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U.S. Open Notes : It Rains, So No One Reigns Yet

September 14, 1987|LISA DILLMAN | Special to The Times

NEW YORK — Whenever Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl get together to play a Grand Slam final, there isn't stormy behavior, but often there are storms.

On Sunday, their singles championship final at the U.S. Open was postponed because of rainy weather in the New York area. Now, they will try it again today (Channels 2 and 8, 11 a.m., PDT).

Lendl, knowing the previous history of his series against Wilander and the weather forecast, wasn't surprised by the developments.

"Basically, I could have told you we weren't going to play because the weather forecast was so bad," Lendl said after the match was officially postponed. "I took the day off. I did everything like a day off. I didn't even prepare for a match, and I didn't even hit indoors."

Wilander, too, didn't expect to play and left for the National Tennis Center around 2 p.m., EDT, after sleeping until 11 a.m. He spent the afternoon playing backgammon with his wife Sonya. Lendl watched pro football on television.

"I lost to her, she beat me in straights," Wilander said of his game of backgammon. "I think she has beaten me more. I'm not a good gambler or anything."

Wilander and Lendl also experienced a rain delay when they played in the French Open final in June. They were able to complete the match in one day, however, but Lendl won it in a fourth-set tiebreaker just before darkness.

Probably the most amusing weather-hampered final Lendl and Wilander played was at the Lipton Players International Championships in 1986, which were at Boca West, Fla. that year.

Again, the rains came during the match and delayed it about an hour and a half. There, the spectators wandered over to kill time at the champagne tent, and, when play eventually resumed, the fans were loose and acted as if they were at a football game, rather than a tennis match.

So, in a sense, the only way Wilander and Lendl can seemingly escape bad weather is by playing indoors. And that was the last time they were able to get a match off without a hitch, at the 1986 Masters.

Lendl hasn't lost a set at this year's Open, while Wilander has had to struggle through four-set matches in his last two outings here. Either way, the two-time defending champion, Lendl, is a heavy favorite.

Wilander won three of their first five meetings, but Lendl leads their lifetime series, 11-6. More importantly, he has won their last four matches and eight of the last 10.

After defeating Steffi Graf in the singles championship on Saturday, Martina Navratilova proceeded to win two doubles matches without having to hit one tennis ball.

Graf and Gabriela Sabatini were scheduled to meet Navratilova and Pam Shriver in the women's doubles semifinals after the singles championship on Saturday. However, Graf, who has been suffering from a slight cold, opted not to play and defaulted.

This left Sabatini stranded, and also left Graf open to criticism in some quarters. CBS television commentator Mary Carillo said she was "disappointed in Graf," for skipping out on Sabatini. Also, Graf didn't help her cause by once again fleeing the court--this time, after losing to Navratilova--only to return several minutes later to pick up the finalist's check.

Meanwhile, despite the rain, Navratilova won another doubles match on Sunday when the team of Sergio Casal of Spain and Raffaella Reggi of Italy defaulted their mixed doubles semifinal match. Casal had a commitment to play at a tournament today in Madrid, and was unable to get an extension.

So, weather permitting, Navratilova and Emilio Sanchez of Spain will meet the American team of Betsy Nagelsen and Paul Annacone today in the mixed doubles final. And Shriver and Navratilova play Kathy Jordan and Liz Smylie in the women's doubles final. Navratilova is trying to become the first woman to win all three titles since Margaret Court accomplished the feat in 1970.

Well, it seems as though the only way an American male can appear on the final day of a Grand Slam event is when it gets rained out, and they have to go to the tapes.

CBS, faced with a large time slot to fill on Sunday, showed highlights of the quarterfinal match between Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, the Jimmy Connors-Lendl semifinal and Graf-Navratilova final. Still, there was plenty of time left.

So the network pulled out an epic, McEnroe vs. Connors in the 1984 Open semifinals. By the way, McEnroe won.

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