If Stefan Edberg were a baseball player, he would either hit a home run or strike out. If he played golf, he would either make a hole in one or dunk his tee shot into the water.
But Edberg is a tennis player, full of his own baffling contradictions.
On a muggy Tuesday morning at the U.S. Open, he proved he can be No. 1 in the world, win Wimbledon and still lose in the first round of a Grand Slam event.
Edberg celebrated his second week as the top-ranked tennis player in the world with a shocking straight-set, loss to 52nd-ranked Alexander Volkov of the Soviet Union, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
Edberg’s explanation was simple: “I didn’t play a very good match.”
He picked a bad time to have a slump. Volkov did not look like much of a threat, having lost 13 times in the first or second round in 17 previous tournaments.
Volkov, 23, had so little confidence in the outcome, he had booked a flight out after the match.
“I don’t know when I am going to play well,” Volkov said.
But up until Tuesday, no one in tennis this year had been more consistent, successful or rich than Edberg. Starting with Wimbledon in late June, the 24-year-old Swede won 21 consecutive matches, four tournaments and more than $500,000.
Edberg proved to be the unluckiest of the top players. Third-seeded Ivan Lendl, fourth-seeded Andre Agassi, ninth-seeded Aaron Krickstein and 11th-seeded Michael Chang advanced with routine victories.
Lendl defeated Martin Laurendeau, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2; Agassi defeated Grant Connell, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, Krickstein defeated Andrew Sznajder, 6-1, 4-6, 6-7 (7-2), 6-1, 6-1, and Chang won the first 10 games on his way to a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Mikael Pernfors of Sweden.
Agassi unveiled a new look in his opening match--black shorts with lime green tights, a black and white shirt with lime green sleeves, a heavy black beard and a gold earring in his left ear.
Afterward, Agassi said he considers himself a role model for the young.
“My goal is to get my game to override these clothes,” Agassi joked. “And that’s going to take some real good tennis.”
John McEnroe, ranked No. 20 and not seeded, got past Javier Sanchez Vicario, 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, and said afterward that he is satisfied with his comeback.
“It’s all a question of having a lot of things come together,” he said. “It’s the same old story. I feel like I’ve progressed and perhaps I will pick up another notch here.”
McEnroe is giving himself through the end of next year on his latest comeback.
“It’s a bit of a long-term project and anything here is a bonus,” he said.
Edberg’s defeat added bonus shock value to the second day of the Open, especially since there really weren’t any signs that he was vulnerable. Nearly an hour after the match, Edberg acted as if the loss still hadn’t quite sunk in.
“This is really hard to tell right now,” Edberg said. “This is something I need to sit down and think about. At the moment, I can’t think of any reasons why it happened.”
Could be it was just the U.S. Open, which has been the least kind to Edberg of any Grand Slam events. In seven years, the best he has done is to reach the semifinals twice.
But never before has Edberg been so maddeningly inconsistent in the Grand Slam events. He reached the final of the Australian Open and won Wimbledon, but lost in the first round of the French Open and did the same thing Tuesday at the National Tennis Center.
Edberg became the first top-seeded player to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open since John Newcombe was beaten by Jan Kodes in 1971.
Despite the defeat, Edberg will retain his No. 1 ranking because he loses only 56 points from last year’s fourth-round showing at the U.S. Open. Neither No. 2 Boris Becker nor No. 3 Ivan Lendl can catch him, even by winning the tournament.
Edberg said the pressure of his No. 1 ranking did not affect his performance.
“I felt good about coming into the Open,” he said. “I had a day where not much worked out for me.”
In a battle of kids, 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati made her debut at the U.S. Open and defeated 15-year-old Anke Huber, 7-5, 7-5. Know how much the U.S. Open means to Capriati? “It means a lot,” she said. “This is like America’s tournament and I’m American, naturally.” Capriati made the match harder than it had to be. She led the first set, 4-0, then trailed, 5-4, and saved a set point. Capriati also led, 5-1, in the second set before Huber came back again.
Martina Navratilova’s first-round match was against a 17-year-old Argentine, Federica Haumuller, and this much is known about her: She is ranked No. 118, she loves chocolate milkshakes and she lost to Navratilova, 6-4, 6-0. After the match, Haumuller asked Navratilova for her headband as a souvenir, then asked her to pose so Walter Haumuller, her father, could take their picture. . . . Besides the second-seeded Navratilova, also advancing were fourth-seeded Zina Garrison and fifth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini. Beate Reinstadler, a 23-year-old West German who broke into the top 100 in the rankings in July, broke into her first U.S. Open with a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Garrison. Sabatini had no trouble with Kathy Jordan, who was playing with a knee brace, and moved swiftly into the second round, 6-1, 6-1.
Thomas Muster’s 10-week suspension, which begins after the U.S. Open, barring an appeal, covers only IBM/ATP Tour events and will not prevent him from playing for Austria against the U.S. in the Davis Cup semifinals, Sept. 21-23 in Vienna. Like the Grand Slam events, the Davis Cup comes under the jurisdiction of the International Tennis Federation, not the ATP. . . . The U.S. Davis Cup doubles team of Rick Leach and Jim Pugh will fly to Prague two days ahead of their teammates for extra practice on the clay court surface.
Michael Chang won the first 10 games of his first-round match with Mikael Pernfors in 33 minutes and finished the match in 67 minutes. Pernfors is coming back from Achilles tendon surgery. . . . So far, Martina Navratilova has won $931,000 in 49 matches covering 10 tournaments, which figures out to $17,000 a match. . . . More Martina: In 17 years at the Open, Navratilova has lost 33 sets. . . . John McEnroe, asked if he had a comment on Stefan Edberg’s defeat: “No, I really don’t feel like discussing it.”