Courier Gets Bested by Edberg : U.S. Open: Swede plays what he calls finest match to win fifth Grand Slam title, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Stefan Edberg wiped his face with a towel and threw it over his head into the stands. Then he threw another towel. Then he peeled off his shirt and threw that in the stands, followed by another towel.

Hey, maybe Edberg is actually an extrovert after all. First he throws the kitchen sink at Jim Courier in the U.S. Open final, then he throws his laundry in the stands.

For someone who is supposed to own a personality as monotonous as a dial tone, Edberg took a giant step in the other direction Sunday.

It was like leapfrogging over a fjord for the 25-year-old Swede, who came up with the match of his life, swinging, volleying, dazzling and daring, to win his first U.S. Open title in disarming fashion.

Edberg dispatched Courier, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0, in 2 hours 2 minutes, accepted a check for $400,000 and then made this announcement:

"It was the best match I ever played."

Courier could not argue with such an assessment: "I've been pummeled before, but. . . . "

Fill in the blanks yourself. This kind of pummeling needs few words. The day after knocking off Jimmy Connors, presumably sending him back to the old folks' home, Courier could not deliver.

How good was Edberg?

He won 51 of 66 points on his serve.

He never lost his own serve.

He broke Courier's serve six times.

He won 68 points in 94 approaches to the net.

He had twice as many winners (36) as unforced errors (18).

He was unconscious.

"It was like a dream out there," he said. "I feel like I could do almost anything. It's fantastic you can actually play such a good match in a Grand Slam final without losing your concentration once."

This is sort of a contrast to how he felt last year when he lost in the first round of the Open. So he comes back and absolutely demolishes a very good hard-court player in the biggest wipeout in a final since Ivan Lendl gave up six games mashing Miloslav Mecir in 1986.

Courier, who did not lose a set in his six previous matches, could not win one in his last.

"Nothing you could do," Courier said.

One point typified Courier's plight. Already down a set and a break and trailing, 4-5, in the second set, Courier sensed an opening at 15-30. He rifled a service return that dipped across the net at the advancing Edberg.

But Edberg somehow picked the ball up at ankle level, angled a cross-court volley and bounced it off the line.

Stunned, Courier looked in the stands and saw a fan who hunched his shoulders. Courier sort of smiled.

"It was like, 'Wow, what are you going to do?' It was, you know, one of those shots that you see on the tapes that Laver made 20 years ago," Courier said. "Not too many players are going to make that shot against me."

Edberg faced only two break points, saved them both, closed out the second set with an ace and found himself serving for the match 28 minutes later when Courier lost his serve for the sixth and last time, dumping a forehand into the net.

Soon, it was match point. Courier's return clipped the top of the net and sat up nicely for Edberg, who waited, shifted his feet and directed a backhand straight down the line to end it.

He threw both hands into the air, turned and smiled broadly at Annette Olsen, his fiancee, and Tony Pickard, his coach.

Afterward, Edberg found it difficult to stop smiling.

"It is really hard to believe," he said. "I mean, it really is something to win it here, you know, after what happened last year and the last couple of years where New York hasn't been the greatest place for my tennis."

It was Edberg's fifth Grand Slam title, but the first one to occur on something other than grass, which is home turf for a serve-and-volley specialist like him. Edberg won the Australian Open twice on the grass at Kooyong in 1985 and 1987 and his other Grand Slam titles were at Wimbledon in 1988 and 1990.

He started slowly in the Open, dropping a set to both Bryan Shelton in the first round and to Jim Grabb in the third round. But by the time Edberg played Michael Chang in the fourth round, his game had come together.

"The turning point was the Chang match," Edberg said. "The last four matches I played here, I played as well as I can.

"With Chang, I got a little bit of rhythm going. He made me play and he made me think. And that's really where I got the concentration. I had the feeling against Chang that maybe I could do it this year."

He was right. Edberg also benefited because the glare of the spotlight was directed at others, right up to the final. It was Andre Agassi losing, or the 39-year-old Connors reaching the semifinals, or Pete Sampras coming back as defending champion.

"I sort of sneaked in the back way," Edberg said. "That is the way sometimes I like it to be."

As for the attention focused on Connors at the Open, Edberg was not in the least bit jealous.

"Fifty years from now, you will look down in the record books and see my name," he said.

So ended the year's last Grand Slam, with Edberg's name inscribed on the bottom of the trophy after all. He probably deserved it.

He lost to Ivan Lendl in the Australian Open semifinals after blowing two match points. In the French Open quarterfinals, he lost to Courier, who went on to win it. At Wimbledon, he lost without dropping his serve to champion Michael Stich in the semifinals.

That defeat bothered Edberg more than any other, and he failed to dislodge it from his thoughts all summer when he failed to win a hard-court tournament.

"This has sort of made up for the year," Edberg said. "Whatever happens the rest of the year, I'll be a happy man.

"(Wimbledon) was kind of tough," he said. "But I knew I still had one more to go. There was the Open. Most people didn't think I'd ever win here."

Most people were wrong. For two weeks and seven matches, Edberg's game nearly glowed.

And when he had the chance to win it all, Edberg grabbed the silver trophy on the run, on another charge to the net. Then he was gone, in a flash.

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