Courier to face Chang in U.S. Open

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 hes 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 womens quarterfinal match, Gabriela Sabatini beat Mary Joe Fernandez 6-1, 6-3, two days after Fernandez ousted defending champ Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Musters 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, whos 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.

I played a lot of barefoot, Black said of his youth on the grass courts his father installed back home. I have very high arches. I started getting a very bad heel, and then I had to play in shoes, although my dad didnt like me tearing up his court too much.

Black tore up Stich with a variety of two-fisted forehands and backhands, and the net-charging Stich accommodated him with 79 unforced errors.

I know how he plays, and I just think I got off to a very bad start, said the No. 8 Stich. He didnt 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.

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.

Personally, I feel good going out against Thomas on any surface, even clay, Courier said. Hes had a phenomenal year, and he deserves all the credit hes gotten. Were going to play the same match on any surface. Were going to play power vs. power, even on clay.

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.

When I feel good, he said, I always play well.

Sometimes you have to take some steps backward to take some more steps forward. I really havent pinpointed it. All I know is thats the way it is. Today I am playing well, and I am going to try to keep playing well for a good long time.

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