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U.S. Open Tennis Championships Roundup : At 35, Connors Still Has a Reason to Celebrate

September 03, 1987|From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — Jimmy Connors celebrated his 35th birthday Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Joey Rive in an opening-round match at the U.S. Open.

"This birthday is no different than the last 18 or 20 years," said Connors, who is seeded sixth. "I always celebrate my birthday here."

Connors joked that he received an invitation to play in the men's 35-and-over tournament, adding: "I'm not ready for that yet. I still enjoy playing these guys."

The victory was the 80th for Connors in the U.S. Open since his first appearance in 1970, 30 more than John McEnroe, who is second in victories among men.

In women's play Wednesday, top-seeded Steffi Graf overpowered 18-year-old Bettina Fulco of Argentina, 6-0, 6-3; No. 3-seeded Chris Evert beat Susan Sloane, 6-1, 6-0, and No. 5 Pam Shriver defeated Wendy White, 6-3, 6-3, in a night match delayed 43 minutes because of rain.

Connors, the highest-seeded American male in the tournament, required 1 hour 43 minutes to dispose of Rive, 24, who is ranked No. 101 in the world.

Connors said his blistered right foot didn't bother him during the match.

"It's a day-to-day situation," he said. "Today it was OK."

The five-time Open champion served extremely well against Rive, making good on 89% of his first serves, including 96% in the final set. His service was broken only once.

"I played quite well," he said. "I just wanted to keep my mind on my business."

Graf lost only six points in the first set while stretching her match record for the year to 56-1. Her match against Fulco, ranked No. 55 in the women's rankings, was the first for Graf since she gained the No. 1 ranking last month.

"The last couple of days I wasn't really nervous, but I was anxious to play," she said.

The 18-year-old West German had dental surgery last month after winning a tournament in Manhattan Beach.

"I didn't play for six days," she said. "I had to go back and forth to the dentist. I hate dentists, but I wanted to play in the U.S. Open and be in good shape, so I had it done."

As for her match against Fulco, Graf said: "It was good to play against her because I got into the game. I was able to rally with her, and that was important to me."

Evert, who has won the Open six times, eliminated Sloane in 52 minutes.

"It was my first match, and I was fighting nerves," Evert said. "It felt good to get out and play a match. I feel more vulnerable in the early rounds, and I usually get sharper by the second week."

In other women's matches involving seeded players, No. 11 Lori McNeil defeated Radka Zrubakova of Czechoslovakia, 6-3, 6-1; No. 12 Bettina Bunge beat Mary Lou Piatek, 6-3, 7-5, and No. 16 Wendy Turnbull of Australia topped Bonnie Gadusek, 6-2, 6-1.

Advancing in men's play were No. 2 Stefan Edberg of Sweden, No. 3 Mats Wilander of Sweden, No. 5 Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia, No. 9 Andres Gomez of Ecuador and No. 12 Tim Mayotte.

Edberg downed Derrick Rostagno, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2; Wilander swept John Ross, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1; Mecir beat countryman Karel Novacek, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6; Gomez eliminated Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5, and Mayotte defeated Sammy Giammalva, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1.

No. 15 Martin Jaite of Argentina was upset by Tomas Smid of Czechoslovakia, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.

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