TENNIS U.S. OPEN : Connors as Hot as Temperature


What makes Jimmy run? And jump? And pump his fists? And keep on beating people when he should be planning his 39th birthday party instead?

“I’m a factor,” Connors said. “Maybe I’ll get on some minds a little bit and maybe make them think it’s not over yet.”

It’s the U.S. Open, after all, where for the second time in three nights, Connors refused to act his age (he’s four days short of 39), this time cutting 6-foot-7 Dutchman Michiel Schapers down to size, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, to end what amounted to an pretty odd Thursday at Flushing Meadow.


How hot was it at the U.S. Open?

“Very, very hot,” Boris Becker said.

They were dropping like flies, or more appropriately, like mosquitoes, on a stifling, muggy Day 4 when hourly updates were posted on who was the latest to retire from the competition.

By midafternoon, the list numbered four, among them Wayne Ferreira, who sprained his ankle and had to stop his match against Pete Sampras in the third set after losing the first two.

The others--Thierry Champion, with stomach muscle trouble; Christian Bergstrom, with heat illness; and Jaime Yzaga, with a knee problem--brought to seven the number of players who had been forced to quit in the first four days of the Open. Earlier, Alexander Mronz had gone out because of a thumb injury, Jimmy Brown because of heat illness and Barbara Paulus because of an ankle problem.

Becker’s game was the picture of health. He blasted his way past Alexander Volkov, 6-0, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, then beat a hasty retreat to his Long Island estate, where he planned to submerge himself in the swimming pool as soon as possible.

The top-seeded Becker needed 1 hour 55 minutes to reach the third round, but Sampras spent only 67 minutes in the heat and humidity, mainly because Ferreira retired with Sampras leading, 6-1, 6-2, 2-2.

“I’m just going out and playing good tennis,” said Sampras, who would like Stadium Court to represent to him what Centre Court at Wimbledon means to Becker.


“I would certainly like the U.S. Open to be my kind of home away from home (like) Becker’s . . . Wimbledon kind of being his home court,” Sampras said. “So it is certainly a good tournament to play well at.”

With the third round beginning today, Sampras and Becker are not the only ones playing well. They have a lot of company.

Jim Courier was busy putting away water during the changeovers and putting away Jimmy Arias the rest of the time, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. The French Open champion, who will meet Anders Jarryd in the third round, seemed to have more trouble staying cool than finding fault with his game.

“Just drink (water) until you can’t drink anymore is basically my theory on it,” Courier said. “I am pounding (down) water just to stay hydrated. You lose it very quickly out there.”

Courier, who has been winning quickly, said not-so-modestly that the hard courts of the Open are perfectly suited to his abilities.

“I hit a pretty big serve. . . . I have got a pretty good return. . . . I don’t have that many weaknesses,” he said.

David Wheaton, seeded 11th, was as hot as the morning temperature, dispatching Horst Skoff, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, while wearing the kind of white baseball cap that has become de rigueur for both fashion-conscious and heat-conscious players so far this week.

Wheaton thinks he knows why Gabriela Sabatini even wears her white hat at night: “She’s afraid of moonburn, I guess.”

Aaron Krickstein, who upset Andre Agassi in the first round, led Yzaga by a set in the fourth set when the Peruvian strained his right knee and was forced to retire.

Connors’ victory was interrupted only by a rendition of the wave, which broke out after he had taken the first set.

After that, it was over quickly for Schapers, whose only weapon was a serve against one of the game’s greatest return artists.

Next for Connors is Karel Novacek, a Czech clay-court specialist who can keep Connors from getting past the third round in another Grand Slam tournament, just like what happened at the French Open and Wimbledon.

“My son (13-year-old Brett) said I got the third-round blues,” Connors said. “I told him to go to bed.”

Open Notes

In 39 minutes, top-seeded Steffi Graf moved into the third round with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Catherine Mothes of France, who presented only one problem to the top-seeded player: Who was she? “I had not seen or heard of her before today,” said Graf, who already had won five Grand Slam titles before Mothes, 20, turned professional in 1989.

Despite serving eight double-faults and no aces, 34-year-old Martina Navratilova swept past 21-year-old Debbie Graham of Fountain Valley, 6-1, 6-4, setting up a third-round meeting with former doubles partner Pam Shriver. Shriver is 3-36 against Navratilova and hasn’t beaten her since the 1982 Australian Open, a span of 26 consecutive defeats. Shriver, 29, who is attempting a comeback after arthroscopic shoulder surgery, defeated Rita Hiraki in the first round and Magdalena Maleeva in the second. Shriver is looking forward to playing Navratilova. “It is nice because, you know, you play a 5-foot tall Japanese girl in the first round and you better beat her; then you play a 16-year-old, the youngest of the Maleevas, and you hope you win that one,” Shriver said. “Now the pressure is off and you just see what happens.”

Fourth-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario kept pace and made the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 18-year-old Australian Kristin Godridge.