Tennis: US Open: McEnroe snapped: Former champion upset by photographer as Courier stays in focus

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JOHN McENROE did not go quietly. The four-times United States Open champion was eliminated here yesterday by Jim Courier, the world No 1, but not before having a press photographer ejected for rewinding his film (Buckingham Palace please note). The photographer protested his innocence as he was led from the courtside by the referee, Tom Barnes, and security officers claiming that it was a case of mistaken identity.

'I simply asked him to change his camera on the changeovers,' McEnroe said. 'As I am asking him to do it he continus to change it and then he flipped off at the referee and they had him removed.'

The incident, at 1-1 in the third set, certainly wound up McEnroe. He had just broken Courier's serve for the first time and he continued to make his presence felt until being overwhelmed 7-1 in a tie-break to lose the fourth-round match 6-2, 6-2, 7-6.

This is not the first time that McEnroe has taken exception to the men with lens, but how much longer his game will remain in focus depends on how much he is prepared to push himself next year, when he intends to reduce his playing schedule. It is even possible that he will cease to be a force as a singles player after the Grand Slam Cup in December.

'No one can say for sure but this is a pretty clear indication that Jim has outplayed me and that the top guys are clearly a step ahead of me,' McEnroe said.

Even a sublime talent has a limited span of time, a truth which was demonstrated to McEnroe by another American, Andre Agassi, in the Wimbledon semi-finals and brought home to him here. Courier was too strong, too steady and too young for the 33-year-old New Yorker, showing once again that while he might respect reputations he is not in awe of them.

It was Courier who ended Jimmy Connors' astonishing campaign here a year ago with a straight-sets win in the semi-final, paying no heed to the wishes of the crowd, which became as subdued as his opponent. Against McEnroe he adopted a similar approach, using his powerful ground strokes to take control from the start and holding firm when McEnroe pumped himself up for a fling in the third set.

'I am sure we are going to miss him when he is gone,' Courier said. 'You just don't replace talents just like that. I am not writing him off, by the way. I am not putting him in the grave, because he has still got a lot of good tennis in him. John played great tennis this year, particularly at Wimbledon and Australia, where he knocked Becker off. When he is at the top of his game, he is right there with everybody.'

Pete Sampras, the No 3 seed and 1990 champion here, advanced to the quarter finals with a 6-3, 1-6,

1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the No 13 seed, Guy Forget, who clinched the Davis Cup for France last year by beating the American.

The female players did not have to take part in the Labor Day parade in order to achieve equal pay - dollars 500,000 ( pounds 250,000) for the singles champions - but Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario would have had time to tag along after racing into the quarter-finals.

Though the tournament's early surprises came in the women's event, Martina Navratilova losing in the second round and Jennifer Capriati in the third, the ease with which Graf and Sanchez Vicario won their matches yesterday was hardly an advertisement for the strength in depth of the women's game. The Spaniard took only 44 minutes to dispatch Zina Garrison, the German requiring 47 to dismiss Florencia Labat.

Garrison, a Wimbledon finalist two years ago, won 11 points in the first set and eight in the second as Sanchez Vicario played brilliantly to win, 6-0, 6-1.

A spirit of adventure is to be commended in a game overloaded with baseliners, but Garrison's net- rushing against a player with the Spaniard's consistent passing shots proved costly.

While Graf's performance in her first encounter with the Argentinian Labat, ranked 59, did not satisfy her as much as 6-2, 6-2 suggests, Sanchez Vicario, seeded five, will need to maintain her form if she is to improve her record against her in the quarter-finals. She has defeated the German only twice in 17 matches - both at the French Open. Graf's victories include one by 6-1, 6-2 in the semi-finals here two years ago. 'I have had some tough matches against Steffi and I think that now I am playing better,' Sanchez Vicario said.

If winning another major title in the stadium where she completed the Grand Slam four years ago were not incentive enough, Graf knows that success here on Saturday would also retrieve the world No 1 spot she lost to Monica Seles. Should Seles fail to defeat the Cambodian-born Patricia Hy in the quarter-finals, an appearance in the final would be sufficient to take Graf back to the top.

WOMEN'S SINGLES Quarter-finals: M SELES (Yug) v P Hy (Can); G SABATINI (Arg) v M J FERNANDEZ (US); M MALEEVA-FRAGNIERE (Switz) v C Rubin (US) or M Maleeva (Bul); A SANCHEZ VICARIO (Sp) v S GRAF (Ger).

Results, Sport in Short, page 33

(Photograph omitted)