Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Heavy Hitters Turn the Trick as Parched Clay Becomes Slick

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Heavy Hitters Turn the Trick as Parched Clay Becomes Slick

Article excerpt

Was that Stefan Edberg serving and volleying like he used to at Wimbledon? And Goran Ivanisevic blasting a bunch of aces? And Michael Stich taking control at the net?

With the temperature in the 90s and the sun baking the red clay into a slick surface, the big hitters and serve-and-volleyers thrived Thursday at the French Open, where the slow surface usually negates their strengths.

Edberg, Ivanisevic and Stich - all more comfortable on grass than clay - played their offensive games to perfection.

Edberg's victory set up a third-round encounter against fourth-seeded Michael Chang, one of the day's winners who prefers a clay surface. Chang, who beat Richard Fromberg 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, won in five sets the last time he played Edberg on clay - at Roland Garros in the 1989 French Open final.

If the conditions hold up like this for another 10 days, a pure attacking player could win the men's title for the first time since Yannick Noah in 1983. In fact, the only seed eliminated Thursday was No. 11 Arnaud Boetsch, a clay-courter beaten by big-hitter Paul Haarhuis 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

"The chances are far greater under these conditions," Edberg said. "You have to pray for good weather for the rest of the time."

While defending champions Thomas Muster and Steffi Graf won in straight sets, the power players picked up where Pete Sampras left off Wednesday in overcoming two-time champion and clay-court master Sergi Bruguera in five sets.

Edberg overwhelmed another Spanish clay-courter, Carlos Moya, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.

Moya, the only player to beat Muster on clay this year, looked helpless as the two-time Wimbledon champion took him apart on center court in 92 minutes.

Although Edberg served only two aces, he had 14 service winners, won 73 percent of points on his first serve and took 36 points at the net.

"It is one of those days where everything I do turns to gold," said Edberg, playing in his 13th and final French Open. …

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