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U.s. Open Preview : Player Profiles

September 01, 1987| Profiles by United Press International

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Ivan Lendl--The defending champion, Lendl has been in the last five Open finals and his 1985 and 1986 victories came in straight sets. He still prefers to pound away from the baseline with his powerful groundstrokes, but the No. 1 ranked player will now mix in a serve-and-volley strategy when necessary. Probably the best-conditioned tennis player in the world, Lendl thinks any four- or five-set match favors him.

Stefan Edberg--Few people realize that Edberg has already won two Grand Slam singles titles, winning the Australian Open in 1985 and 1987. At 21, he's still developing his game, but Edberg's backhand and backhand volley are among the game's best. He's the only one of the Swedish pros who prefers to serve and volley. On Aug. 23, Edberg easily beat Boris Becker in straight sets of the Assn. of Tennis Professionals championship final at Cincinnati.

John McEnroe--The four-time winner of the Open has his intensity again and has spent the past 10 weeks rebuilding his game and his body. His six-hour, five-set Davis Cup epic against Boris Becker proved that McEnroe is still capable of brilliant play. Though still volatile, McEnroe is better able to control his anger. He has occasional on-court lapses of concentration but remains the finest shot-maker on the tour.

Boris Becker--At 19, the two-time Wimbledon champion is trying to continue his development. His power is exceptional and he is working on the finesse shots that would lift him to No. 1. The West German's reputation was built on the grass courts of the All-England Club, but he thinks that when he's at his best, hardcourt could be his best surface. Both he and McEnroe hope their matches will produce tennis' next great rivalry; this pairing would make for the most electric Open final since McEnroe met Bjorn Borg in 1981.

Mats Wilander--Despite being ranked in the top four for the past four years, Wilander has reached the Open semifinals only once. Until the past two years, the Swede would only stray from the baseline if forced. Now he will rush the net without provocation. He also has developed a one-handed backhand.

Miloslav Mecir--Surprise finalist at the 1986 Open, Mecir is probably the least-known top 10 player in the world. Becker says Mecir has the sport's best return of serve. Nicknamed "The Big Cat," the Czechoslovakian has tremendous anticipation. Not a powerful player, he plays a cat-and-mouse game of placement that is mentally trying for an opponent.

Jimmy Connors--Five-time champion of the Open, Connors will turn 35 on Wednesday. A semifinalist at Wimbledon in July, he is still tenacious but occasionally shows his age with late-set weariness. If there are some upsets and Connors' trip through the draw is eased, he could manage another title.

Pat Cash--The 22-year-old Wimbledon champion from Australia is most comfortable on grass, but his athletic ability is so exceptional he is capable of anything. A semifinalist at the 1984 Open, Cash has since endured severe back problems and an emergency appendectomy. His attitude and concentration have improved tremendously, and opponents can no longer depend upon Cash's eventual self-destruction.

Anders Jarryd--The Swede with the herky-jerky shots is a longshot. He is capable of a major upset but not a series of them. Jarryd's forehand is powerful and his sharply angled backhand can be devastating. Ranked No. 5 in mid-1985, knee surgery dropped him to No. 19 by the end of 1986.

Tim Mayotte--The powerful American has not gotten beyond the round of 16 at the Open, but his mental approach improves each year. Mayotte, who plays well against the world's best, often struggles against lesser players. The early rounds of a tournament are often his toughest. If his confidence doesn't break, Mayotte could win.

WOMEN

Steffi Graf--Ranked No. 1 in the world, the 18-year-old West German has exceptional speed and a powerhouse forehand. Her backhand and serve have developed into strengths. This year likely has marked just the beginning of the Graf Era. Turned pro at age 13, but her father has tried to ensure that burnout won't happen to this teen-ager. Mentally tough, she is at her best on crucial points and often appears calmer than older opponents.

Martina Navratilova--A three-time Open champion, Navratilova is the defending champion but not the favorite. A good strategist with impeccable strokes and power, she is still prone to nerves in big matches. An ankle injury disrupted her summer. At Los Angeles, her first tournament since the injury, she managed to win only three games against Chris Evert.

Chris Evert--A six-time winner of the Open, Evert, in 16 Opens, has never failed to reach the semifinals. At 32, she is in the best physical condition of her career and is still a nerveless competitor. Evert rarely loses to players ranked below her. She is less willing to engage in endless baseline rallies and now comes to the net more often.

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