it,” he said. “But then I was remembering (Jimmy) Connors coming back at Wimbledon (in 1987), and I was hoping.”

All he could do was hobble and hope. Between those two options, Becker’s chances at winning were limited, to say the least.

Of the two, Cahill and Woodforde, the latter was given more of a chance at an upset. Woodforde had defeated McEnroe last month in Toronto. But the Open should have been a different story, given the location and the McEnroe tradition.

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“I think it (Toronto) made me believe I could do it again,” Woodforde said. “Not only that, but doing well playing against a top player in the top 20, it would give me, like Darren against Becker, a lot of confidence--confidence you can reach that height. Meaning that once you get there, you can stay there.”

Said McEnroe: “I expected more out of myself in the end. He’s a good player. I don’t know if he’s top-10 caliber, but I do know he’s still young. He has a lot of ability.”

Woodforde and Cahill grew up playing each other and have established a friendly rivalry. Thursday was the ultimate game of one-upmanship.

Woodforde has come a long way from looking at McEnroe in awe in the locker room last month in Canada.

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“I mean, he’s a legend,” Woodforde said. “Maybe he’s one of the best players ever. It’s just a buzz for me to see him, just like it is for me to see Rod Laver or Neale Fraser or Frank Sedgman.

“And, now, to have a win over him (in a Grand Slam event) is even better.”


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