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U.S. OPEN NOTES : McEnroe Draws a Crowd; Seles Shows Up

August 30, 1993|BILL DWYRE | TIMES SPORTS EDITOR

NEW YORK — It was the day before the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament here Sunday, but very little had changed from the past. John McEnroe provided the loudest presence and Monica Seles the biggest intrigue.

McEnroe, who has played in the last 16 Opens and won four of them, was an early victim this time. He was ousted by Andre Agassi in a 7-5 charity tiebreaker in which he tried to run down Agassi's last shot and ended up head first, feet in the air, in the first row of the stands.

It was all for fun, and for the benefit of one of Arthur Ashe's programs to fight AIDS. A crowd of about 17,000 paid $15 each to watch the antics of McEnroe and Agassi, plus a program that included some of the other leading male and female stars of the game, facing each other in quick tiebreakers.

The charity was well served--CBS even televised portions of the festivities--and as McEnroe said, the world's top players finally got together to do something substantial for charity "though it was sad it had to take Arthur's death to make this happen."

McEnroe will not play this year. He retired eight months ago, and explained that Sunday in a new form of Casey Stengel-ese when he said, "I didn't retire. I just took some time off to re-evaluate, although I probably won't play tournament tennis again."

But you can't tell the faithful who flock to this hot and sweaty tennis mecca year after year to worship their serve-and-volley heroes that their Big Mac is now mostly practice hamburger for proteges Agassi and Boris Becker. After McEnroe finished clowning for charity and television on Stadium Court, he moved to the grandstand, hit with Becker and drew by far the largest crowd of any of the practice courts. At the same time, second-seeded Pete Sampras was practicing on the Stadium Court in front of a throng of nine.

The big event of the day, for those into celebrity ogling, was the appearance of Monica Seles. Seles sat in the President's Box and watched the fun during the charity event, marking her first public outing since she was carried off the tennis court April 30 in Hamburg, Germany, after being stabbed.

Security around Seles was tight. She will hold a news conference today.

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Only seven seeded players are on today's schedule, led by the No. 1-ranked female, Steffi Graf, who faces Californian Robin White.

Petr Korda is the highest male seeded player on the docket, and the ninth-seeded Czech might have the day's most competitive match. His opponent, unseeded Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, was a quarterfinalist here last year and was a semifinalist in last year's Australian Open.

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One of the more interesting newcomers to the men's tour is Patrick Rafter of Australia, who got everybody's attention by ousting Sampras in a recent tournament. Rafter was top-seeded for the 64-player qualifying tournament, but failed to make the main draw when he was upset by Bret Garnett of Camden, S.C., Friday. Robbie Weiss was one of the eight qualifiers to make it in, as was Michael Joyce of Los Angeles, a former Wimbledon junior champion.

Tennis Notes

Among the players with Southern California ties competing today are Caroline Kuhlman, Robbie Weiss, Marianne Werdel, Chuck Adams, Byron Black and Patricia Hy. Kuhlman is a former NCAA champion from USC; Weiss a former NCAA champion from Pepperdine; Werdel is a Los Angeles native and former Stanford star; Adams a fast-rising player from Pacific Palisades; Black a former NCAA doubles champion at USC, and Hy is a former UCLA player who had her best Grand Slam run at the U.S. Open last year, when she made it to the quarterfinals and beat Jennifer Capriati along the way. . . . USA Network will carry weekday competition from here, starting at 8 a.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. in L.A. CBS, which will pick up the telecasts on the weekends, will have a nightly highlights show on Channel 2, starting at 12:35 a.m.

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