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Masters Tennis Championship : Gilbert Upsets Becker; Connors Forced to Quit

December 05, 1987|From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — Eighth-seeded Brad Gilbert, after being down a set and a service break, overcame fifth-seeded Boris Becker, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, Friday night in the $500,000 Nabisco Masters tennis tournament.

Earlier, top-seeded Ivan Lendl took advantage of an ailing Jimmy Connors to win a berth in the semifinals along with third-seeded Mats Wilander and second-seeded Stefan Edberg. Connors, seeded sixth, was forced to retire while trailing, 4-3, because of respiratory problems.

Gilbert's upset victory, his third over Becker this year after losing the first set, left open one berth to be decided for Sunday's semifinals.

Becker, with a 1-1 record in round-robin competition, must defeat Lendl in straight sets today to gain the spot. Otherwise, Gilbert, who completed the round-robin phase at 2-1, would earn the berth on the basis of percentage of sets won.

Gilbert, who beat Becker in the U.S. Open after losing the first two sets, trailed, 2-0, in the second set this time. In a struggle that lasted 2 1/2 hours and ended two minutes before midnight, he gained the decisive break in the seventh game of the final set when Becker hit a backhand wide.

Becker, after serving 17 aces the previous night against Connors, managed only 3 against Gilbert, with 9 double faults.

"When I was down a set and a break, I figured I was in a lot of trouble and I figured it was time to loosen up and take a few chances," Gilbert said. "It paid off."

He said he has no gripe about the fact Becker can take away the semifinal berth from him by beating Lendl.

"If he beats the No. 1 player in the world in straight sets, there's nothing I can do," Gilbert said. "I'll go home and have an early vacation."

After Becker staved off three break points to hold his serve in the opening game, there were four consecutive service breaks. Gilbert double-faulted on break point of the second game, and in the next game, Becker committed three double faults.

In the first five games, there were a total of 14 break points and 7 deuces.

Becker gained the decisive break in the 10th game on his third set point.

Two more double faults by Becker enabled Gilbert to break at love in the fifth game of the second set, and Gilbert served out the set.

Connors, meanwhile, finally gave in to the cold that has been troubling him all week. After 35 minutes, he informed chair umpire Gerry Armstrong he was unable to continue.

Connors had already lost his first two matches in the tournament and had virtually no chance of making the semifinals.

"It's tough to play when you can't breathe," he said after the match. "I was talking to the trainers and doctors, and they said after three days your resistance is virtually non-existent.

"I'm sick. I want to go home and get well. It's enough."

Connors, who has an ear infection as well as a cold and also is troubled by a sore right foot, broke Lendl in the second game to take a 2-0 lead, but Lendl retaliated with breaks in the third and fifth games and was up a break when Connors retired.

Lendl, who has beaten Connors 15 straight times, said he wished the match had lasted longer.

"He would have helped me if we played longer," Lendl said. "What can I do? It's out of my control."

Earlier, Wilander secured spots in Sunday's semifinals for himself and fellow Swede Edberg, who was idle Friday, by beating Pat Cash, 7-6, 6-3.

Lendl, Wilander and Edberg all have 2-0 records in the round robin.

Wilander got the jump on Cash with a service break in the fifth game but said later he lost his concentration, allowing Cash to break back in the 10th game. Wilander took five of the last six points in the tiebreaker, which he won, 7-3.

Wilander, beating Cash for the third time in seven meetings, swept the first three games of the second set, conceding four points. Cash got the break back in the fifth game, only to see Wilander score the decisive break in the next game at love.

"I think he's a better player now than before Wimbledon," Wilander said of the 22-year-old Australian. "Just because you win Wimbledon doesn't mean that you're automatically in the top five."

Although neither can win the tournament, Cash must play Miloslav Mecir today in the final round-robin match. They are both 0-2.

"I'm going out there to win, but we'll both be a little more relaxed," Cash said. "We don't have a chance to get in (the semifinals), so it will be different than if it was a live match."

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