Tennis: Courier and Martinez crash out: Two champions make an exit but Agassi puts his act together in time at the US Open

Click to follow
CONCHITA MARTINEZ, the Wimbledon champion, and Jim Courier, who hovers between ambition and depression, were the lastest casualties at the United States Open yesterday.

Martinez, the third seed, fell to Ginger Helgeson, a 25-year-old American ranked No 40 in the world, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The third- round result surprised nobody more than Helgeson, who had failed to take a set in six previous matches against the Spaniard.

Courier, the 11th seed, was defeated in the second round by Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi, a former world junior champion, 7-5, 6-2,

3-6, 6-3. The American, who took an 'indefinite break' 16 days before the championships, staved off six match points from 1-5 in the concluding set against a player ranked 12 places beneath him at No 24. 'I came here to do my best, and I am satisfied I did that.' Courier said. 'I'll be back next year.'

Until yesterday, the main goal for Helgeson appeared to be an autumn wedding. She gradually undermined Martinez's confidence by cutting down on unforced errors - 22 in the first set, 20 in the second, and only five in the third - and attacking impressively.

As the match began to drift away from Martinez, she was unable to reproduce the devastating cross-court groundstrokes which unhinged Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon final. 'I just didn't play well enough,' Martinez said. ' I didn't fight in the third set. It was like I got into a negative way of thinking and had too many things in my head. I couldn't get out of it.'

Helgeson found it paid to take risks. 'A lot of balls were flying, and I stayed calm and kept plugging away,' she said. 'Once I got to the third set I knew I could play some good tennis.'

Mary Joe Fernandez, the ninth seed, followed Martinez out of the tournament, defeated by Ann Grossman, an American compatriot, 6-4, 6-4. 'It was just one of those days where you don't hit the ball as well as you would like.' Fernandez said.

The top half of the men's draw is beginning to resemble the lower half, which lost Goran Ivanisevic and Boris Becker in the opening round. Even so Courier has disappeared from the quarter housing both Michael Stich and Stefan Edberg. Andrei Medvedev, the eighth seed, is no longer a threat in the top quarter of the draw. The Ukrainian was defeated by 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 by Karel Novacek.

Mark Petchey, the last Briton in singles, also lost in the second round to Australia's Todd Woodbridge, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

The baseball strike is doing no harm to the championships, which are played in the shadow of Shea Stadium, home of the Mets. There are a few more spectators, who have experienced little difficulty parking, and there are even hopes of a few home runs from the Las Vegas Black Sox, better known as Andre Agassi.

His latest outfits may be sombre from top to toe compared with the 'hot lava' and 'hot lime' of fond memory, but the unseeded Agassi remains a colourful personality. Fortunately, he has advanced to the third round after being eliminated in the opening round twice on his previous three visits.

Wayne Ferreira, the 12th seed, is Agassi's next opponent. They have met once before, just over a month ago in the semi-finals of the Canadian Open. Agassi won, 6-4, 7-5, en route to the title after beating having defeated Sergi Bruguera, the top seed, in the quarter-finals.