It was Wimbledon revisited. Kevin Curren was on the court and the aces were flying. Serve, volley. Serve, whiff. Serve, duck.
But something was wrong. The whistling, unhittable serves were not coming off Curren's racket. They were coming off the racket of Guy Forget, a slender, curly-haired Frenchman. By the time Forget was finished today, Curren was finished with the U.S. Open, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-2.
Curren's loss was the most shocking on a day when seeded players were in trouble under the sun and under the lights. Three of them lost, most notably the No. 9 woman, Kathy Rinaldi, who dropped a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) match to Andrea Holikova. Rinaldi, a semifinalist at Wimbledon, has played solid tennis all year and her loss was surprising.
Far less surprising were the losses by No. 10 Gabriela Sabatini and the 14th-ranked man, Henrik Sundstrom, who lost to Argentina's Martin Jaite (who ranks only nine spots lower than Sundstrom) in four sets.
One other seed probably should have lost. Miloslav Mecir, No. 9 among the men, was down two sets and a service break to qualifier Andy Kohlberg. He was down 15-30 at 2-5 in the third set. He was down 0-30 at 4-5. He was behind in the tie breaker in the third set. But he survived in five sets.
Other men's seeds advanced with ease: No. 2 Ivan Lendl in three quick sets against Jay Lapidus; No. 4 Jimmy Connors in four sets against South African qualifier Gary Muller; No. 7 Yannick Noah over Great Britain's Jeremy Bates; No. 11 Stefan Edberg in straight sets against Jose-Luis Clerc of Argentina, and No. 15 Scott Davis over Massimo Cierro.
Chris Evert Lloyd, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, Zina Garrison and Steffi Graf all were winners today. Only Graf struggled, going to 7-5 in the third set before beating Patty Fendick.
But Graf still is here; Curren is not.
"I just never got going," said Curren, the losing finalist at Wimbledon this year who is ranked fifth in the world. "He's a big hitter who goes for winners, a lot like me."
Forget, 20, is in fact a big hitter and he served 15 aces against Curren, whose terrific serve beat both John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon.
But today, on the breezy grandstand court, Forget was the player with the shots.
"I think I was very lucky today because he wasn't serving well," said Forget, who was the world junior champion three years ago. "When he didn't get his first serve in (Curren served 54 percent), I felt I had a good chance against his second serve."
He also had a good chance because of Curren's attitude. Curren, a native South African who became an American citizen this spring, dislikes this tournament.
"The USTA (U.S. Tennis Association) should be shot for the environment in this place," Curren said.
"I suppose I should try to change my attitude, but it's hard. I hate New York. I hate the city, I hate the environment and I hate Flushing Meadow.
"Every day getting out here you spend an hour in traffic. It's ridiculous. I never look forward to it. This is the U.S. Open. The USTA has so much money from all the TV revenue and there are five practice courts for 400 players. It's sickening."
Curren all but admitted he was glad to lose: "I play here because it's the U.S. Open and I'm obligated to. I have to because of company contracts, but if Kevin Curren had his way, he'd be elsewhere this week."
Curren served effectively in the first set, which went to a tie breaker. Curren was serving at 3-5 in the tie breaker when he double-faulted. Forget quickly came up with a service winner to close out the set.
From that point on, it was all Forget. He broke Curren in the first game of each of the next two sets and never faced a break point in the match. In less than 100 minutes, it was over.
"It's my biggest win ever," said Forget, a left-hander who suffered last year with tennis elbow. "My serve has been getting better the last few weeks and I feel confident. I thought I had about three chances in 10 against him, but he didn't serve anything like at Wimbledon."
Forget, like his countryman Henri Leconte -- whom he may face in the second round -- is a go-for-broke player. He hits out on everything, constantly trying for winners. His style was best summed up by the sixth game of the third set in which he served three near-aces, an ace and two double-faults.
"The U.S. Open is over for me for this year," Curren said. "I'm not that unhappy."
Sabatini had a horrible draw. She had to face Barbara Potter, the 17th-ranked player in the world, a onetime semifinalist here and a tough, experienced player who should have been seeded but wasn't.
Playing at night, Potter's left-handed serve-and-volley game was too much for the 15-year-old Argentine. Potter swept to a 6-4, 6-2 win in 56 clinic-like minutes.
"I kind of served up a storm to put her away," said Potter, who at 23 is one of the veterans of the women's tour. "Tonight was the glamor, tomorrow I get the tough pro (Terry Phelps). That may be a tougher match than this one."
Sabatini still is not comfortable on a fast surface, especially against a power player like Potter. She was nearly in tears coming off the court but really could not have done much to change the result. Right now, Potter is too strong and too experienced -- "mature," to use her word -- for Sabatini on a hard court.
Kohlberg had every chance to pull off the biggest upset of his life. He got into the draw by just pulling out a last-set 7-5 victory in the qualifying over Leif Shiras on Sunday. Today, he had Mecir all but beaten.Twice, Kohlberg was two points from victory. But each time, he failed and allowed Mecir to carry him into a tie breaker.
The tie breaker went to 4-4 before Mecir reeled off three winners: a backhand return, a serve and a gorgeous top-spin lob. That was the set and, as it turned out, the match, Mecir cruising through the last two sets for a 5-7, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) 6-3, 6-1 victory.