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Courier struggles into fourth round

Jim Courier struggled to victory in his third-round French Open match Saturday, and he was happy about it. The ninth-seeded Courier, of Dade City, rallied to defeat Magnus Larsson of Sweden 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. He has reached the fourth round in all three of his French Open appearances.

Courier had not lost a set in his two previous matches and said his battle against Larsson could be a blessing.

"It kind of gets my teeth into the tournament. Mentally, I think it's good for me to get into a hole like that and claw my way out of it," said Courier, who had 10 aces against Larsson.

Top seeds Stefan Edberg and Monica Seles and No.

3 Gabriela Sabatini and No.

10 Jennifer Capriati advanced with ease on a day that went mostly according to plan, except for another surprising victory by Todd Martin _ who had to win three qualifying matches to even reach the tournament.

Martin, an American rookie ranked 243rd in the world, moved into the fourth round with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Paul Haarhuis, ranked 53rd.

Martin, who was completing his sophomore year at Northwestern University at this time last spring and turned pro last summer, had never won a Grand Slam match before this week. He had little experience on clay and did not expect to last long in Paris. In fact, he already had plans to enter a minor tournament this week in Italy.

"I had a couple of possibilities when I came here," he said. "If I didn't do well, I would have tried to play in Turin or go to Beckenham (England) to play an exhibition on grass. But now I am not doing either."

Martin came into the tournament with career winnings of $36,454 but has already made $29,681 here and will claim $54,772 if he wins another match.

That next match will come against Courier, a practice partner and dinner companion.

Courier and Martin have practiced against each other throughout the last two weeks and eat spaghetti bolognese together each night. They are scheduled to meet in the fourth round Monday.

"I'm sure we'll be eating together tonight and tomorrow night," Courier said. "I just don't think we'll be practicing together (today)."

The atmosphere at Roland Garros was subdued, a day after Jimmy Connors had struggled against exhaustion to force Michael Chang into a fifth set. Connors, 38, then forfeited and stumbled off the court to wild cheers.

But the crowds were passive Saturday and much of the play was listless, especially that of Andrei Chesnokov. The Soviet clay-court specialist succumbed meekly to Edberg 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in less than two hours.

"I couldn't play much better than I did today," said Edberg, who is trying to protect his top ranking from Boris Becker.

Though a chilly breeze dominated most of the day, it was the sixth straight day without a drop of rain. That is making the courts unusually hard and fast, an advantage for grass-court experts such as Edberg and Becker.

"I think the balls are quicker this year. And with the weather like it is, the courts are going to be pretty quick," said Edberg, a 1989 French Open finalist. "It's possible for a serve-and-volley player to win here."

Capriati won the last nine games of her 6-3, 6-0 victory over Maya Kidowaki of Japan to reach the fourth round.

Defending women's champion Seles defeated Karine Quentrec of France 6-1, 6-2, and Sabatini won 6-2, 6-1 over Mary Pierce, formerly of Tampa and now residing in France. Either Sabatini or second-seeded Steffi Graf could dethrone Seles from the top ranking by winning the title here.

Other women's winners included sixth-seeded Jana Novotna, a 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 winner over Soviet Elena Brioukhovets; and seventh-seeded Conchita Martinez, a 6-1, 6-4 winner over Carrie Cunningham. Novotna advances to a fourth-round match today against No. 14 Leila Meskhi, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Linda Harvey-Wild.

The 16th seed, Anke Huber, lost 6-3, 6-4 to Sandra Cecchini, who hobbled to victory after pulling a calf muscle.