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U.S. OPEN : Delays Prove Restful for Chang


NEW YORK — How hard is it to beat Michael Chang four consecutive times? For most of a soggy Saturday at the U.S. Open, it was about as tough as getting a match played.

Squeegees outnumbered rackets for a while, which proved to be only a mild inconvenience for Chang, who used a series of rain delays to get ready to play Bernd Karbacher.

Because he already was 0-3 against Karbacher, Chang decided the best way to prepare for the match was to submit it to his subconscious. He took a nap on a massage table in the locker room.

As it turned out, it was a match Chang probably could have won in his sleep. Chang spotted Karbacher a set and a service break, then came back to score a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, third-round decision.

Actually, it might have gone the other way if Karbacher had cashed in the break point he had for 5-4 in the second set, which would have let him serve for a two-set lead.

Chang was asked to gauge the size of Karbacher's failure.

"It was a very big deal," he said. "I was very fortunate to squeak out of that second set."

Karbacher knew the score: "If I am two-love up, then I think the match is over."

But he didn't and it wasn't. In fact, while Chang and Karbacher were busy bashing balls around the Grandstand Court, Pete Sampras was putting the finishing touches on an impressive blowout of Arnaud Boetsch, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

It all might have been over a lot quicker, but the rain forced about a five-hour delay in the start of Sampras' match, which was moved from its spot as the second match of the day session to the night session.

None of it made any difference to Sampras. He needed only 1 hour 36 minutes and six aces to breeze past Boetsch despite missing on eight of 14 break-point chances.

So far, Sampras is on the same pace as 1990, when he was an unheralded 19-year-old with a crooked grin and a straight serve.

That's about where the similarities end, Sampras said.

"Let's see, this time three years ago I was basically just kind of still in the tournament and seeded 12, expectations weren't really too high.

"I am just a different player than I was three years ago. I had two unbelievable weeks. Hopefully that will happen here."

In another third-round match that was completed about seven hours after it began because of rain delays, energetic Thomas Muster defeated Patrick McEnroe by the symmetrical score of 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Muster rarely used his chair during changeovers, which is pretty much typical behavior for him.

"It is just for me I don't feel like sitting down," he said. "It is not necessary for me, it is nonsense to have the chairs there. I could have played long ago when there was no chair in the changeover."

Speaking of furniture, could Chang have beaten Karbacher if there had been no massage table in the locker room?

We'll never know. But Chang is hoping that fourth-round opponent Wayne Ferreira might lose a little sleep worrying about Chang's net game.

That's right, Chang's net game. He won 20 of 29 points at the net against Karbacher, which indicated to Chang that he is gaining some confidence.

But there are limits.

"By no means am I Stefan Edberg at the net," he said.

This is probably a good thing since Edberg is no longer at the net, but back home in London after losing in the second round.

Meanwhile, Thomas Enqvist, the 19-year-old from Stockholm who beat Andre Agassi in the first round, gets a shot at Sampras next.

Enqvist swept Byron Black in straight sets, then had a ready answer when asked what players he looked up to as a youngster.

"The Swedish," he said.

U.S. Open Notes

Rain delays of nearly five hours forced Saturday's schedule to be juggled, with the two principal casualties the postponement until today of two third-round women's singles matches: No. 2-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario against Chanda Rubin and No. 3 Martina Navratilova against Barbara Rittner. . . . Thomas Muster's victory over Patrick McEnroe was the only match of the day session that was completed on Stadium Court. If the entire day program had been washed out, the United States Tennis Assn. would have had to issue ticket refunds of about $350,000. . . . Maleeva update: All three of the Maleeva sisters reached the fourth round, where two will play each other--Katerina versus Magdalena. Manuela plays Conchita Martinez in another round-of-16 match. . . . No. 16-seeded Zina Garrison was upset by Natalia Zvereva, 6-4, 6-3, and gave her a limp handshake afterward. Said Zvereva: "She was upset. She didn't seem like she was really there." In her first U.S. Open, Maria Jose Gaidano meets Zvereva in the fourth round. Gaidano, a 20-year-old from Brazil who speaks four languages, got into the main draw when Mary Joe Fernandez pulled out with an injury.

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