Originally created 09/07/98

Graf knocked out by Schnyder



NEW YORK -- Steffi Graf's comeback collapsed at the U.S. Open against a Swiss teen-ager who was just 3 when the dominant women's player of the last decade played her first professional match.

The 6-3, 6-4 loss to Patty Schnyder on Sunday night sent the 11th-seeded Swiss player into the quarterfinals and five-time champion Graf out of the tournament earlier than at any point since her first appearance in 1984.

Graf, who is trying to come back from reconstructive knee surgery, committed 33 unforced errors, including many off her once-fearsome forehand.

"Obviously, I made a lot of mistakes, easy mistakes," Graf said. "I just never got a rhythm. I couldn't get any depth to my shots."

Though Graf was seeded eighth, the result was not that much of an upset. Graf is ranked just 26th in the world while returning from the knee surgery, and Schnyder is ranked 10th. Graf was seeded higher at the discretion of tournament officials.

The match ended after 59 minutes when Graf hit a service return long. Graf marched quickly off court, while Schynder celebrated and then signed autographs.

"She's the greatest player in the last 10 years. Sometimes it's difficult because you think of that," Schnyder said. "But you just try to play against her like all other opponents."

Schnyder, 19, who has won five tournaments this year, broke Graf's serve twice for a 3-0 lead and took advantage of 14 unforced errors by Graf in the first seven games. Graf, who began the match with tape around her right wrist, removed the tape after falling behind 5-2.

Schnyder took a 2-1 lead in the second set with another service break. Graf immediately broke back, and the set was tied 4-4 until Schnyder broke again in the ninth game. She then saved two break points and served out the victory on her second match point.

"She made a lot of mistakes. I think she was not happy with her game," Schnyder said. "I think it's the biggest win I have. To beat Steffi before such a big crowd and go through to the quarterfinals is just great."

Graf, who has won 21 Grand Slam tournament singles titles and held the No. 1 ranking for a record 374 weeks, has been trying to work back into top form after left knee surgery last year.

She skipped the U.S. Open following the surgery last year, but had not been eliminated this early since losing in the first round as a 15-year-old in 1984.

Graf said she hopes to return to the U.S. Open next year, and said coming back has turned into the roller-coaster she expected.

"At times, it has been difficult to accept that it is going to take a certain time," she said. "There have been good and bad moments -- I knew that they would come."

While Graf lost, several other top women's seeds won.

Top-seeded Martina Hingis and No. 6 Monica Seles advanced toward a battle in the women's quarterfinals, despite struggling in fourth-round matches. Also winning was No. 3 Jana Novotna, the Wimbledon champion, who faces Schynder in the quarterfinals.

Jan-Michael Gambill and Geoff Grant came within a few points of glory Sunday, but within a span of 14 minutes both were losers -- joining most of the tournament's other American men in defeat.

As the U.S. Open completed its first week, only two American men -- former champions Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi -- remained on court. A tournament once dominated by its host nation has turned into a showcase for global tennis.

The number of Americans in the men's main draw, which does not include wild cards and qualifiers, has declined steadily over the last two decades. In 1981, there were 74 U.S. men in the main draw. This year there were 10.

The men lost another seeded player when No. 5 Richard Krajicek withdrew in the second set of his match against Thomas Johansson with tendinitis in his left knee. The winners included No. 7 Alex Corretja, No. 11 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 13 Tim Henman.

Gambill, expected to make his Davis Cup debut for the United States later this month, lost 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to French Open champion Carlos Moya in a three-hour match in which both players tossed rackets in frustration.

With his family leading rhythmic clapping and fans chanting "U-S-A, all the way," Gambill took a 4-3 lead in the final set and was up 40-15 on his serve. But Moya, nursing a right ankle injury, rallied to win the game and get back on serve.

After his shot sailed long to give Moya the game, Gambill stood forlornly at the net -- bent at the waist, staring down at the court.

Gambill, a 21-year-old blond with matinee-idol looks from Spokane, Wash., who is nicknamed "Hollywood" by his peers, faced a match point two games later after a shot by Moya clipped the net and bounced high over Gambill's racket. Gambill threw his racket in disgust, then saved the match point with a lob.

Gambill made several errors in the tiebreaker, netting a forehand on Moya's third match point and walking slowly to the net in defeat as Moya raised his arms to the crowd.

"I definitely missed a serious opportunity. I gave him the match, basically. He didn't do anything special," Gambill said.

Moya, the 10th seed, had rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Michael Chang in a marathon match that lasted until 1:33 a.m. Saturday.

While Gambill was walking off court, Grant was running out of steam two courts away. Grant, ranked 189th in the world, lost 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 to Oliver Gross in a match that lasted 3 hours, 38 minutes and left both players cramping at the end.

The 28-year-old from Boston retired from tennis in 1994 and was a part-time model. He resumed his career at the 1995 U.S. Open when, still wearing his business suit, he took a subway to sign up in the qualifying tournament.