The Associated Press
NEW YORK ‹ Jim Courier wandered out of his strange wilderness and into contention at the U.S. Open on Tuesday, thumping foot-sore French Open champion Thomas Muster in straight sets on a day when upsets reigned.
There was no indifference by Courier this time, none of the haphazard stretches or moody moments that have marked his descent in the rankings.
This time, for the better part of two hours, he was the Courier of old, drilling 10 aces, drumming baseline winners and reaching the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-0, 7-6 (7-4) romp over the No. 3 Muster, a clay court specialist who ripped up his feet on these hot hardcourts.
Courier, No. 14, will find out just how far back he¹s come when he plays his next match against No. 5 Michael Chang, a 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Michael Tebbutt.
In a women¹s quarterfinal match, Gabriela Sabatini beat Mary Joe Fernandez 6-1, 6-3, two days after Fernandez ousted defending champ Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
Muster¹s bleeding blisters were covered with a yard of tape, but for all it mattered he might as well have played barefoot the way little Byron Black of Zimbabwe used to do. Black, who¹s grown up to all of 5-foot-9, pulled the first upset of the afternoon by sending 6-foot-4, 1994 runner-up Michael Stich packing, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3.
ŒŒI played a lot of barefoot,¹¹ Black said of his youth on the grass courts his father installed back home. ŒŒI have very high arches. I started getting a very bad heel, and then I had to play in shoes, although my dad didn¹t like me tearing up his court too much.¹¹
Black tore up Stich with a variety of two-fisted forehands and backhands, and the net-charging Stich accommodated him with 79 unforced errors.
ŒŒI know how he plays, and I just think I got off to a very bad start,¹¹ said the No. 8 Stich. ŒŒHe didn¹t make any unforced errors. From the third set on, I was just in charge. I changed my style. I went for more. I had my chance in the fifth set, that break-point for 2-1, but I just gave it away. I played a poor game, made a double-fault and missed an easy volley.¹¹
Courier and Muster waged a fierce baseline duel, slugging hard all the way, but Courier took more chances and put away more winners ‹ 42 to 14 ‹ while out-acing Muster 10-0.
ŒŒPersonally, I feel good going out against Thomas on any surface, even clay,¹¹ Courier said. ŒŒHe¹s had a phenomenal year, and he deserves all the credit he¹s gotten. We¹re going to play the same match on any surface. We¹re going to play power vs. power, even on clay.¹¹
Once the best player in the game, the winner of four Grand Slam titles from 1991 to 1993, Courier lost in the second round of the Open a year ago and drifted in this year with few of the other players giving him a chance of winning.
But Courier said he started to feel good about his tennis a few days before the Open started.
ŒŒWhen I feel good,¹¹ he said, ŒŒI always play well.
ŒŒSometimes you have to take some steps backward to take some more steps forward. I really haven¹t pinpointed it. All I know is that¹s the way it is. Today I am playing well, and I am going to try to keep playing well for a good long time.²
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