NEW YORK, SEPT. 12 -- Mats Wilander did two things today for the first time in his tennis career: he reached the final of the U.S. Open and he threw a temper tantrum -- but not in that order. Ivan Lendl did two things he does all the time: he beat Jimmy Connors and reached the Open final.

Lendl's 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Connors put him into the final here for the sixth straight year. It was also the 14th straight victory for Lendl over his one-time tormentor.

"I'm playing really solid and confident right now," Lendl said. "I knew if I didn't give him any easy points, I should be able to beat him."

Now, the only thing standing between Lendl and a third straight Open title is Wilander, whose behavior today en route to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over fellow Swede Stefan Edberg was decidedly out of character.

It began Friday evening, when Wilander learned that U.S. Tennis Association officials had decided to move up the starting time of the match an hour to 10 a.m., because rain had been predicted for this afternoon. Wilander left the grounds before the decision was made and learned of it at about 7 p.m. when he returned to his Manhattan apartment and was told the news by his mother-in-law.

"I didn't think it was fair," Wilander said. "I don't think you should play a Grand Slam semifinal at 10 in the morning. Stefan played {doubles} yesterday, we both played singles Thursday. The other two guys haven't played since Wednesday. They should have played first."

Connors and Lendl were not about to play first. CBS pays the USTA more than $12 million a year for the television rights to the tournament. In return, the USTA gives the network almost total control over scheduling. There was no way CBS would accept Wilander-Edberg as the feature match of the afternoon.

"This is an American tournament," said Grand Prix Supervisor Ken Farrar. "We had to go by which was likely to be the more popular match. That was Connors-Lendl. Let's face it, we're selling a product here."

In fact, the USTA did turn down one CBS request. That was to play the two men's matches simultaneously, with the Swedes on the grandstand court. "It was an idea that never got out of the {scheduling committee} room," said tournament referee Gayle Bradshaw. "But it did come up. There was no way to put a semifinal on the grandstand court."

And so the Swedes were called to the court at 10 a.m. Wilander wasn't budging, however. He said he and Edberg even discussed waiting in the locker room until 11, knowing that they weren't about to be defaulted. "We could have stayed there until 11, but we didn't think that was right, either," Wilander said. "We feel a responsibility; maybe more than some other guys do."

"I really don't remember what we talked about," Edberg said. "It was too early."

Farrar and Bradshaw learned at about 10:10 that the Swedes were staging their mini-protest. "It wasn't very complicated," Wilander said. "I just said I'd go out at quarter past 10." When Farrar and Bradshaw arrived in the locker room, Wilander disappeared into the bathroom. At 10:15, he appeared and declared himself ready.

Once it started, it was Edberg who couldn't answer the early wakeup call. After leading, 40-0, in the first game, his game disappared. By the time it returned, he was down, 4-0.

"I just wasn't in the match at the beginning," said Edberg, who played almost four hours Friday while winning the doubles title with Anders Jarryd. "He came out playing really well and it took me a while to even get into the match. Then I started playing well. But he played very well. I don't feel that disappointed about losing because I just lost to a guy who was better today."

Even though Edberg likes to attack, Wilander makes it difficult to come in. And even though Wilander came in today far more than he usually does, the rallies still were lengthy. Early in the third set, after the two men had played a 28-point, 11-deuce game, Ted Tinling, the famous designer, described the match: "It's like 'Old Man River,' " he said, "It just keeps rolling along forever."

Actually, it rolled for 3 hours 16 minutes and, ironically, there was a lot more aggressive play than during the Connors-Lendl match.

The key game was the 28-pointer. Wilander, after running through the first set, practically gave Edberg the second, serving his worst game of the match at 3-4. Edberg served out the set and appeared to be in control.

But Wilander, who is only 23, has had an excellent year in his quiet way. He dominated the European clay court circuit, winning three straight tournaments, including the Italian Open. He lost the French Open final to Lendl because he attempted to stay back and grind Lendl into the red clay. Wilander had been angered when he arrived late without equipment for an exhibition in Barcelona this spring and a well-rested Lendl destroyed him, 6-0, 6-0. Wilander told friends that the next time he got Lendl on a clay court, he would make him play five hours. He did that -- but cost himself the match.

Wilander has improved his serve, and that was evident today. He broke Edberg in that second game on the 10th break point when Edberg missed a forehand. That was Edberg's albatross all day, a wild forehand.

"I think the wind really hurt him," Wilander said. "I don't mind playing in wind, but he has trouble serving sometimes when it's windy." Edberg served inconsistently, but not poorly, although he did put one mis-hit serve a good 10 rows deep in the stands. Still, he had plenty of chances, but couldn't convert.

"He just played the big points better than I did," said Edberg, 21. "It just wasn't my day. He served well, lobbed very well and played a good match tactically."

Wilander, who didn't double fault, served out the third set, then broke to lead, 2-1, in the fourth when Edberg served his fifth -- and last -- double fault. Wilander got to 4-2 after saving four break points in a 10-deuce game.

Edberg got the break back to 4-4, coming in on Wilander's second serve and finding his forehand to blast a winner down the line on break point. It looked like a new match, a five-setter. Looks were deceiving.

Wilander broke right back, ripping a backhand crosscourt and then watching Edberg punch a forehand volley deep.

What was most remarkable about these two games was the reaction of each player to success: Edberg was pumping his fists a la Connors, Wilander throwing his arms in the air. When he served out the match at 15, Wilander went a step further, jumping into the air to celebrate.

Lendl showed no such emotion. His victory was as workmanlike as his previous five. He has not lost a set in the tournament, has won 20 straight Open matches and has lost two sets in the process.

To beat Lendl, a player must force him into mistakes. The only way to do that is to serve very hard and get to the net. Connors can do neither. He can still return serve as well as anyone, he can still chase down balls and he can still blast a winner off the ground. But not like Lendl.

Lendl serves harder, runs better, is eight years younger and doesn't knock forehands into the net. Today, it took 2 1/2 hours. Connors had the crowd believing in miracles until Lendl broke to lead, 4-3, in the first set. Connors hung in a while longer, saving two set points at 3-5, then putting Lendl in a 0-40 hole in the next game.

But Lendl hit three winners: a forehand, a serve and a forehand, saved one more break point by passing Connors with a backhand, then served out the set. It was routine after that.

Lendl finished it with one last blistering forehand down the line. Connors was beaten, but not bowed. He left, waving an appreciative index finger to the crowd, his arm around his 8-year-old son, Brett.