The Associated Press
NEW YORK Ÿ The men of clay ruled the hardcourts of the U.S. Open on Wednesday, French Open champion Thomas Muster enduring the antics of the wildest wild card and runner-up Michael Chang making a joke of his embarrassed opponent.
Muster, a stranger to green surfaces despite his No. 3 seeding, arrived jet-lagged from winning the oddest of tuneup tournaments on clay in Croatia on Sunday. Every other top player practiced on hardcourts for at least a month before the U.S. Open. Not Muster.
Clay is where Muster makes his living and earns his ranking, and if he could pick up some extra bucks and extra points in Croatia, that's where he was going. That trip close to a war zone paid off in his 10th title on clay this year.
Against Luke Jensen, the clown prince of tennis, Muster didn't need much practice of any kind to walk away with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-0 victory. It wasn't nearly as impressive as Chang's 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 rout of Gianluca Pozzi Ÿ the most lopsided men's match in the Open since 1987 Ÿ and it did nothing to convince Muster he could actually win this Grand Slam event.
''That would be fantastic,'' he said. ''But being realistic, I am in the second round. I am facing Mark Woodforde, who I have never beat on hardcourt, so it is a very difficult draw for me. Let the favorites be the favorites.''
One notch below Muster in the seeding but a stronger favorite to win is 1989 champion Boris Becker, who beat fellow German Carsten Arriens 6-1, 6-3, 7-5.
One of the women's favorites, top seed Steffi Graf, played a mediocre match and still won easily, beating 96th-ranked Rita Grande 6-1, 6-3 in 44 minutes. Grande sprayed 31 errors to give the match to Graf, who looked as if she sleepwalked through it after opening the program with her first match Tuesday.
Jensen, his ponytail flying, certainly was the crowd favorite in his match against Muster, serving lefty and righty, screaming and pumping his fist and doing his best to rouse the fans. He changed shirts four times, starting out and finishing up with a No. 42 football jersey in honor of fellow Southern Cal alum Ronnie Lott, but his tennis was hardly the equal of Muster's.
''It was his show, my win,'' said Muster, who reached the quarters of the Open the past two years after recovering from a car accident that nearly ended his career.
Jensen, the brother who did not disappear at Wimbledon but was left to explain where Murphy might have gone, was happy just to be playing as a wild card and had no expectation of winning.
''He's No. 3 in the world, I'm No. 3 million,'' Jensen said. ''The guy really is an animal. He is one of the most fit players. He plays full-court press on you. He tries to keep the points moving all the time. He is always leaning on you, always putting pressure on you, so you tend to play a little quicker. You don't recover as fast after points, and he buries you.
''He makes you work for points and he just chews you up and spits you out. He goes, 'Next victim, please.'''
Muster played the same kind of baseline game as he did in winning the French in straight sets against Chang in June, muscling shots deep down the lines, keeping the ball in play and making few mistakes. Pushed to a tiebreaker in the first set, Muster won it in typical fashion, capping a long rally with a forehand into the corner that Jensen could only flick back short of the net.
Muster yielded only four points on serve in the second set, then raced through the third set while allowing Jensen just seven points in six games. A dour and serious player so opposite Jensen in personality, the Austrian may ultimately reveal more of himself in his art than he does in his tennis.
''I am doing acrylics, painting on linens sometimes, trying to really get emotions there and colors,'' he said. ''Don't ask me to paint or draw a horse because you would not recognize it. I like to do very colorful paintings.''
Chang delivered the worst beating since Ivan Lendl's triple bagel of South African Barry Moir eight years ago. Pozzi won only nine points in the first set, 11 in the second and nine in the third as Chang took him apart from the baseline and the net in just 63 minutes.
Unlike Muster, Chang doesn't mind venturing onto hardcourts despite his success on clay. The 1989 French champion and victor over Andre Agassi to win the AT&T Challenge on clay in May, Chang also was runner-up to Agassi in the ATP Championship on hardcourts at Cincinnati two weeks ago.
But the easy victory over Pozzi didn't fool Chang into thinking he'd beat everyone that way.
''I want to stay sharp,'' he said. ''I don't want to start thinking things will come easy. That is where things get very dangerous.''
In other men's matches, No. 8 Michael Stich beat Javier Sanchez 6-2, 6-3, 6-0, and No. 12 Richard Krajicek defeated Karel Novacek, a semifinalist last year, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Krajicek next plays Justin Gimelstob, who gained a wild card into the tournament by winning the USTA boys 18 championship. Gimelstob won his first Grand Slam match Wednesday, beating David Prinosil 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.
''It is a great feeling,'' Gimelstob said. ''I persevered, and hopefully it is one of many. I am just happy that my dreams are starting to come to fruition.''
Gimelstob, a straight-A student at UCLA, still isn't sure if he will turn pro before the start of the school term.
''That is a tough question,'' he said. ''My dream always has been to be a pro, and when I am good enough I think I will turn pro. Right now, I don't know if I am or I might me.''
Asked what he's studying at UCLA, Gimelstob replied: ''Girls. They don't want to study me, so that I spend the rest of my time studying English, history, the basic classes.''
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the women's No. 3 seed, beat Joannette Kruger 6-4, 6-3; No. 6 Mary Pierce crushed Tatyana Jecmenica 6-3, 6-0; unseeded 14-year-old Martina Hingis upset No. 8 Magdalena Maleeva 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
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