Jarryd turns on the old sparkle as Stich joins the sick list

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The Independent Online

In common with many tournaments this year, the Tennis Champions Masters has suffered from injuries and other ailments, but at least the players here are semi-retired veterans.

The 36-year-old Michael Stich returned home to Germany yesterday to see a heart specialist, leaving the organisers wondering if his compatriot, Boris Becker, would be fit to play today if needed.

Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion, had a check-up in London yesterday morning after experiencing a racing of the heart during his match against Thomas Muster, of Austria, on Tuesday. Further tests were recommended.

Becker's further participation in the tournament depended on the outcome of last night's round-robin match between John McEnroe and Richard Krajicek and an improvement in the condition of his right hamstring, which caused him to retire when losing to McEnroe, 6-2, 3-0, on Wednesday night.

Stich's withdrawal allowed Mikael Pernfors, of Sweden, to advance to the quarter-finals today without winning a match. Pernfors lost to Muster on Wednesday, 7-5, 6-4, but both go through as the only players left in their group.

While Pernfors has risen without trace, the same cannot be said about his fellow Swede, Anders Jarryd. Having originally entered to play doubles, the 43-year-old Jarryd agreed to switch to singles after Sergi Bruguera, of Spain, cried off with flu. He won his two round-robin matches, defeating his compatriot Mats Wilander, 6-3, 6-1, on Wednesday and followed that yesterday with a 6-2, 7-6 win against Guy Forget, France's Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain.

Jarryd, a doubles winner at the four Grand Slam championships in his prime, and a Davis Cup stalwart, is probably best remembered in London for a defeat rather than a victory.

In 1985, he was locked in battle with the 17-year-old Becker in the Wimbledon semi-finals when rain caused the match to be carried over to the following day. "It was a close match," Jarryd recalled. "I was up one set to love, and I think I had some chances in the second set. But Boris pulled that off, and then the rain came. Next day I don't think I played that well, and Boris kept his momentum."

He certainly did, going on to defeat Kevin Curren in the final to become the youngest, first unseeded, and first German winner of the All England men's singles title.

Jarryd, the winner of eight singles titles and 58 doubles titles (he was ranked No1 in the world in doubles for a total of 106 weeks), joined the senior tour in 1998 and was the winner of the inaugural event in Majorca in 2000.

"I haven't played at the Albert Hall since the late 1980s, when the year-end doubles championship was held here," Jarryd said, clearly enjoying his progress this week, which has put him within three matches of scooping the $100,000 (£53,000) winner-takes-all prize.

Like most successful players, Jarryd found it hard to settle down after retiring from the ATP Tour. "I just took things easy for six months," he said, "but then I was bored. It's important to have something you like to do, and I missed the competition. Then I started working with Sweden's Davis Cup team from 1996 to 2002. I now play league tennis in Sweden and run coaching camps. My time's quite flexible for playing the senior tournaments."

Jim Courier, who also won his two round-robin matches, is due to play Forget in today's quarter-finals. Courier is relieved to be playing any kind of sport after overturning a golf buggy at 30mph last year. The 34-year-old American had surgery to his left shoulder the same night and needed seven months rehabilitation. "I still play golf, but now I have a caddie," he said.

Courier, who defeated Pat Cash yesterday, 6-2, 6-3, is ranked No1 on the Delta Tour of Champions. He beat Forget two weeks ago in Brussels, but needed a tie-break to finish the job.

"Guy's tough," he said. "He's in great shape. There's not an ounce of fat on him. His lefty serve is very tricky, and the fast court should favour him more than it favours me. I expect him to be going for his shots. Having said that, I fancy my chances."

Asked about the ailments that have struck the tournament, Courier said: "Michael's [Stich] is something of great concern," he said. "We hope the doctor can sort it out."

He added: "The thing about tennis players is that we have so many miles in our bodies. It wasn't hitting tennis balls that bothered me [in my career], it was the grind of being on the tour."

The senior events offer competition and reunion. Do the players also feel of sense of nostalgia? "I think the nostalgia is more for those watching than those who are playing," he said. "I'm not thinking of yesterday when I play, I'm thinking about now."