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Agassi Quickly Turns Things Around

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Most of the 20,000 unbelieving customers at Flushing Meadow yesterday were having similar thoughts. But never mind dinner. India’s Leander Paes was handing Andre Agassi his lunch in the U.S. Open.

Agassi was behind in the second-round match, 3-6, 0-4, and a point from 0-5.

But there Agassi resisted five break points in a furious seven-deuce, 11-minute game on his way to a startling flip-flop that resulted in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0, victory.

“It looked very much like I’d be two sets behind if Leander won that game,” said Agassi, who has only once in his career revived from two sets behind.

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The night belonged to American guys from Stanford: the erratic miscreant of Wimbledon ’95, Jeff Tarango, and Mr. August, Alex O’Brien. In a bout between frequently antisocial lefties, Californian Tarango, languishing at No. 104, played a tough tiebreaker from 2-4, and removed 10th-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.

Tarango, ever cocky and lively, was high on his own ability, saying, “If John McEnroe had my forehand he’d have been a hell of a better player, I’ll tell you.”

O’Brien, winner of 20 of his last 23 matches (six in qualifying), all this month in a phenomenal rise to No. 65 from the depths of the 200s, seemed to kick it away against the Wimbledon finalist, 11th-seed MaliVai Washington, with a service loss at 5-4 in the third.

“I got tight, lost my composure, fell into la-la land when I had him,” O’Brien said. “I wasn’t too optimistic then, but I’m proud that I regained my composure when the fifth began.”

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Washington, who has never won from two sets down, was only able to prolong it. Revving up his forehand and nerve again, O’Brien won, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, in 2:51, sending stragglers from an original nocturnal gathering of 19,916 homeward a few minutes before midnight.

Sergi Bruguera, the Spanish silver medalist whose clay-court play made him the French Open champion of 1993-94, has never cared for the hard courts of Flushing Meadow. But he was encouraged by his performance on the same at Atlanta and more enthusiastic in a brisk 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, win over the 1994 U.S. Open runner-up, sore-shouldered Michael Stich.

“I was very nervous about my game,” said Bruguera, who has slumped from the top 10 to No. 79. “Then when I get the silver [losing to Agassi] for me it was like so much relaxed. I make in my worst year one thing that I’m going to remember for my life, which is amazing for me.”

Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the highest ranking women on display, skipped through their second-round matches stingily, allowing their foes less than an hour on court.

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Defending her title, Graf beat Austria’s Karin Kschwendt in 52 minutes, 6-2, 6-1. Sanchez Vicario needed 59 minutes to chase Nicole Arendt, 6-2, 6-2.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Featured Matches

Today’s featured matches at the U.S. Open:

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DAY SESSION

Beginning 8 a.m. PDT

STADIUM COURT

* Men--No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic vs. Scott Draper; No.1 Pete Sampras vs. Jiri Novak.

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* Women--No. 8 Lindsay Davenport vs. Anne-Gaelle Sidot.

GRANDSTAND

* Men--Andrei Olhovskiy vs. Mark Philippoussis.

* Women--Helena Sukova vs. No. 4 Conchita Martinez; No. 15 Gabriela Sabatini vs. Asa Carlsson.

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NIGHT SESSION

Beginning 4:30 p.m. PDT

STADIUM COURT

* Men--Stefan Edberg vs. Bernd Karbacher.

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* Women--No. 2 Monica Seles vs. Dally Randriantefy.

GRANDSTAND

* Men--No. 12 Todd Martin vs. Andrea Gaudenzi.


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