NEW YORK, SEPT. 10 -- In a sense, there have been two U.S. Opens going on in the men's competition during the last 10 days. The one that has been getting all the attention was the one with Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
The other one might as well be the Grand Prix stop in Livingston, N.J., for all the attention it has received. Today, that changed.
With Lendl and Connors in the semifinals in the glamor half of the draw, today was the day to decide semifinalists in the other half. Both winners are Swedish, second-seeded Stefan Edberg easily beating Ramesh Krishnan, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, and Mats Wilander outwaiting Miloslav Mecir, 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4, 7-6 (7-0), in 3 1/2 hours.
It was as if someone had transported the red clay of the French Open's Roland Garros to Flushing Meadow, painted it green and put it on the stadium court. They rallied. And rallied. And rallied.
Wilander hates playing Mecir, as his 2-5 record coming in against the 1986 runner-up will attest. But Mecir has not been as sharp this year as last year, when he beat Wilander here in four sets.
Wilander broke to start the match, rolled through the first set and broke early in the second. But it wasn't going to be that easy. Mecir, with his quickness and rolling, graceful groundstrokes, broke back, won the tie breaker with a backhand volley and evened the match.
But Wilander came back to win the third, breaking at 5-4 with a gorgeous topspin lob. When he jumped to a 3-0 lead in the fourth, it looked as if Mecir would be fishing this weekend.
Then, enigmatic as ever, Mecir began to attack, and climbed right back to break twice and lead, 4-3. The match turned comedic after that, neither player able to hold serve. Wilander broke one last time and they went to another tie breaker.
But Mecir had nothing left. Wilander blitzed him in the tie breaker and he was in the Open semifinals for the second time.
"It was certainly a strange match," Wilander said. "I played him the same way I did last year when I lost, but I served better. I got some free points on my serve and that may have been the difference."
Mecir, shorn of his trademark beard, was as stoic as ever. "Tennis is confidence," he said. "The player with more of it wins."
Edberg has as much confidence as anyone right now. He has had an excellent 12 months and might be the one player left with a chance to keep Lendl from winning his third straight title. Last year he lost to Lendl in the semifinals here in straight sets. Since then he has won his second Australian Open and reached the Wimbledon semfinals -- losing to Lendl there, too.
"I think I've become a better player in the last year," Edberg said. "My back court game is much better now and, because I have more confidence in it, I don't feel I have to get to the net right away. I can pick my spot to come in now."
A year ago when he played Krishnan in the third round, the graceful Indian made Edberg's life miserable for almost four hours, passing shots whizzing past Edberg's ears until Edberg's power finally wore him down in the fifth set.
Krishnan, unseeded here, had played wonderful tennis to reach the quarterfinals. He beat 10th-seeded Joakim Nystrom in the second round, then destroyed Johan Kriek and Andrei Chesnokov, reaching the final eight without losing a set.
Playing Krishnan is a little bit like trying to solve a crossword puzzle. Nothing is quite what it appears to be. He is 27, but looks 17. At 5 feet 7 and 160 pounds, he looks too chunky to get around the court. But he runs down everything. His serve is so soft, it looks killable. Players inevitably try to do too much with it.
"The way I have to play is to make the other guy make mistakes," he said. "I'm not going to overpower anybody." Quietly, he has had a solid career. This was his second quarterfinal appearance here -- in the other he gave John McEnroe fits for four sets in 1981 -- and his third Grand Slam quarterfinal, the other coming at Wimbledon last year.
Krishnan's chances of moving one more step, into a Grand Slam semifinal, went aglimmering quickly today. Edberg broke Krishnan in the third game of the match, attacking his second serve from the beginning.
"He's moving a lot better than last year," Krishnan said. "Last year, he kept trying to be aggressive but not always at the right time. This year, he was less aggressive but much smarter."
Edberg has one of the classic serves in tennis: a high toss, well behind his head, arched back and boom! But Krishnan said it is not just the serve that makes Edberg tough. "He serves well, but more than that he gets in tight on his first volley. It's very hard to stay in a point with him."
Today, Edberg kept pressuring him and Krishnan kept making mistakes. The key game came with Edberg up, 2-0, in the second set.
Krishnan served a marathon game. Sixteen deuces. Krishnan had seven game points, Edberg had 10 break points. Edberg would hit a winner, Krishnan would hit one. Edberg would make an error, Krishnan would make one. And on and on and on.
"I think that was the longest game I ever played," Edberg said. "It seemed like neither one of us could win it. I was starting to get tired out there, but I guess so was he. After I won that game, he really went down."
Edberg finally won with a gorgeous backhand down the line and a netted Krishnan backhand.
"If I returned really well, I would have had a chance to beat him," Krishnan said. "But I didn't do that today. Someone will have to put a lot of pressure on him to beat him."
That someone is likely to be Lendl in the final.
Yet, Edberg seems to believe he can win here. "Everything seems to be going my way right now," he said. "I'm playing about as well as I can. I really believe that if I play the way I'm capable that I have a chance against anybody.
"Sooner or later, if I keep playing well, people will notice me," he said with a wry smile. If he makes it to Sunday and beats the Open's defending champion, that certainly will be true.
U.S. Open Notes:
When Richard Ings, the 22-year-old Australian umpire, gave John McEnroe a point penalty and a game penalty Saturday, he became an instant celebrity -- a highly praised one at that. Sunday, when Ings walked into the daily umpires meeting at the U.S. Open, he received a standing ovation from his colleagues.
Ings is one of five professional umpires on the men's tour. But when the men play the semifinals Saturday, Ings will be in Australia. "He was only scheduled to work here through Tuesday," Grand Prix Supervisor Ken Farrar said. "We have trouble at all the Grand Slams getting the professional umpires matches late in the tournament. We've come a long way, but we still have a lot more to do."
Richard Kaufman, the senior man among the pro umpires, will work the men's final Sunday. But the semifinals will be worked by two part-time, certified umpires . . .
Ken Flach and Robert Seguso finished a remarkable 24 hours. In a match started Wednesday night, they played well past midnight before beating Paul Annacone and Mike DePalmer in a five-set quarterfinal. Today, they beat defending champions Slobodan Zivojinovic and Andres Gomez, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5. Friday, they will play Edberg and Anders Jarryd, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 winners over Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez . . .
The $100,000 tennis tournament to be held in Washington, D.C., on May 19-22 will be named The Dow World Senior Open Championship. It is sponsored by Dow Chemical Co. Alvin Bunis, who announced the event Wednesday, said it will have 12 of the world's top seniors. A site has not been set.