NEW YORK — When the subject is a quarterfinal meeting between John McEnroe and Boris Becker at the U.S. Open, the waiting becomes the hardest part. After both players scored easy second-round victories Thursday, it dwindled down to T-minus two rounds and counting.
And people, most assuredly, are counting. The fans are counting, tournament officials are counting, the media are counting.
Even McEnroe and Becker are counting.
"I'm looking forward to it," said McEnroe, a 6-0, 7-6, 6-1 winner over Canada's Martin Wostenholme. "People are caught up in it. I guess it's because it's the only interesting match.
"I don't know. It's kind of sad. You would hope there is more to tennis. We've got to diversify. . . . But I have to congratulate (Becker) on that. I just hope he respects his elders a little."
Said Becker, a 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 winner over Huub van Boeckel of the Netherlands: "Yes, of course, I'm looking forward to it. He was the last Wimbledon champion. I'm the new one. I think he's the best player in the world, and I'm trying to be the best. It's going to be a good match, I think."
McEnroe and Becker met for the first time since Wimbledon between matches Thursday, McEnroe walking off the court and Becker walking on. McEnroe shook Becker's hand and told the 17-year-old, "Nice going at Wimbledon."
McEnroe owns running feuds with top contenders Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors, but he seems to welcome the challenge Becker presents him.
"What impresses me is that he doesn't look or act 17," McEnroe said. "When I played him earlier this year, he hit the ball as hard as or harder than Connors or Lendl--and those are the hardest-hitting guys I've played against.
"It's unbelievable to think that I'm nine years older than him. When I was 18 and 19, I was acting 18 and 19. The way he talks, the way he carries himself, there's something different. A certain maturity.
"When I was his age, I was thrown out on my own to Wimbledon by the USTA. I stayed in a $3-a-night hotel room. Becker, he's already got a watch contract."
McEnroe did, however, have one word of advice for the teen-ager.
"If he keeps diving like that on hard courts, he better be careful with himself," he said. "He's not gonna last long doing that."
When informed of McEnroe's comments, Becker grinned. "Well, it's a special technique, you know," he said.
"Yes. After two matches at Wimbledon, I had dived maybe 10 times. Here only two. That's the difference."
Crossing the Kriek: Joining Kevin Curren and Henrik Sundstrom, Johan Kriek Thursday became the third seeded player to meet elimination in the men's division.
Kriek, seeded 12th, was knocked out in a second-round match by Greg Holmes, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. For Holmes, it wasn't his first upset at the U.S. Open. In 1983, while still a collegian at the University of Utah, he stunned Guillermo Vilas in straight sets--a victory that prompted him to turn pro two weeks later.
In another men's match, John Lloyd, a quarterfinalist here in 1984, was eliminated by 13th-seeded Tim Mayotte, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 7-5.
The other seeded players in the men's bracket encountered only moderate trouble. Mats Wilander (No. 3) swept Bruce Foxworth, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3; Anders Jarryd defeated Mike Bauer, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3; Joakim Nystrom (No. 10) ousted Robert Green, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, and Tomas Smid (No. 16) downed Vilas, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.
In the women's division, top-seeded Chris Evert Lloyd coasted by Italy's Raffaella Reggi, 6-0, 6-3; Hana Mandlikova (No. 3) stopped Great Britain's Annabel Croft, 6-3, 6-3; Claudia Kohde-Kilsch (No. 5) routed Argentina's Adriana Villagran, 6-1, 6-1; Helena Sukova (No. 7) ousted Beverly Bowes, 6-3, 6-1, and Bonnie Gadusek (No. 14) downed Yugoslavia's Mima Jausovec, 6-0, 4-6, 6-2.