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Day Four: Another Courier Thriller
by Christopher Gerby

Wayne Ferreira vs. Jim Courier
Singles: Third Round
Court Central

It's been a good week for Jim Courier. The former #1 player Jim Courier
in the world gutted out another close win over rival Tim Henman on Tuesday and joked around with a bunch of kids during a special autograph session on Wednesday. His Thursday itinerary called for a visit to Wayne's World. South African veteran Wayne Ferreira, after narrowly escaping his first two matches in third set tiebreaks (see Ed Toombs's fine reports), was the next obstacle for Courier. They had squared off 10 times before, with the American winning 8. Their games are pretty similar -- both players have underrated serves, big forehands, and two-handed backhands -- and the similar styles made for similar games early on. They each held serve all the way to 4-4, neither even facing a break point. Master of the big moment, Courier held for a 5-4 lead and got to double set point against the Ferreira serve. Wayne persevered, however, battling back to deuce by skying for an overhead (maybe white men can jump!) and hauling off on a forehand winner. Two points later, the set was tied at 5.

After Courier held at love, Ferreira rallied from a 0-30 deficit to force a first set tiebreak. Surprisingly, Courier lost the first four points, three of them on unforced errors. The last was a late call, which Jim disputed while leaning on the net. Ferreira then helped him out with three errors of his own, putting the 'breaker back on serve at 4-3. Momentum shifted right back to the South African's side when Courier lost both of his service points on forehand errors. On triple set point, Ferreira used a big serve to set up a smash, winning the tiebreak 7-3 and the set 7-6. No stranger to comebacks, Courier would need one here if he wished to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. The first four games of the second set were routine holds. Courier finally converted his fifth break point of the match, taking a 3-2 lead when Ferreira netted a forehand. The service holds resumed, Courier carrying a 5-4 lead into the set's tenth game. I've seen some pretty pitiful attempts to serve out sets this week, but Courier had no problem here. The bulldog ended a love hold with an ace and a service winner, taking the set 6-4. The first few games of the final set had their moments (including a great running forehand winner by Courier, who celebrated by fiercely shaking his racquet), but no break points. In fact, the American had not faced a break point in the entire match. That changed in Game 4 of the third set -- Jim had to slug his way out of a 15-40, finally getting to 2-2 after a quartet of deuces. Two more service holds made it 3-3. Then it was Ferreira trapped in a long service game, repeatedly bailing himself out of trouble only to have Courier push him right back against the wall. Wayne saved two break points, but finally succumbed by sailing a forehand long. Courier pumped his fist, confidently striding to his chair with a 4-3 lead in the final set. Just when you thought Courier might be ready to close out this pitched battle, Ferreira came storming back, getting three break chances of his own. Courier survived the first two, but tried to make a forehand too good on the third break point, hitting it just wide of the sideline. Ferreira solidified the break, holding for 5-4 with an ace. He was probably hoping to avoid yet another third set tiebreak, but Courier pushed the match closer in that direction, holding at 30 for a 5-5 score. Ferreira fell behind 15-30 in the next game, blew a backhand volley for 15-40, and misfired on an overhead attempt from back near the baseline, allowing Courier to serve for the match with a 6-5 lead. At 30-30, Ferreira sent Courier out wide with a sharply angled forehand. Courier tracked it down, but pushed a forehand of his own wide for 30-40. Courier evaded the break point with a winning backhand volley, but a perfect service return by Ferreira brought up a second break opportunity. Courier dodged this one as well, coming through with a clutch service winner. Ferreira was then just a tad too long with a forehand pass, so Courier had finally arrived at match point. After 2 hours and 25 minutes of play, Courier made a great stab backhand volley which set up a winning forehand volley. Once again thriving on the pressure of a close match in a big stadium, the bilingual redhead advanced: 6-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Tommy Haas vs. Andrew Ilie
Singles: Second Round
Court 2

