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Champions Cup at Indian Wells : Noah and Mecir Find Their Way to Final

Times Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, Yannick Noah was on a boat in Guadalupe. Since then, he has been to Disneyland, played golf, gone swimming and sat in a steaming sauna with his girlfriend.

What is this, Club Med? He needs an itinerary, not a trainer.

Or has Noah somehow stumbled upon just the right way to get into the final of a tennis tournament.

“It means that everybody who wants to get ready for a tournament should go on a boat,” Noah said. “That’s a good preparation, I think.”

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The final of the Newsweek Champions Cup is today at Hyatt Grand Champions. Better prepare yourself.

In the best-of-five-sets final, Noah meets Miloslav Mecir, who apparently had his own method of getting ready for this event.

After reaching the final of the Australian Open, Mecir wanted a vacation. He got one quite unexpectedly, when he lost in the first round in consecutive tournaments, so he took two weeks off and played with his 14-month-old son, Milos.

Mecir would like his son to be an athlete. If he becomes a tennis player, he’d be fortunate to hit tennis balls like his father.

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On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Mecir kept his feet on the ground to pound a series of groundstrokes at Jimmy Connors and emerge with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

Earlier, Noah became airborne in his match against Jay Berger. With hang time that a punter would envy, Noah punctuated his 6-3, 6-4 victory with two flying overhead smashes that drew gasps from the crowd.

Noah said he thinks he understands such reactions.

“It looks good because my hair is staying in the air,” he said. “I’m already down and my hair is still up.”

Even after he lost to Mecir, Connors was not down.

“I’m not gonna go home, sink my head in the Jacuzzi and drown myself,” Connors said.

A three-time champion of this event, Connors started slowly and finished fast, but not fast enough. Connors said his spirit was willing but his feet were weak. They just couldn’t get him where he wanted to go soon enough.

Certainly, Connors’ lips were moving. Down, 0-4, in the second set, someone in the stands shouted at him.

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“Come on, Jimbo.”

Said Connors: “OK, where are we going?”

Unfortunately for Connors, he was on his way to defeat. Mecir, who warmed up for Connors by hitting a few balls with wife Petra, must have learned something.

Mecir, who had broken Connors in the first game of the match, was about to be broken back in the fourth game when Connors held three break points.

But Mecir would have none of it. Two service winners and a nimbly placed volley brought the game to deuce. Mecir served an ace and then watched as Connors waved a forehand into the net on game point.

“That gave me a lot of confidence,” Mecir said.

Connors would see for himself whether Mecir’s confidence was brimming, but not until he had lost the first set and was down, 5-1, in the second.

Mecir had Connors down a match point at 5-2, but he could not cash it in. Connors sent Mecir into the corner with a backhand and then hit a forehand volley into the open court.

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“After I started to win, I knew he was going to be fighting anyway,” Mecir said.

With a chance to serve out the match, Mecir did just that and put himself in position to win his first singles tournament in two years. Connors wished he had found momentum a little earlier.

“I didn’t give him a chance to clutch in, to think about it, yeah, to gag,” he said.

Although Connors was missing only by inches, it was just enough to cost him against a player such as Mecir, whose seemingly effortless style from the baseline or the net may detract from his well-paced, if not spectacular, game.

Berger’s unexpected run to the semifinals ended at the short end of Noah’s volleys. Faced with the relentless pressure of an attacking Noah, Berger wasn’t particularly disturbed that he could not pull out the same number of winners on passing shots that he had against Boris Becker and Brad Gilbert.

“If I’m hitting great shots and the other guy is hitting better shots, what can I do, applaud?” Berger asked.

Noah broke to 3-1 in the first set after Berger led, 40-15. But after a rapid exchange of volleys at break point, Noah put one out of Berger’s reach.

The rest seemed fairly routine for Noah, who nearly withdrew from the tournament last week because of sore knees.

They aren’t hurting anymore, said Noah, and that makes him glad. And when he’s pleased, that can mean only one thing.

“I like to play when I am happy,” he said.

Tennis Notes

Ken Flach, doubles partner of Robert Seguso, said that Seguso apologized for being defaulted, which also took them out of the doubles in the quarterfinals. “What else could he say?” Flach said. “He said he was sorry.” Because Seguso was defaulted in singles, he was also ineligible to play doubles, which means that Flach-Seguso missed a chance at the $27,540 for winning the Newsweek Champions Cup doubles. “I think we could have won it,” Flach said. But that isn’t Flach’s biggest disappointment. “I don’t feel good getting quarterfinal points,” he said.

Boris Becker and Jakob Hlasek will play Kevin Curren and David Pate in the doubles final. Becker and Hlasek defeated Danie Visser and Pieter Aldrich, 7-6, 7-5, in one semifinal. Curren and Pate defeated Stefan Edberg and Jim Grabb, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.


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