It took 11 days and 246 matches for the U.S. Open to wind up where everyone figured it would.
Oh, there were a few surprises - very few - and a couple of upsets along the way, to be sure. But the pretenders have gone home or are playing doubles while the expected contenders vie for the titles.
Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras - Nos. 1 and 2 - are still in the hunt for the men’s singles title, while the women’s top two seeds - Steffi Graf and Monica Seles - are on track to battle in Saturday’s women’s title match.
They aren’t there quite yet, however, and there are others who could wind up playing for the big checks at the National Tennis Center.
The women’s semifinals on Friday will pit Graf against ninth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini and Seles will take on No. 4 Conchita Martinez.
On Wednesday, both Agassi and No. 4 Boris Becker struggled to four-set victories to grab semifinals berths.
Becker needed 4 hours, 1 minute - the longest match of the tournament - to outlast Patrick McEnroe 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) before Agassi topped Petr Korda 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.
In the women’s quarterfinals, Seles, going for her third consecutive U.S. Open title, defeated No. 5 Jana Novotna 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 and Martinez eliminated big-serving Brenda Schultz-McCarthy 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
Agassi was supposed to breeze into the semifinals. Korda, though, had other ideas.
After dropping the first two sets, Korda zipped through the third set in 28 minutes, breaking Agassi twice and dominating their laser-sharp baseline rallies. He then took a 4-1 lead in the fourth set when Agassi double-faulted on break point in the fifth game.
“He got the break early in the third and that got his game going,” Agassi said. “The next thing you know, you’re in a dogfight. I just didn’t adjust to that level of competition.”
With his seventh and eighth aces of the night, Korda held at 15 to take a 5-3 lead and move within one game of leveling the match at two sets apiece.
But Agassi once again found the game that had netted him the first two sets and he won the last four games.
“Being from Vegas, the odds are something that I think about,” Agassi said. “I knew my odds weren’t too good to win that fourth, so part of me was trying to prepare myself for the fifth. By the same token, you don’t want to let the fourth just slip away.
“But more important than anything, I was just trying to get my level of confidence back to where I felt like it should be.”
Agassi began stinging the ball again - and this time the shots were landing in the court.
“He started to hit the ball hard, as hard as could, and everything went in on the important points,” Korda said.
Becker also had to deal with his opponent coming back from a two-set deficit. And the German remembered a 6-1/2-hour Davis Cup battle he had with Patrick McEnroe’s brother, John.
“Unfortunately, I never had a chance to play John here at the Open, but his younger brother gave me more than a handful,” Becker said. “Every set was close.”
Seles, meanwhile, was sharp.
Going for her first set point at 40-15, Novotna hit a hard first serve that Seles returned even harder down the line for a winner.
That wowed the crowd.
“That is where Monica really showed up,” Novotna said. “She didn’t worry about it at all, what the score was, and just went for her shots.”
xxxx COMING UP Today on Stadiun Court: Brenda Schultz-McCarthy and Rennae Stubbs vs. Jill Hetherington and Kristine Radford; Meredith McGrath and Matt Lucena vs. Gigi Fernandez and Cyril Suk; Byron Black vs. Pete Sampras; (night) Michael Chang vs. Jim Courier; Gene Mayer and Hank Pfister vs. Tom Gullikson and Jose Higueras.
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