NEW YORK -- Jim Courier played what may have been his strongest match since suffering burnout last season and joined an American charge yesterday into the round of 16 at the U.S. Open.
As Courier, No. 14, entered his post-match interview, someone sang in a sing-song voice, "Rolling, rolling rolling" and Courier, who has in the recent past often found it hard to muster a grin, responded in kind.
"Yes, yes, yes," he said, after beating Kenneth Carlsen, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
At that point, Courier was the sixth American to advance to the fourth round and by the time last night's match between Michael Chang and Australian Todd Woodbridge was over, Chang had become the eighth American to move on, beating Woodbridge, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0.
"That's the way it's supposed to be," said No. 15 seed Todd Martin, of Lansing, Mich. "I think people need to know that there are guys out here besides Andre [Agassi] and Pete [Sampras] who can play tennis and win. And I'm not talking about myself. I'm talking about guys like Vince Spadea and Patrick McEnroe. There is a lot of [American] talent out here and that shouldn't be overlooked."
Yesterday, Martin, who said he was inspired by his alma mater Northwestern's 17-15 victory over Notre Dame, got plenty of crowd support against Colombia's Mauricio Hadad, and won 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, on the Grandstand Court, which pleased the 6,000 fans there, but upset No. 3 Thomas Muster, whose match with Francisco Clavet was played on Court 16.
"I think it is pretty ridiculous to put the No. 3 player in the world out on Court 16 -- and a little disrespectful too," said Muster, who won, 0-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.
Second seed Sampras also advanced, but not before Australian Mark Philippoussis gave him a scare, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.
Americans Agassi and No. 75 Jared Palmer, who will play each other today, and No. 42 Patrick McEnroe had already advanced.
"It all started with an extraordinary class of juniors," said U.S. Davis Cup coach Tom Gullikson. "It was Jim and Sampras, Agassi, Chang, Todd Martin -- and Palmer too, that got people excited."
Courier is trying to find out how far he can come back.
A year ago, he put down his racket after his loss in Cincinnati prior to the Open and said he might never pick it up again. But he did pick it up again the next week to come here. But after a second-round loss, he had limited his play since.
"I couldn't wait to get home," he said. "I was tired of traveling. I didn't want to do it anymore. But I haven't played as much this season. I feel like I'm in a good mental frame of mind now -- and it has been so long since I could say that.
"But I'm keeping it in the short term. I'm not thinking about getting back to No. 1, because I have to take the first steps before I can start running again," Courier said. "I feel very in control on the court, so I am happy with that."
Late Saturday night, Spadea, 21 and No. 80 in the world, romped to a three-set victory over No. 7 seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
"I'm No. 7 player in the world and he's nobody," said Kafelnikov, acknowledging how difficult it was to play the young American in front of the partial stadium crowd.
"And of course they wanted him to beat me."
Spadea's victory was his first over a top 10 player, and as he played on the Stadium Court, he did not look above the encircling fence, did not make eye contact with any fans and barely heard their joyous celebration of his victory.
"Sometimes, it's just everything is like numb almost," said Spadea, who will meet Petr Korda today.
NOTE: The newly formed doubles team of Pam Shriver and Chanda Rubin kept rolling yesterday, pulling off a surprise upset of Martina Navratilova and Gabriela Sabatini, the No. 8 seed, 6-3, 7-5.
"We could hit it off and contend," said Shriver before this tournament started. "It's risky business for both
of us. She's a top 20 singles player and I'm not. But does she know doubles? She's young and I'm old. It is a risk, but if you don't take risks, you don't have the opportunity to make something great happen."
Men's singles, third round
Michael Stich (8), Germany, def. Scott Draper, Australia, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. Todd Martin (15), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., def. Mauricio Hadad, Colombia, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Thomas Muster (3), Austria, def. Francisco Clavet, Spain, 0-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. Byron Black, Zimbabwe, def. Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1. Jim Courier (14), Miami, def. Kenneth Carlsen, Denmark, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Pete Sampras (2), Tampa, Fla., def. Mark Philippoussis, Australia, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.
Women's singles, fourth round
Gabriela Sabatini (9), Argentina, def. Martina Hingis, Switzerland, 6-2, 6-4. Steffi Graf (1), Germany, def. Chanda Rubin, Lafayette, La., 6-2, 6-2. Amy Frazier, Rochester Hills, Mich., def. Natasha Zvereva (12), Belarus, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Mary Joe Fernandez (14), Key Biscayne, Fla., def. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3), 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.