NEW YORK, SEPT. 8 -- Today, the U.S. Open equaled Wimbledon. It produced a day as gray and ugly and rainy as any gray, ugly, rainy day Wimbledon has seen. Play started an hour late and was delayed 41 minutes after it began. Then came a delay of more than four hours followed by five minutes of play -- on the Stadium Court only. Finally, under ever-threatening skies, a tiny portion of the day program began to take shape.

In the only match completed, Helena Sukova reached the semifinals for the second straight year, easily beating her friend and doubles partner, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, 6-1, 6-3.

The completion of Sukova's match against Kohde-Kilsch, the resumption of Stefan Edberg-Jonas B. Svensson and the start of Mats Wilander-Ken Flach were very important to the U.S. Tennis Association. It meant no rain checks had to be issued for the day session.

But shortly before 8 p.m, one more torrrential downpour hit the National Tennis Center and play was called for the day, with Wilander two sets up on Flach, Edberg one set up on Svensson and no other matches under way. All the remaining matches from today will be rescheduled for Wednesday, beginning at 11 a.m.

Sukova needed only 53 minutes on the court to win her quarterfinal match. The hard part -- as for everybody -- was the waiting.

"You go back to the locker room and eat, but they don't have much there you can eat," she said. "You read a magazine, you talk, you watch TV and you hope you get to finish the match. If you don't finish the match, you aren't going to sleep very well."

Because they are friends, Kohde-Kilsch and Sukova did not try to find separate corners of the locker room. Instead, they sat together and watched a tape of Brad Gilbert's upset of Boris Becker.

"It got to the point where we were in there so long that I forgot we had to play," Kohde-Kilsch said. "I was a little surprised when they called us back out."

Sukova had been leading, 6-1, 1-2, before the delay. Normally these two play very close matches. Sukova's margin was 7-5 coming into this match and, since Sukova had not had a good summer and Kohde-Kilsch was coming off an upset of Hana Mandlikova on Monday, there was every reason to believe the match would be competitive.

It wasn't. When Sukova plays Kohde-Kilsch, the matches do not take very long to play, since both women, being more than 6 feet tall, attack constantly. Points don't last more than a few shots. Today, it was Sukova who ended the points, usually with a big serve or a crunched volley.

"I came here not feeling very confident," Sukova said. "Since I got to the United States {in July}, I haven't been playing well. But after I got past Melissa Gurney {in a tough three sets} in the first round, I got a lot more confident. Now, going into the semifinals, I feel very good."

Sukova was the losing finalist here a year ago, upsetting Chris Evert in the semifinals. Although she is only 22, the impression is that she has been around longer since she first came to prominence in 1984 when she ended Martina Navratilova's 74-match winning streak in the Australian Open semifinals.

She has improved steadily since then and has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world. Currently, she is sixth. This summer she appeared ready to break into the upper echelon when she upset Navratilova in the Wimbledon warmup at Eastbourne, but then lost to Pam Shriver in the Wimbledon quarterfinals after holding two match points.

"I shouldn't have lost that match," she said. "That one really hurt because I was so confident then. If I had gotten to the semifinals {to play Steffi Graf}, who knows what would have happened."

What happened was a poor summer on hard courts.

Kohde-Kilsch has also struggled recently. A year older than Sukova, she, too, was ranked as high as No. 4, but has slid to 10th. Her victory over Mandlikova was her biggest in a long while.

"It took a lot out of me, though," she said. "I woke up this morning feeling a little stiff and I never really got loose out there. Of course, it wasn't an easy day to get loose."

It wasn't an easy day to do anything. Much of the discussion around the grounds centered on Gilbert's upset of Becker Monday evening. Gilbert, with celebrity status suddenly thrust upon him, was being shopped to every member of the media by his agent and was clearly enjoying himself.

But when he got word that Becker's manager, Ion Tiriac, was looking for him, Gilbert wasn't quite so happy. He found Tiriac, timidly approached him and said, "Were you looking for me? Did I do something wrong?"

"No," Tiriac said, "You didn't do anything wrong. I just want to talk to you for a minute."

Gilbert smiled, relieved. "Okay, fine. Just let me go upstairs to the locker room for a minute."

"No," Tiriac said. "You stay here and talk to me now."

Gilbert stayed. Never let it be said that Tiriac isn't intimidating.

Becker is likely to announce the name of a new coach soon. Since his longtime coach Gunther Bosch left him in Australia in January, the wunderkind hasn't been so wonderful, making it past the fourth round of only one Grand Slam tournament this year. The new coach reportedly will be an American.

"We still aren't sure," Tiriac said. "We're both so stubborn, we can't agree on who we want. Always with Boris, everything is hard."

Someone asked Tiriac if he wanted Becker, as precocious a 19-year-old as you will find, to change. "No, not change," Tiriac said, "learn."

So far this year, Becker has learned the hard way.

At least he did not have to worry about the rain. TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES Day

Stadium Court -- Mats Wilander (3), Sweden, vs. Ken Flach, Sebring, Fla. (Wilander leads, 6-3, 6-3); Steffi Graf (1), West Germany, vs. Pam Shriver (5), Lutherville, Md.; Martina Navratilova (2), Fort Worth, vs. Gabriela Sabatini (8), Argentina; Jimmy Connors (6), Sanibel Harbour, Fla., vs. Brad Gilbert (13), Piedmont, Calif.

Grandstand -- Stefan Edberg (2), Sweden, vs. Jonas Svensson, Sweden (Edberg leads, 6-2, 5-5); Chris Evert (3), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., vs. Lori McNeil (11), Houston; Andrei Chesnokov, Soviet Union, vs. Ramesh Krishnan, India; Shriver-Navratilova (1) vs. Elise Burgin, Baltimore-Robin White (7), San Jose. Night

Stadium Court -- Ivan Lendl (1), Czechoslovakia, vs. John McEnroe (8), Cove Neck, N.Y; McNeil-Dan Goldie, McLean, vs. Betsy Nagelsen, Kapalua Bay, Hawaii-Paul Annacone, Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Grandstand -- Navratilova-Emilio Sanchez, Spain, vs. Anne White, Los Angeles-Kelly Jones, San Diego; Zina Garrison, Houston-Sherwood Stewart, The Woodlands, Tex., vs. Mercedes Paz, Argentina-Francisco Gonzalez, Paraguay.