TENNIS MEN AT INDIAN WELLS : Net Gain: Forget's Returns Pay Dividends


How hot is hot? Take Guy Forget, who couldn't be any hotter if he was swinging a frying pan.

On Saturday, Forget finished off Stefan Edberg to reach the Newsweek Champions Cup final, which is nice enough, but not nearly as impressive as how the 26-year-old Frenchman ended the match with a cooking lesson: how to French fry a tennis ball.

"What can you do?" Edberg said, hunching his shoulders.

Forget can close his eyes snug in his bed back in Marseilles and dream about returning serves and never, ever hit four like he did in the final game of his semifinal with Edberg.

Four times Edberg knocked serves at Forget and four times Forget blasted them back for clean winners to stun the No. 1 player in the world in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

"The best returns I have ever hit," said Forget, who may need to find a few more of them in the final today against Jim Courier, who has been known to return serves like they have postage due.

Courier, a former Little League pitcher, threw a complete game at Michael Stich, a neat 6-3, 6-2 victory that propelled the 20-year-old Floridian into his second final and his first in 17 months.

Is he nervous?

"It's just another day at the office," Courier said.

Forget's extended work week coincided with an unusually shortened one for Edberg, who has two choices today. He can take off early for his next tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., or he can stick around for a while and work on his 19-handicap golf game.

However, playing in today's final at Hyatt Grand Champions is out of the question. Edberg blew early service breaks in both sets and eventually dropped both sets when he lost his serve in the last game.

All in all, it was not a particularly great day for Edberg, but then neither were his two earlier victories over Darren Cahill and Michael Chang.

Edberg rued giving away his quick advantage in both sets against Forget.

"That's where I should have sort of stamped my authority," Edberg said.

Instead, Forget managed to extend his sudden and unexpected climb toward the top in men's tennis. Never ranked higher than No. 25 until last year when he finished No. 16, Forget seems short of peaking at No. 5.

He has won two of his five titles this year and reached the quarterfinals, the semifinals and now the final in the others.

Edberg, the first seeded player Forget faced this week, is now 0-2 against Forget this year and offered a bit of an overview afterward.

"He's got nothing to lose at the moment," Edberg said. "But there will come a time when he realizes how well he's doing and the pressure will creep up on him a little bit."

Meanwhile, those four returns that Forget sent scooting past Edberg's heels were doing a little bit more than creeping.

Return 1--Edberg missed his first serve and Forget screeched a backhand winner for 0-15.

Return 2--First serve in, Forget swings late and still sends a forehand winner into the corner. "I'm thinking, 'How nice, it's love-30,' " Forget said.

Return 3--First serve good again, Forget swings late again and hits a backhand down the line for 0-40, triple match point. "I hit it late . . . that was really funny, people were laughing," Forget said. "I was laughing myself."

Edberg saved one match point for 15-40.

Serve 4--First serve in, Forget's backhand return down the line bounces swiftly away and the match is over.

The total: four returns, four winners, Forget.

Edberg said Forget should enjoy the fun while it lasts. "He's teeing off a lot and the ball is going in," Edberg said. "One day the balls go in, the next they may miss everything."

Courier missed his first four match points against Stich, but little else. Courier has never played Forget, but rolled over Stich, the third seeded player he has defeated this week.

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