Tennis: Back problem forces Lendl to withdraw: Challenge ends for former world No 1 and three-times US Open champion as Chang conquers Washington

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The Independent Online
IVAN LENDL retired in the second round of the United States Open yesterday as the end of his great career draws nearer. It was the fourth time this year that back problems had caused the 34-year- old former world No 1 to quit a match: the injury also prompted his withdrawal from the Wimbledon Championships in June.

Three US Open singles titles number among the Czech-born American's eight Grand Slam championships, and he appeared in eight consecutive finals at Flushing Meadow during the 1980s.

Last year, a knee injury caused Lendl to retire here in the third set of his first-round match against Neil Borwick. Having defeated the Australian in straight sets on Monday, Lendl was trailing the German, Bernd Karbacher, 4-6,

6-7, 0-1, when he decided he could no longer continue.

The incident was not without confusion. Lendl, who failed to convert nine set points after leading 5-0 in the second set, requested treatment after losing the tie- break, 7-5. He was informed by the referee, Brian Earley, and the Grand Slam Supervisor, Ken Farrar, that he would have to wait until the next change-over.

When no trainer appeared after the first game of the third set, Lendl requested a three-minute time-out, which was denied because the injury was 'pre-existing'. At which point, Lendl said: 'It's not my fault. My back stiffened up during the match. I can't continue.'

Afterwards, Lendl admitted that 'it wouldn't have made any difference' to the outcome if a trainer had been found. Asked if he would return next year, he said: 'I would like to. I still enjoy the competition.'

Michael Chang, often rushed but rarely rash, stayed on court long enough to mark an anniversary in the early hours of yesterday morning. It was on 1 September, 1987, that he became the youngest male to win a match at the United States Open, aged 15 years, six months.

The American, who went on to become the youngest men's singles champion in Grand Slam history (17 years, three months) at the 1989 French Open, is also noted for participating in the longest match recorded at the US championships. Two years ago, he was on the losing end of a five hours, 26 minutes semi-final against Stefan Edberg.

Situated in the lower half of the draw, which lost Goran Ivanisevic and Boris Becker, Chang could have the resilience and experience to go a long way. Last year, Pete Sampras had to produce two of the finest sets of his career to defeat Chang in the quarter-finals, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Chang, the sixth seed, arrived in the third round at 12.35am, having fought back from behind in four sets to defeat a compatriot, MaliVai Washington, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6, in three hours and two minutes.

Concerned that a lack of potency on serve had denied him a fairer share of major honours, the diminutive Chang has improved his delivery of late. 'I've worked on trying to get a little more upper-body strength,' he said. 'I've been able to have one day where I serve really well, and the next day where I don't serve so well.' The latter predominated against Washington, who was guilty of 65 unforced errors to Chang's 46 in a contest which produced plenty of stirring rallies.

In the women's singles, Steffi Graf required only 55 minutes to advance to the third round with a 6-0, 6-2 win against Sandra Cacic, of Florida. Cacic at least performed a good turn for a compatriot, Zina Garrison Jackson, who did not have a spare pair of shoes when the heel broke away from one of those she was wearing for her match against Paola Suarez, of Argentina. 'I was pretty lucky that there was someone in the locker- room with the same foot size,' said Garrison, who won, 6-4, 6-3. Graf said: 'She wouldn't fit in mine.'

Lindsay Davenport, Graf's projected quarter-final opponent, eliminated the 32-year-old Pam Shriver, 6-1, 6-2.

(Photograph omitted)

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