Originally scheduled for Court Central (in the rained out Wednesday evening session), the second round match between #8 seed Tommy Haas and Romanian-born Australian Andrew Ilie ended up on Court 2. I got there just as Haas was breaking Ilie's serve (for at least the second time) to win the opening set 6-3. Both players had their usual headwear quirks going, Haas wearing his cap backwards (a la Ivanisevic and Grosjean) and Ilie sporting a bandana around his hat. A pattern became clear early in the second set: when either player put his first serve in, he almost always won the point. Four pretty quick holds made it 2-2. Ilie got an opening at 0-30, then whipped a backhand winner down the line. Very psyched about earning a triple break point against the powerful German, Ilie clenched his fist and shouted, "Come on!" Haas held his nerve, though, making his first serve on the next five points and winning all five of those points, ending the game with a pair of service winners. After coming so close to a huge break, Ilie lost his own serve, sending a forehand wide on Tommy's first break point of the set. Ilie dropped his racquet and grumbled to himself. He's a fiery competitor, but he surely realized this 6-3, 4-2 would be a difficult hill to climb. Andrew Ilie and Tommy Haas
Haas double faulted to open Game 7, but took the next four points in holding for a 5-2 lead. Ilie held for 3-5 when a Haas forehand clipped the tape and sailed just long. Haas opened the next game with a service winner, but a double fault and a backhand error got him down 15-30. Ilie had a little window of opportunity now and he came barreling through it, absolutely killing a cross-court forehand pass to take a 15-40 lead. Haas saved the first break point, but double faulted on the second. Ilie was right back in the match, on serve at 4-5. However, Andrew looked nervous in the next game. At 30-30, he sent a forehand long. He did that again on the very next point -- match point -- giving Tommy Haas a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Ilie unhappily banged his racquet on the court after shaking hands, knowing he'd blown his chance to score a big win. Haas marched on to the third round, stopping first to spend some time with the almost exclusively female throng of fans waiting patiently to get his autograph and/or take his picture.
Knowles/Nestor vs. B Black/W Ferreira
Doubles: Second Round
Court 2
While most of the Canadian fans here at the tournament were cheering for Sebastien Lareau on Court Central, fellow Canuck Daniel Nestor quietly strolled out to Court 2 with his doubles partner, Mark Knowles. Their second round opponents were no pushovers: Byron Black and Wayne Ferreira won the doubles title in Los Angeles last week. However, fatigue had to be coming into play for Ferreira. This would be his third match of the day, following the long singles match against Courier and the completion of a first round doubles match which had been interrupted on Wednesday. Would Wayne have anything left? Did anyone care? Knowles and Nestor can usually count on a lot of crowd support on this side of the border, but the atmosphere was almost morgue-like as this match got underway. The stands were far from empty, but Mark and Daniel had only one truly vocal supporter. Black and Ferreira, surprisingly, had a rooting section of the same size. A woman with an Anna Kournikova-ish hairdo loudly, enthusiastically, unabashedly shouted words of encouragement to the underdogs for the entire match. Since righty/lefty combinations have accounted for some of the top doubles teams of all-time (Fleming/McEnroe, Woodbridge/Woodforde, Newcombe/Roche), maybe it should Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor
come as no surprise that southpaw Daniel Nestor has experienced so much success with right-handed Bahamian Mark Knowles. Nestor was called for a foot fault in the opening game of this match, but he and Knowles held on for a 1-0 lead. When Ferreira lost his serve on a double fault and Knowles held serve at 15, it looked like the #2 seeds might be on their way to an easy victory. Black and Ferreira started taking care of their service games, though, and stayed close at 3-5. However, Nestor wasn't about to let the lead slip away. He ended a love hold with a pair of service winners, wrapping up a 6-3 set. After Ferreira held serve to open the second set, Knowles decided to take a bathroom break, leaping over the same fence he'd hopped to exit Court 2 on Monday. The break seemed to take Knowles and Nestor out of their rhythm -- Nestor dropped serve to fall behind 0-2. When Knowles missed an easy volley in the third game, he was less than pleased to hear, "Come on, Byron! Woo-hoo!" from the Black/Ferreira supporter. Knowles even shot a dirty look in the woman's direction. After Black held for a 3-0 lead in the set, the loud Knowles/Nestor fan took matters into his own hands, walking down about ten rows to sit directly behind the Black/Ferreira fan. I don't know if he was trying to intimdate her or drown her out, but he failed on both counts. She had plenty to cheer about as Knowles dropped serve for 4-0 and Ferreira held for 5-0. The Zimbabwean and the South African were both playing well and utilizing some strategy. They both stayed back on every Nestor first serve, but kept one partner posted at the net when it was Knowles serving. It worked well enough to earn them a second set bagel, as Nestor was broken again. Black faced a break point in the opening game of the third, but finally held with an ace. Nestor served again (doubles teams have that choice at the start of each yet) and was broken for the third time in a row, losing that game on a bad volley error by Knowles, who'd looked out of sorts ever since returning from the bathroom. Ferreira served an ace on his way to a 3-0 lead in the final set. The #2 seeds had now lost a stunning nine consecutive games. The streak ran to ten, as Knowles floated a half-volley long on break point against his serve. He was also the culprit at the end of Game 5, making a completely apathetic volley error. It was a big 40-30 point, but there was Knowles standing flat-footed and seemingly not even paying attention as the ball came to him. The volley barely even reached the net, putting Knowles and Nestor into a 0-5 hole. The crowd was virtually silent, except for that one woman I mentioned before, who was downright ecstatic. Knowles opened the set's sixth game with another really awful volley, barely getting a racquet on it. Nestor was still playing hard, though, and he held serve for 1-5. Knowles finally seemed to wake up and realize the match was still going on. He knocked off a volley to earn a 15-40 lead against Ferreira's serve. Black was still making like the Energizer Bunny at the net, frequently poaching and returning anything hit near him, and his efforts got Ferreira back to deuce. Wayne missed a low backhand volley on the third break point, though, narrowing their lead to 5-2. At deuce in the eighth game, Black drilled a backhand cross-court return winner to earn the first match point. Ferreira then hit a nice backhand return of his own at Knowles, who pushed a backhand volley wide. The winning streak continues for Byron Black and Wayne Ferreira, victors here by a weird score of 3-6, 6-0, 6-2. You really have to feel for doubles ace Daniel Nestor. He was overshadowed by his countryman (Sebastien Lareau, whose singles match was still going on when Nestor lost here) and done in by his partner (Mark Knowles, whose unusually bad form contributed heavily to the eleven consecutive games he and Nestor lost on Thursday).
W Black/Stolle vs. Grabb/Ivanisevic
Doubles: Second Round
Court 6

