The best tennis match of the U.S. Open took place early this evening on the grandstand court. It was a doubles match between Boris Becker-Slobodan Zivojinovic and Yannick Noah-Henri Leconte.

Quickness and grace won -- barely. For more than two hours, with the sun setting spectacularly over the New York skyline, the four battled. The Frenchmen finally won, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), winning the tie breaker, thanks largely to Leconte's shot making.

By the end, the crowd, jammed into every corner of the grandstand, was screaming on every point. When Becker hit the net tape with a forehand return on match point, Leconte and Noah leaped high and gave each other a high-five (haut-cinq?) and hugged gleefully.

The fans, thrilled by the vigor and competitiveness of the match, cheered all four lustily as they departed the court and then headed happily for the exits.

Jimmy Connors' birthday isn't until Monday, but old buddy Ilie Nastase gave him a present today. After Connors' victory over Thierry Tulasne, Nastase burst into his press conference carrying two of Connors' old T-2000 rackets.

Connors went back to the old racket this spring after his experiment with a mid-sized racket had failed. But because the racket no longer is being made, Connors has had to dig old ones out of trophy cases and closets. He may very well use the two Nastase gave him today -- they came from an old friend who got them from Connors as souvenirs -- before the tournament is over.

If you watched the tennis on CBS-TV the last two days and wondered why the network didn't announce it would televise the Boris Becker-John McEnroe quarterfinal Wednesday night, the reason is simple: The U.S. Tennis Association asked the network not to make the announcement until both players had, indeed, made the quarterfinals.

McEnroe must play Tomas Smid Monday and Becker must play Joakim Nystrom. . . .

The best gaffe of the tournament was pretournament: Tony Trabert, CBS's analyst, predicted in a two-minute span that Becker would reach the semifinals and that McEnroe would win the tournament. If both things happen, we've got a scoop . . .

Notes on a couple of absentees: Pat Cash, the Australian who came within a point of reaching last year's final, begged off with a sore shoulder.

Aaron Krickstein, youngest player to reach the round of 16 when he did it two years ago at 16, stayed away because of a bad ankle. He "could have played," according to his agent, Dick Dell, but doctors prescribed rest.

He has had a horrible summer, losing in the first round at Wimbledon and two singles matches against West Germany in the Davis Cup.