Except for a few moments of foot-stomping and finger-wagging, it has been a mild week at the Volvo Masters tournament, a week more of anticipation than exhilaration. But thanks to Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl, who today won their quarterfinal matches efficiently, if not elegantly, there should be something to stomp and wag about when they meet in the semifinals Saturday.
"We go out there and murder each other," said Connors, who beat Lendl in the final of the U.S. Open but lost to him the last time they played, two weeks ago in Chicago. "We run around a lot, hit a lot of winners, yell and scream, rant and rave and play great tennis."
John McEnroe will play Guillermo Vilas in the other semifinal.
Connors arrived at this logical conclusion of the draw by beating Johan Kriek tonight, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. Earlier in the day, Lendl defeated Yannick Noah, 6-4, 7-5. In both cases, the losers came to the same conclusion.
"He was better than me . . . this time," said Noah, who ended Lendl's 44-match streak last year. "He's just a better player than I am right now," said Kriek, who has never beaten Connors.
For the first five games of the match, it looked like he was going to. Kriek, who possesses a forehand that can best be described as searing, hit everything with abandon and accuracy. He broke in the first game and quickly led, 4-1.
Connors waited for Kriek to cool down, trying to prolong the points, and got his chance in the fifth game, when Kriek's first serve abandoned him. He missed six in the game (he made only 46 percent all night) and Connors took advantage of them, breaking Kriek and going on to win the next three games and to take a 5-4 lead. Now Kriek was struggling. He saved a set point to tie the set at 5-5.
Connors held at love and then Kriek struggled again on his serve, missing nine first serves. Six times, he saved set point. On the 21st point of the game, Connors hit a backhand wide to give Kriek his third game point. Kriek, who had been hitting so hard, hit a drop volley. Connors came at it on the run but netted a backhand. They went to the tie breaker.
It didn't bother Connors. Kriek won the first point but Connors took the next five as Kriek made four straight forehand errors.
In the second set, the better Connors returned, the more Kriek pushed and the worse he did. Connors' ground strokes landed deeper and deeper. Kriek barely had a chance to get to the net.