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U.S. OPEN : Pioline Takes a Little Off the Top--Courier : Tennis: Frenchman, seeded 15th, dominates play. Courier is sixth consecutive top-seeded man not to win title.

September 08, 1993|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — As dark clouds spread over the U.S. Open once again Tuesday, it was time for another fond farewell.

This is a tournament in danger of being known more for who is gone than who is left. So far, goodbys have been said to Andre, Stefan, Martina, Sergi, and Ivan.

Just before the rain hit, it was time for someone else to go.

Au revoir , Jim.

Cedric Pioline, the 24-year-old son of volleyball-playing parents from Neuilly Sur Seine, France, spiked Jim Courier, the No. 1 player in the world, in four simple sets, 7-5, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4.

Thus continued what has become a distressing streak of bad luck for the Open's No. 1-seeded men. It was the sixth consecutive year that the top-seeded player in the men's field failed to win the title.

Courier didn't seem too devastated over being included in such a statistic, maybe because he really was not much of a match for Pioline.

As for explanations, Courier offered a brief one: "He didn't miss much."

It remains to be seen if Courier is going to miss out on the No. 1 ranking. Pete Sampras, who plays Michael Chang in the quarterfinals today, can move past Courier and regain the No. 1 ranking by reaching the final.

There isn't going to be any Open final for Courier this year, not after Pioline pushed him around the court with a variety of shots hit with all kinds of velocity.

The idea was to make Courier hit until he missed and Courier cooperated. It was just one of those days, said Courier, who really hasn't had very many of them in an otherwise rock-solid year at the Grand Slams.

Courier reached three Grand Slam finals and won at Australia, his fourth major title.

"Over a two-week period you are going to have one match where you don't play your best," Courier said.

"And to get through, you know, you have to win those matches. Most of the time I do, but today I didn't."

Pioline had something to do with the outcome. He saved four of the five break points against him, knocked 12 aces, won 53 of 66 points at the net and had 66 winners.

He also broke Courier's serve three times in the last two sets, right after he blew the second set after leading, 3-1, in the tiebreaker.

All in all, it was a joyous experience for the 6-foot-2 right-hander, ranked No. 14 and seeded 15th here.

"What can I say? I mean, I played on center court against No. 1 seed, I beat him, I just happy," said Pioline, who was bucking some pretty heavy statistics against Courier.

Not only was Courier 3-0 against Pioline, he had won five titles this year and hadn't lost a set in the tournament.

On the other hand, Pioline's reputation revolved around being the highest-ranked men's player never to have won a title.

Pioline didn't expect to win and neither did his coach, Henri Dumont, who flew back to Paris Tuesday and his other job as a business consultant.

Whether Pioline will join him anytime soon or possibly hang around and bid adieu to someone else the rest of the week, well, it remains to be seen.

Courier didn't sound totally convinced.

"Well, if he plays like today, he has got as good a chance as anybody," he said.

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