Today, there was no suspense. Twenty-four hours after John McEnroe and Mats Wilander teetered near defeat in their quarterfinal matches, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors easily joined them in the semifinals of the Volvo Grand Prix Masters tournament with straight-set victories.
Lendl never faced a break point, never even faced a deuce on his serve and beat Joakim Nystrom, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), in a match that was noteworthy only because Lendl unveiled a new -- 20 pounds lighter -- look.
In the evening match, Connors and Eliot Teltscher provided far more entertainment than Lendl and Nystrom had, but the result was essentially the same. Connors won, 6-2, 6-4.
That victory set up the Saturday semifinal pairings everyone expected coming in here: McEnroe vs. Wilander and Lendl vs. Connors (WRC-TV-4, 12:30 p.m.).
"I'm just glad to get the chance to play these guys at this time of year," said Connors. "I'm looking forward to it."
Connors was probably looking forward to it even before he stepped onto the Madison Square Garden court before 14,261 tonight. After all, he had a career record of 12-0 against Teltscher and there was no reason to believe this match would be any different.
It wasn't. Connors breezed through the first set, constantly pinning Teltscher in the corners with his backhand approaches, even winning points with his serve while breaking Teltscher three times.
In the second set, after Connors had broken again to lead, 2-1, Teltscher finally hit a hot streak, winning three straight games, including two breaks. Connors, muttering obscenities to himself, looked ready to let the match go three sets when Teltscher reached 40-30 on his serve with a 4-2 lead.
But 5-2 never happened. Connors blocked back a first serve and, after a lengthy base line rally, Teltscher netted a forehand. Suddenly, Teltscher seemed lost. Connors won the next 11 points. He broke serve to lead, 5-4, with a gorgeous, running cross-court forehand that left Teltscher shaking his curly brown hair in disbelief.
"What can I say?" Teltscher said. "It was just the same old thing. No matter what I do, he does it better. He's just too tough for me."
Connors, 32, still plays with the same verve and enthusiasm he had at 22. Against Lendl Saturday, he will have to be the aggressor. Today, against Nystrom, Lendl came to the net only three times.
He broke Nystrom at love in the first game of the match and that was it. Not only were there no more breaks in the match, there was never a deuce. Nystrom scored nine points during Lendl's 11 service games.
"I was glad that when I got my first serve in I almost always won the point," said Lendl, who served seven aces. "When you do that, it's like starting every game at 30-0."
Nystrom, another of the groundstroking Swedes who have burst onto the world scene in the last two years, agreed with Lendl. "All I could do was hope he didn't get his first serve in," he said.
The second set was even less suspenseful, even with the tie breaker. At 2-2 in the tie breaker, Lendl won four straight points, gave one up, then finished the match with another service winner. That left postmatch discussion to center on Lendl's new diet. Since the U.S. Open he has been working with Dr. Robert Haas, the man who produced Martina Navratilova's computerized diet.
"I'm eating no fats, drinking no sodas," Lendl said. "I can't go to McDonald's any more." Lendl said he is eating pastas, unsweetened cereal, soups, vegetables and baked potatoes. "The only thing I do is change the sauce on my pasta every two or three weeks," Lendl said.
Connors couldn't care less what Lendl eats or doesn't eat. The two men don't particularly like one another and today's quarterfinals clearly were just warmup matches for each.
Lendl served well most of the match but never came in. He will undoubtedly do the same thing against Connors. "I expect to be the aggressor," Connors said.
"This should be fun," Connors said looking ahead. Today was just a warmup.