Often, the first Saturday of the U.S. Open is the day when the tennis becomes torrid. Two full rounds have been played and most of the imposters have been sent home. Upsets may not be likely, but they certainly are possible.
But so far this has been the Year of The Form. Sure, John McEnroe got scared out of his wits in the first round on Tuesday. Sure, No. 5 seed Kevin Curren bombed out on Wednesday -- and then suggested the National Tennis Center be bombed. But the surprises have been few. The top eight women's seeds not only have advanced, but they also have advanced without losing a set. Curren is the only one of the top eight men's seeds to lose.
Today, there were chances. Mats Wilander faced two set points in the third set against Paul Annacone but survived them both and went on to a 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 victory in a match that lasted almost three hours. Boris Becker, the Wimbledon wunderkind who barely broke a sweat in his first two matches, had to play two tie breakers and come from a service break down twice before he beat gritty Kelly Evernden, 7-6, (7-1), 6-3, 7-6 (9-7).
The best match of the day was another almost. Jimmy Arias, the 21-year-old who has been sliding for two years now, had the grandstand court in an uproar for most of the early afternoon. He had Tomas Smid, the 16th seed, down two sets. He had Smid ready to give up -- "He was destroying me," Smid said later -- but he couldn't hold on.
Smid, even with the packed and jammed grandstand fulminating with pro-Arias noise, never lost his cool. After Arias had won 18 straight points to close out the second set, Smid dug his way back and survived, 4-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
"It was a good win for me because the first two sets the way he hit his forehand all over the place it looked hopeless," Smid said. "Winning from two sets down against Jimmy is very good for me."
Smid's reward is a fourth-round date with McEnroe. Looking a little better in each match after his near-disaster in the first round, McEnroe had an easy time today against Bud Schultz, winning, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. "My serving and volleying have gotten better," McEnroe said. "I'm still getting surprised sometimes on my groundstrokes. I have to work on that."
There will be no more work in this tournament for Dan Goldie, the Stanford junior from McLean, Va. Goldie was humiliated tonight by 10th-seeded Joakim Nystrom, 6-0, 6-1, 1-1, retired. Playing with a strained muscle in his left thigh, Goldie was routed by Nystrom -- who next will play Becker -- on a cool evening that made it hard for Goldie's leg to loosen up.
"I first hurt it in my first-round match," he said. "I thought it would loosen up but it was so cold it kept bothering me. It finally got pretty bad at the end. I wish I had at least had a fighting chance against the guy but those are the breaks."
Trailing, 4-0, in the second set, Goldie asked for permission from the Grand Prix supervisor, Ken Farrar, to play in his sweats to try to warm up the thigh. "Normally, we wouldn't allow that," Farrar said. "But he was hurting and if it would help, fine. But it obviously didn't."
There were two mild upsets. Ninth-seeded Miloslav Mecir lost to David Pate in a second-round match that had been suspended because of Friday's storm. Mecir, who was lucky to win his first-round match, was routed, 6-4, 6-0, 6-3, by Pate. In the women's draw, 14th-seeded Bonnie Gadusek was a 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 loser to Robin White.
Everyone else who was supposed to win did: Ivan Lendl closed out another suspended second-round match, routing 1983 semifinalist Bill Scanlon, 6-2, 6-0, 6-3. Seventh-seeded Yannick Noah also won a second-round match, beating Jim Grabb, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-2. Tim Mayotte, the No. 13 seed, eliminated N'Duka Odizor, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.
Sixth-seeded Anders Jarryd easily advanced to the fourth round, sweeping through the first 10 games en route to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tim Wilkison in a late-night match played in cold, windy conditions. Jarryd next will play Mayotte.
On the women's side, Chris Evert Lloyd defeated Grace Kim, 6-0, 6-2, in 63 minutes, 21 minutes longer than Martina Navratilova needed to beat Lisa Bonder, 6-0, 6-1. Bonder is a good base line player who keeps drawing short straws: she lost to Evert in the French Open and Navratilova at Wimbledon and here.
Other seeded women won easily, too. Hana Mandlikova beat Sylvia Hanika, 6-3, 6-4; Claudia Kohde-Kilsch beat Ann Hendricksson, 6-3, 6-4; Helena Sukova beat Camille Benjamin, 6-0, 7-5; Wendy Turnbull beat Michelle Torres, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, and Carling Bassett beat Linda Gates, 6-4, 6-4. All of them now are in the fourth round.
The real fun today came in watching Arias, Annacone and Evernden. The one with the least chance of victory was Evernden, a qualifier here who is ranked 144th in the world.
Evernden is a true character. He is 23 and has one lung, having lost the other in a childhood automobile accident. On the form players must fill out for the Men's Pro Tennis Council, there is the question, "Father's Occupation." Evernden answered, "Trying to stay slim." In answer to the question, "Contact in case of emergency," Evernden wrote, "FBI."
He could have used some G-men today if he was going to beat Becker. Certainly, he made things surprisingly difficult for tennis's newest sweetheart. Evernden had Becker down a break in the first set and served for the set at 5-4. But at deuce, he got what looked like a bad call on a Becker backhand. Evernden sulked, the stadium court crowd booed and Becker blew on his hand and hit a winner to break back.
Then he blew Evernden away in the tie breaker, 7-1, and won the second set easily. But Evernden wouldn't quit. He went up a break in the third set, too, whipping his ground strokes, his white headband and brown hair flying in almost as many directions as Becker's body usually does.
Becker came back -- naturally -- and evened the set. Again, they went to a tie breaker. This time, Evernden had three set points. At 6-4, he just missed a backhand, then Becker hit a forehand winner to make it 6-6. At 7-6, Becker attacked and smacked a forehand volley. Then, he won the next three points, closing out the match with one of his huge serves.
Evernden might have won a set but he wasn't going to win the match. Annacone could have won his match. After splitting sets, he served for the third set at 5-4 and had a set point. But he botched an easy forehand volley and Wilander broke back. In the tie breaker, Annacone had another set point, leading, 6-5. Wilander served and Annacone followed his return to net. Wilander ripped a backhand past him and went on to win the game, 9-7, ending with another backhand.
"I was lucky in that set because I thought it was his set all the way," Wilander said. "He surprised me coming in a few times behind weak returns but he is so quick at net he can do it. I was just glad to get out of that because if I had lost that set it might have been hard to come back."
Annacone, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist a year ago, felt he had let a major opportunity slip away. "I played well for a set-and-a-half," he said. "Against him, that's not enough. He plays the big points really well. That's why he's No. 3 in the world and I'm not."
Arias was once No. 6 in the world and for a while today he flashed that form. But after winning 18 straight points to end the second set, he lapsed back into mediocrity and Smid easily won the next two sets. The last set may have been the best tennis of the tournament to date. Winners were flying in all directions.
The best point of the match came with Smid serving at 4-5, 0-15. Arias came in behind a second-serve return and slammed a good forehand volley. Smid's backhand was weak and Arias sharply angled a clear winner. Somehow, though, Smid ran the ball down and whipped a backhand down the line past a stunned, lunging Arias for a winner.
That was as close as Arias came. Smid jumped ahead, 4-0, in the tie breaker. At 5-4, Smid hit a service winner, then closed out the match with a gorgeous forehand pass.
"I had chances, I played well," Arias said. "I just wasn't good enough. I was close."
That was the first Saturday. Close, but not quite there.