Late Thursday afternoon would have been a frustrating time for friends and family of the Zimbabwean Blacks, had they been attending the du Maurier Open. While Byron Black was playing on Court 2, his brother Wayne was teaming up with Sandon Stolle in a match against Jim Grabb and Goran Ivanisevic. Cramped little Court 6, with its very limited seating, wasn't an appropriate venue for a match featuring four top doubles players, one of whom is among the most famous players in the sport. Yet there they were, Grabb and Ivanisevic holding a 6-4, 4-3 lead when I arrived. Black and Stolle have become one of the best teams in the world this year and were seeded 4th here in Montreal. They certainly are an interesting sight: Wayne looks short in singles, but he looks REALLY short standing next to Sandon. There was no "Mutt and Jeff" effect on the other side of the net: Grabb and Ivanisevic are both quite tall. Ivanisevic's vaunted serve was tested in the second set's eighth game, but after being pushed to deuce, he delivered an ace and a winning touch volley for a 5-3 lead. Stolle held his serve for 4-5, but the seeded team was still down a break and running out of time. Grabb pushed a backhand volley down the line for a 40-30 lead and a match point, but Black/Stolle got to deuce when "Ivo" netted a reflex volley. A second match point went by the boards when Grabb had to stretch for a low volley and sent it wide. The 35-year-old looked spry enough on the next two points, though. He smacked a service winner and a match-ending overhead smash. The 6-4, 6-4 elimination of Black and Stolle means #5 seeds Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach are the top duo remaining in the bottom half of the doubles draw. Goran Ivanisevic
Grabb, Black, and Stolle all left the court in relatively short order, but Ivanisevic stayed behind...and stayed...and stayed. He sat alone in his chair, fidgeting with his hat and looking pensive. Amateur psychologists in the crowd wondered aloud if he'd suddenly been overcome by some fit of depression. My hunch was that he was waiting for the crowd of autograph-seekers to thin out a bit. None of us guessed correctly -- Goran was actually waiting for his hitting partner to arrive, so he could get in one more practice session under the setting sun. Ivanisevic worked on nothing but groundstrokes until the end, when he and the hitting partner put on a little demonstration of soccer skills. They lined up tennis balls on the court and kicked them at the fence which separates Court 6 and Court 7. After the last kick, Ivanisevic showed off his soccer celebration, collapsing to his knees and raising his arms in triumph. It was a very funny moment, nice to see from a guy who looked so despondent on Tuesday. In fact, Goran was happily humming to himself (perhaps some of that Croatian music he's fond of) as he finally made his way toward the fans, accomodating many of them with his signature.
Bjorkman/Rafter vs. Lareau/O'Brien
Doubles: Second Round
Court Central

