Fortune favours Edberg

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Stefan Edberg farewell roadshow goes on. The twice former US Open champion, at his last Grand Slam tournament, came through his second-round match thanks in large part to a hamstring injury which forced Bernd Karbacher, his opponent, to retire in the fourth set. The statistics will record Edberg as a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 1-0 winner, but everyone present, including the 30-year-old Swede himself, knows the gods were with him.

First, he was scheduled to play a night match, the time of day he favours least and at which he as been humbled by John McEnroe, Aaron Krickstein, Jimmy Connors and Jonas Bjorkman in his 13 years of coming to New York.

Second, he was up against an opponent who, trying to halt a slide fromthe world's top 25 to the 90s in the rankings, took the first set in a fashion that had the Edberg valedictory speeches being dusted off.

Edberg was just not functioning and, when he was trailing 1-3 in the second set, divine intervention seemed one of his few remaining hopes. It came in the form of the German suffering a recurrence of an injury to his left hamstring.

"You never know, nothing is impossible," said Edberg, ostensibly about his chances of winning this tournament, but also in recognition of his good fortune. "A lot of things can happen, like tonight the guy gets injured. In my last round Krajicek had a nose bleed, so I'm two for two now. Maybe it's going to happen more, who knows?"

While the Edberg show held attention on the Stadium Court, a different drama was unfolding on the neighbouring Grandstand Court in the match to decide who plays Tim Henman, Britain's sole survivor, today.

The No12 seed, Todd Martin, was playing through the discomfort of an arm injury that had made him somewhat doubtful for his second-round match against Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi. The injury - spasms the length of his playing arm - is a legacy of his first-round encounter with Younes El Aynaoui.

A day without touching a racket, followed by heavy strapping both below and above the elbow, enabled the American to play a less powerful but highly effective match against the Italian, who has slipped down the rankings since breaking into the top 20 two years ago.

Martin took the first two sets but found his consistency slipping in the third. Had he been up against a player with greater confidence and know-how, the Wimbledon semi-finalist might have been made to struggle, but with Gaudenzi shooting himself in the foot with some clumsy shot selection, Martin secured his place in the third round before the pain sapped too much of his strength.

Martin's match with Henman will be their third meeting, notably a rematch of their Wimbledon quarter-final. The American said: "I think he'll be a greater challenge for me than Andrea was. He does a good job of taking play to his opponent. I'm going to have to be on the ball constantly."

At one stage during Pete Sampras's match against Jiri Novak, the defending champion looked to be in danger of an exit similar to his five-set demise to Jaime Yzaga two years ago. Going into the final set, Sampras looked to be running on his reserve tank, but two double faults by the 47th-ranked Czech in the fifth game gave the world number one a break, which he just held to take the decider 6-4.

Sampras said: "All these guys are rough. Anyone in the draw is capable of beating the one, two or three in the world, but I think experience came through in the end."

Gabriela Sabatini, the 1990 champion, has no shortage of experience, but her inexorable slide down the rankings continues. The No 10 seed was too inconsistent against the solid 59th-ranked Swede Asa Carlsson. Sabatini served 14 double faults and made 45 unforced errors, leaving her 6-2 adrift in the decider. Meanwhile Sabatini's successor as champion, Monica Seles, is looking in good form to reach a second successive final. The No 2 seed, who admits she is much happier with the absence of the intense attention which was focused on her here last year following her two-and-a-quarter-year lay-off, was in no mood for dillying, beating the talented Madagascan Dally Randriantefy 6-0, 6-2 in 57 minutes.