Tennis: Steven's fast buck from hard work: Grand Slam Cup

BRETT STEVEN is not the first competitor to have to play two days in succession to accommodate television, nor is he likely to be the last. But the New Zealander considered this a small inconvenience for his good fortune: dollars 262,500 ( pounds 176,000) for losing to Michael Stich, the defending champion, in the quarter- finals of the dollars 6m Compaq Grand Slam Cup.

It is not every day that a player ranked No 43 in the world - and a substitute at that - gets an opportunity to make so much for so little. The 24-year-old from Auckland, who replaced the injured Richard Krajicek in the 16-man draw, earned a crack at Stich by defeating Cedric Pioline, the runner-up at the United States Open, in the first round.

Steven detained Stich on court for nearly two hours and managed to elicit the second gasp of the week from spectators at the Olympiahalle (the first was in response to Boris Becker's first-round departure) by taking the opening set.

Stich asserted himself to win, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, and will play Stefan Edberg over the best of five sets in tomorrow's semi-finals. The Swede struggled through the opening set against Becker's conqueror, Wayne Ferreira, leading 3-0, failing to convert three set points and then losing a tie-break, 7-5. He then glided through, 6-7, 6-1, 6-0.

Considering that Edberg did not win a match in his two previous visits to the tournament, he has built up an impressive head of steam. Short of Stich v Becker, the crowd could hardly wish for a better semi- final now that the novelty acts have left the stage.

Steven arrived on Saturday, practised with Ferreira and Becker, and was sharp enough to make Stich toil, even though the German generally continued to serve splendidly. Stich, having missed an opportunity in the seventh game, was broken in the seventh to lose the opening set in 46 minutes.

Stich conceded only one point on serve in sweeping to a 5-1 lead in the second set. Steven then saved two set points on his own serve, and broke the German to love. It was his last success. Stich dropped only three points in his final six service games and ended the match with a total of 14 aces and 21 service winners. A big hand for the winner, and ample compensation for the loser.

Before this week, Steven's career prize-money amounted to pounds 438,497, which is modest compared with a player like Stich. In order to make it easier to travel to tournaments, he has invested in an apartment in Bermuda. He was there relaxing last week when the call came to partake in the Munich dollarfest.

Steven had been guaranteed a stand-by fee of dollars 50,000 by virtue of reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January, his first Grand Slam event. By contrast, Jim Courier, the winner in Melbourne, could not be persuaded to travel to Munich to collect his dollars 250,000 bonus.

As Steven observed: 'Most of the other guys in this tournament have enough money already to last them for the rest of their lives. For me, it is fantastic. It enables me to have a choice of what I am going to do once I finish playing tennis. I am not going to spend it. I will just save it.'

GRAND SLAM CUP Quarter-finals: M Stich (Ger) bt B Steven (NZ) 5-7 6-4 6-4; S Edberg (Swe) bt W Ferreira (SA) 6-7 6-1 6-0.

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