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International Players Championship : Lendl Has No Worries, Except About Golf Game

Times Staff Writer

This is how the last 10 days have gone for Ivan Lendl: He has played five matches, winning them all without dropping a set, and played eight rounds of golf.

Obviously, Lendl has been spending more time on the golf course than he has on the tennis court.

Lendl served 13 aces, always had a big serve when he needed it and made short work of Aaron Krickstein in their quarterfinal match Wednesday night at the Lipton International Players Championships.

Lendl scored a routine 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory in 1 hour 50 minutes and will play Kevin Curren in a semifinal match Friday.

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So Lendl obviously is looking forward to the match, right?

“I’m obviously looking forward to playing golf tomorrow first,” he said.

Things have been going so smoothly for Lendl that the self-professed golfing nut seems almost as interested in his golf (“I broke 80 this week”) as his tennis.

“I’m not worried at all,” Lendl said. “Obviously, I’m hitting the ball well and I’m quite pleased with the way I’m playing.”

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Krickstein had only one break-point chance against Lendl and was completely overmatched.

“When he’s giving you a beating like that, it’s kind of hard to think you can win,” said Krickstein, who stayed at the baseline and put no pressure on Lendl.

Yannick Noah of France, who was extended to five sets in three of his previous matches, got a breather against Carl-Uwe Steeb of West Germany. Noah, who will play Thomas Muster in a semifinal, put Steeb away quickly, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

“I’m glad I won in three sets,” Noah said. “If it went five, I don’t think I could have done it.”

Muster did it in four sets, advancing with a 7-5, 7-6, 1-6, 6-0 victory over Jim Grabb.

With the wind knocking down some shots and sending other balls sailing long in his match on Stadium Court, Noah continued to play as well as anyone on the tour.

Noah is 10-1 in his most recent matches, the only defeat administered by Miloslav Mecir in the five-set final at the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells.

Noah served nine aces, a moderately meager number for him (he had 22 against Mecir), but broke Steeb five times and was in control throughout.

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“I know that I’ve fought too hard to lose this match,” Noah said. “It’s pretty hard to get motivated for a whole season, but right now, being motivated is no problem. I want to play.”

But Noah does not want to practice. He has stayed away from the court except to play his matches. “Some guys go out and practice, but I pass,” he says. Lendl instead gets massages and goes boating and swimming.

Curren, who had twice come from two sets down to reach the quarterfinals, needed no comebacks Wednesday.

He swept past an admittedly lethargic Emilio Sanchez, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, but had more trouble with the linesman and chair umpire than the 23-year-old Spaniard.

Although he was never pressured, Curren got a warning by chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh for taking too much time between points. Curren was drying his face and hands with a towel.

Even in victory, Curren wasn’t in a conciliatory mood.

“The standard of officiating is rather poor,” Curren said.

Curren, who said he has gone so far as to write letters critical of officiating to the Men’s Tennis Council, claimed there are two sets of standards for the players. He pointed out that Noah was penalized a point for taking too much time when he got sick on the court.

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“I’ve played some top-ranked guys--and I won’t say who they are--who have actually sat down and nothing was done about it,” he said.

"(Robert) Seguso does a couple of things in (Indian Wells) and he’s defaulted just like that. If Becker had been in that situation, would they have done the same thing to him? I don’t think so.”

Sanchez also had a complaint about the officials.

“They’re too old,” he said.

But are they bad?

“I don’t think so.”

Soon, it was Muster’s turn to complain. His problem was that the crowd was too small on the side court where he scored a four-set victory over the unheralded Grabb, the lowest-ranked player (172nd) ever to make the quarterfinals of this tournament.

Was there ever a chance Muster would lose his grip and lose to Grabb?

“I don’t think so,” said Muster, the only left-hander among the semifinalists.

A confirmed baseliner, Muster turned the match in his favor by winning the second-set tiebreaker, 8-6, then took a set off to regroup before finishing in a hurry.

Noah said he loves to take on players such as Steeb--and Muster, for that matter--who seldom stray from the baseline. Muster was asked if, no matter how difficult, he will change his shots for Noah.

“I’m not telling,” Muster said.

This much is clear, however: After a week in Arizona, a week in Indian Wells and two weeks in South Florida, no matter what happens next, he is going to have the best tan in Austria.

Tennis Notes

Top-seeded Gabriela Sabatini, who advanced to the semifinals here for the first time by winning on Tuesday, plays Helena Sukova in the afternoon match today. Second-seeded Chris Evert plays Zina Garrison in the night semifinal. Sabatini leads her series with Sukova, 4-2. Evert, who has never failed to reach the final in this tournament, is 8-1 against Garrison, whose only win was on clay at Amelia Island, Fla., in 1985. Evert won the last meeting, 7-5, 6-2, last year on clay in the Virginia Slims of Houston. “I’m a little older and wiser now,” Garrison said.


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