Chris Evert Lloyd was trying to be anonymous, which isn't easy for her, especially here. Her husband, John Lloyd, had just played the match of his life, upending seventh-seeded Johan Kriek, 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-2, 6-3, today at the U.S. Open.
In the tunnel behind the grandstand court, reporters clustered around Evert, wanting to know how she felt. Politely, she evaded them. She has had so many of these moments in her career. He has had so few. She didn't want to intrude. When he finally appeared and well-wishers left them alone, they embraced beneath the stands and she was gone.
Lloyd has become a sentimental favorite at the U.S. Open. In part, it is an expression of allegiance and affection for his wife. In part, it is rooted in a desire to see him make the most of his abilities the way she has for so long. As he served for the match, an offduty umpire sitting in the stands committed a grave indiscretion: "C'mon, Johnny," he said.
"Last year was like a fairy tale, coming in ranked 280 and making the round of sixteen," said Lloyd, now ranked 49th. "I had a good chance of making the quarters and they were behind me, and I think it has carried on from there. It's like Wimbledon for me here. I think they've just grown with me."
Lloyd will face Henrik Sundstrom, the ninth seed, in the next round. Sundstrom is one of four Swedes to reach the fourth round. If Lloyd wins, he will be the first British player to reach the quarters in the Open era.
"I don't see why he shouldn't be ranked in the top 10 or 15 the way he played today," Kriek said. "He was awesome. He couldn't miss. Today, he played shots I've never seen him get to and he was passing me on the backhand and hitting forehand lobs. Here's a guy with a Continental grip and he's whipping topspin like Borg forehands."
Kriek was the only seeded player to lose today. No. 4 Pam Shriver, the only one of the top four seeded women who played today, defeated Peanut Louie, 6-3, 7-5, then waited for a report on Sue Mascarin, her opponent Monday who badly sprained her right ankle in a doubles match and was taken to a hospital for X-rays. They showed no fracture, and the ankle was put in a soft cast; there was no immediate word if Mascarin would play against Shriver.
Guillermo Vilas, a semifinalist three times and the U.S. Open champion in 1977, lost to Gene Mayer, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, in a night match. He also lost in the third round last year.
"When a person is playing so well, you start to overdo it," said Vilas, who is ranked 17th and has not been the same player since the controversy over appearance money became public last year. "After the first set, I said, 'He has to start missing,' but he didn't."
Earlier, No. 3 Jimmy Connors, the defending men's champion, celebrated his 32nd birthday by defeating Henri Leconte, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2). Leconte is a streaky young Frenchman, who sometimes plays as if he was never taught what the lines are for. When he acknowledges them, he can be frightening. Today, he wasn't.
"He's tough to play because you don't know what to expect," Connors said. "But on the other hand, he doesn't know what to expect from his game either. It's the kind of match that makes me very alert."
John McEnroe, the top seed, is threatening to become a bore. His behavior has been as impeccable as his play. He came into the tournament with what seemed to be the toughest draw of any of the top seeds. But in the second round, Stefan Edberg disintegrated and Kevin Curren defaulted to Kevin Moir. Moir offered little resistance today, capitulating, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3.
McEnroe, who has lost only 12 games in three matches, will face Robert Green, a Renaissance man who studied Russian language and literature at Boston University so he could read Tolstoy in the original. He is also the 132nd-ranked player in the world. Today, he defeated John Fitzgerald, who is ranked 47th, by 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6).
Leading, 4-3, in the tie breaker, Green served two aces (one on a second serve) to make it 6-3. Fitzgerald saved three match points, the last when Green double-faulted at 6-5. But at 6-7, Green hit a low backhand return at Fitzgerald's feet and the match was his.
Green, who turned pro early last year when he was admitted to graduate school at George Washington Unversity but not at Harvard, said, "I haven't played anyone yet who is unbeatable on these courts. My next match, I'll play someone who a lot of people think is unbeatable, including me."
Lloyd's journey is as wondrous as Green's. A year ago on the same court, Lloyd defeated Jose Higueras, the 10th seed, in the second round. After losing to Mark Dickson in the fourth round, he promised himself he would give one more year to try to fulfill some of the promise that has evaporated over the years. Since then, he has reached the round of 16 in the Australian Open and the round of 32 at Wimbledon.
In the first set, Kriek was his most devastating self, serving wickedly (five aces, 69 percent of his first serves) and returning equally well. It seemed he couldn't miss. "I was blowing him off the court," Kriek said.
"I went out the other day in practice with him and the same thing happened: he blew me out, 6-2, and I felt I played well," Lloyd said. "Again, I thought I was playing well today and he knocked me off right away."
Lloyd knows Kriek's game well. He trains with the man who used to coach Kriek, Bob Brett. Today, he tried to prevent Kriek from establishing a rhythm. Even though it meant altering his own game, he tried not to volley into the open court and offer Kriek the chance to make those running passing shots he so loves.
Lloyd had to be thinking about that when he served for the second set at 6-5 and double-faulted on break point. "I felt as if I had a lot of pressure on me," he said. "I didn't want him going up, two sets to love. If you give him two sets to love the odds are that he will play a third great set." But Lloyd did not allow himself to become disheartened even when he fell behind, 1-3, in the tie breaker.
Then Kriek began to falter. He double-faulted (one of eight) to make it 5-4. An error on his return made it 5-5. Kriek saved a set point at at 5-6, Lloyd saved one at 6-7 and Kriek saved another at 7-8. Later, Kriek complained about line calls in the tie breaker, but he did not at the time.
With Lloyd serving at 9-8, his third set point, Kriek tried to lob. Lloyd reached for the ball and caught it with the edge of his racket.
"I was so anxious to get it away that I don't know what I did," he said. "I guess I just took my eye off the ball. I was very lucky because it landed smack on the line. If it were off a half an inch I maybe would have lost the set. Maybe justice was done."
He maintained his resolve in the third set and the fourth when he broke for 3-1, was broken for 3-2, broke again for 4-2 and saved a break point for 5-2. The capacity crowd, which included his wife, cheered for its adopted native son. "This was less nerve-racking than the last because he wasn't supposed to win," said Evert, who celebrated the victory with her husband with champagne and cake.
Once, not long ago, Lloyd accepted losing to players such as Kriek as something that was supposed to happen. Not any more. Someone asked whether he thought he could win the U.S. Open.
"I'd like to say I can win," he said. "It's going to take a good player to beat me. I've never been this far in this company. I feel I am a new player."