PARIS, JUNE 1 -- On Sunday, Ivan Lendl left Stade Roland Garros in a black mood. He had played until dark and Joakim Nystrom was still clinging to him like a tenacious little dog that won't let go of your pants leg. He had lost one set after holding 11 set points.
"Don't ask me what I was thinking because you can't print it anyway," Lendl said today. "I was very frustrated and very disappointed." He slept well, though. "Very heavily," he said. "But I kept dreaming about the match. I woke up and I thought, 'That was a hell of a nightmare losing all those set points.' Then I realized it wasn't a nightmare, it was real."
Today, though, the sun came out and Lendl put the nightmare behind him. What he could not finish in 3 hours 17 minutes Sunday, he finished in 48 minutes today, beating Nystrom, 2-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2. The match had been suspended with Lendl leading, 4-0, in the fourth set.
"I think Ivan played a lot better today than last night," said Nystrom, who broke service in the first game of the fifth set before collapsing. "Last night, he missed a lot of forehands. Today, he was hitting winners off it. That was the difference."
Lendl's escape puts him in the quarterfinals against Andres Gomez. The other match in the top half of the draw is between two more Czechoslovakians, Miloslav Mecir and Karel Novacek.
Today, the bottom half was filled with second-seeded Boris Becker beating Jimmy Arias, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0; eighth-seeded Jimmy Connors coming back to beat Becker's West German countryman Ricki Osterthun, 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, 6-3; No. 4 seed Mats Wilander taking out Frenchman Tarik Benhabiles, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, and sixth-seeded Yannick Noah prevailed over Kent Carlsson, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5. Those matchups will be Noah-Wilander and Becker-Connors.
The women began their quarterfinals today and the winners were the two teen-aged wonders, Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini. The second-seeded Graf, two weeks shy of 18, made short work of Manuela Maleeva, winning by 6-4, 6-1, her 37th straight victory. Seventh-seeded Sabatini, two weeks past 17, beat 15-year-old Aranxa Sanchez, 6-4, 6-0.
Graf next plays Sabatini. Top-seeded Martina Navratilova and No. 3 Chris Evert play their quarterfinal Tuesday.
Age was served today by Connors and, to a lesser extent, Noah. Youth, as always, was represented by Becker, who may have played the best clay court match of his life in beating Arias.
"Last year I came to this tournmament and I just wanted to win matches, get through as many rounds as I could," Becker said. "But this year I came here thinking I can win the tournament and I still feel that way. I am not satisfied to be in the quarters. I want to play three more matches."
Becker was primed for his match today after losing to Arias in Monte Carlo in April and, even though he, too, was fired up to play, Arias understood this match would be different right away.
"In Monte Carlo he didn't play clay court tennis," Arias said. "He would hit one shot and then try to hit the next one three million miles an hour. One would go in and two would go out. Today, the first point we rallied for about 10 shots. I said to myself, 'Uh-oh, you're going to have to play today.' "
Arias didn't play poorly. He broke Becker with a gorgeous forehand to win the first set and felt his confidence rising. He lost his serve to start the second set, but broke back for 2-2. Then, at 3-3, the match turned around completely.
Becker had two break points and Arias saved them. But then Becker crushed a forehand return, came in and put away a forehand and, although he reached it, Arias knocked the return deep. Becker had the break and that was it for Arias.
Becker blasted the ball all over the court. There were none of the careless errors that often have marred his clay court play. He just hit harder and harder, winner after winner.
"I just got to the point where if I didn't get going I was going to lose," Becker said. "I've worked so hard on clay, I know I'm fit to play four hours and my confidence is high. I wasn't going to give it away."
Becker next gets Connors, the last of the Americans. Today, Connors needed all his guile and the old blood and guts to overcome a lanky West German who just kept the ball in play for two sets and waited for Connors to miss.
And, much to his disgust, Connors did miss. But, just when it seemed Connors might exit in ignominy, he put together one of his streaks, ripping off 10 straight games after being a point away from going two sets down twice.
"Actually, I think I wore him down some," said Connors. "In the beginning, he was moving well, getting to everything. At the end, it wasn't the same."
Osterthun admitted he felt tired towards the end in the midday heat but credited Connors with turning the match around. "If I had won the second set it might have been different," he said. "But after that set, he just didn't miss. In the locker room, players told me if I played well I would have a very good chance to beat him. Well, I played well and he beat me. He's still a very good player."
Better, at least, than any other American in this tournament. While Connors is the last American, Noah is the last of the French after a giddy first week in which they pulled major upsets all over the grounds. Today, Benhabiles made a run at Wilander, but wilted under a barrage of passing shots.
Noah gained a measure of revenge for France when he outlasted Carlsson in 3 hours 34 minutes. Wilander plays conservative tennis. Nystrom plays very conservative tennis. What Carlsson plays defies description. Nystrom is a net-charging madman compared to Carlsson. At least, when the match is over, he knows where the net is.
Carlsson's goal in every match seems to be to hit a million topspin groundstrokes. "You have to go out there," Noah said, "thinking it will take forever."
It almost did, Noah beating darkness by saving two set points at 4-5 in the fourth set and getting to net for the break he needed to close the match a few minutes later. There was no joy on his face, only relief.
The same could be said for Lendl. After Sunday's debacle, he decided there was no need to change tactics. He had been content to rally with Nystrom most of the time but, during the 28-minute ninth game in the third set and during the next game, he lost patience at crucial moments, making forehand errors on seven of his 11 set points.
Today, he closed out the fourth set in six minutes, but then Nystrom got back into his metronome groove briefly. During the first game of the fifth set the two men had back-to-back rallies that lasted for 103 hits and 94 hits. The crowd whistled and hooted them, but they played on. And on. And on.
Nystrom has been close to major breakthroughs in Grand Slams before. In 1985, he had John McEnroe down a break in the fifth set here and lost. At Wimbledon that year he served for the match twice in the fifth against Becker and lost. Today was the same.
Perhaps his reaction to the defeat explains the problem. "I'm happy with the way I played," he said. "We had a nice match so I don't feel that bad. I took Ivan to five sets. For me, that's pretty good."
Pretty good, but that is all. Lendl broke Nystrom back in the next game, broke him again in the fourth and was finally home free. "I'm very glad to have it behind me," Lendl said. "I hope it's all out of my system now. I'm glad I won and can get some rest now."TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES Center Court
Chris Evert (3), Boca Raton, Fla., vs. Raffaella Reggi (14), Italy; Ivan Lendl (1), Czechoslovakia, vs. Andres Gomez (10), Ecuador; Martina Navratilova (1), Fort Worth, vs. Claudia Kohde-Kilsch (8), West Germany; Karel Novacek, Czechoslovakia, vs. Miloslav Mecir (5), Czechoslovakia. Monday's Results, D6