The final match of the night in Montreal pitted reigning Australian Open champs Jonas Bjorkman and Patrick Rafter against fan favorites Sebastien Lareau and Alex O'Brien. I missed the first five games, while attending Andre Agassi's unenlightening press conference and waiting in vain for Michael Chang to follow Andre in the interview room. When I got back, the doubles match was on serve, Lareau/O'Brien leading 3-2. They almost got a service break at this point, as Bjorkman served three double faults in a long game, finally holding for 3-3. Lareau was then pushed to deuce on his serve, but held for 4-3. Four more service holds, punctuated by sharp serving and powerful volleys, kept Sebastien and Alex ahead by a 6-5 count. Rafter double faulted in Game 12, but eventually held with a service winner, taking the opening set to a tiebreak, which went as follows...

Lareau and O'Brien reached the doubles final here in '97 and have long been a solid team. The '99 season has not been their best, though, and they turned flat in a hurry after losing that tiebreak. The Aussie/Swede combo rolled through five straight games for a 7-6, 5-0 lead. They were both playing well; Lareau and O'Brien no longer were. Sebastien held serve at love for 1-5, though. Facing match point against Bjorkman's serve, O'Brien ripped a backhand winner down the line and gave it the old double fist pump, trying to at least look fired up. Lareau missed a backhand on the next point, though, and Bjorkman closed out the match with a service winner. There will be no Canadian players around for the weekend, as Bjorkman and Rafter dashed local hopes with a comprehensive 7-6, 6-1 victory. The #6 seeds are scheduled to face 3rd seeded Frenchmen Olivier Delaitre and Fabrice Santoro on Friday, but Patrick says he'll "just pull out" of the doubles event if his match schedule gets out of hand.
"Tell him to think about Niagara Falls":
I missed most of the Patrick Rafter-Jiri Novak singles match this afternoon because I was waiting for Richey Reneberg to urinate. It's less sordid than it sounds. A little while after the Agassi-Reneberg match (a surprisingly tough three set win for Andre), I checked in the interview room to see if either player was coming in. I heard that Reneberg was due in four minutes and decided to stick around. Well, 4 minutes turned into 45. Reneberg was undergoing a post-match drug test and, for whatever reason, it was taking an extraordinary amount of time. At least Richey was loquacious when he finally did Richey Reneberg
show up. I asked him if playing World Team Tennis last month had a positive effect on his singles game and got the following answer: "Uh...Yeah, I mean, probably. You know, it's good playing matches in an environment where you have linesmen and all that and it's a lot of fun. I enjoy playing Team Tennis and we have a very good team. You know, yeah, I think it helps. I mean, it helps to be playing something as opposed to taking three weeks off. I think the team I play for is, you know, I'm pretty fortunate to play there because our owner is pretty enthusiastic about it and makes it fun. And, like I say, we Andre Agassi
have a very good team. So, yeah, I think it helps. I mean, I've enjoyed playing Team Tennis the last couple of years."
The guy who beat Reneberg was considerably less forthcoming in his press conference. Andre Agassi came in that evening, following his second win of the day (over Michael Chang) and gave the distinct impression that he was in no mood to chat. Check out this exchange: Agassi being queried (not by me) about his next opponent, Fabrice Santoro...
Q: Are you familiar with him?
Agassi: Yeah, I am familiar with him.
Q: Really?
Agassi: Really.