The US Open has traditionally drawn out the best tennis Jimmy Connors, a five-time champion, has to offer. Even in years when he arrived looking vulnerable, he sometimes left New York looking invincible. Whatever powers of tranformation the tournament has afforded him, however, were short-circuited this time as unseeded Todd Witsken upset Connors in a third-round match 6-2, 6-4, 7-5, snapping his string of 12 straight semfinal appearances. The defeat, coupled with John McEnroe's loss to Paul Annacone in the first round, eliminated the top two American contenders. (As so frequently happens after a big upset, Annacone lost his next match, falling to Aaron Krickstein.)
Connors and McEnroe have won every men's singles title but one since the tournament moved to Flushing Meadow in 1978. The exception occurred last year, when Ivan Lendl won. Lendl also started strongly this year, reaching the round of 16 without dropping a set. Meanwhile Boris Becker, who beat Lendl on Wimbledon's grass courts, also has been playing well and seems to be gaining more confidence on the harder surface here.
The top-seeded women players all raced through to the fourth round, with defending champion Hana Mandlikova joining Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert Lloyd, and Steffi Graf as the chief threats to reach the semis. The US chooses its side
At least for the time being, the United States must try to win tennis's most heralded team title, the Davis Cup, without a Top 10 player. Annacone, Tim Mayotte, Brad Gilbert, Ken Flach, and Robert Seguso may not be exactly a bunch of guys named Joe, but neither are they superstars.
The two American males who carry that label, McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, have for all intents and purposes removed themselves from consideration for the team.
In announcing the latest roster at the US Open, Coach Tom Gorman basically elected to stick with the group that beat Mexico in the quarterfinals not long ago. Annacone, ranked 20th in the world, is the only addition. He joins Mayotte (13th) and Gilbert (14th) in singles play, while Flach and Seguso, the Open's defending champions, handle the lone doubles assignment in the best-of-five-matches format.
While playing on the road before highly partisan crowds is never easy, the Americans have to be pleased to be moving from the clay of Mexico onto the grass courts of Brisbane, Australia. Mayotte, especially, welcomes the change, since he has enjoyed his best results on grass.
The Oct. 3-5, the confrontation will mark the 40th time the Yanks and Aussies have met in Davis Cup play. The United States holds a 23-17 series lead. Women's awards
The women traditionally hold a formal party in conjunction with the Open at which they honor various individuals, including the circuit's most sporting player. This year's Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award went to Sweden's Catarina Lindqvist, who shares the same healthy approach to the game as the several of the top Swedish men.
The Women's International Tennis Association also surprised Evert Lloyd by presenting her with the inaugural President's Award. She is entering her fifth term as the association's president.
``I thought the president had to approve everything, so why didn't I know about this,'' joked an obviously delighted Evert Lloyd, whose acceptance of off-court leadership responsibilities sets her apart from some of the top men.
Navratilova was voted the No. 1 player and she and Pam Shriver the best team. The 17-year-old Graf, who has shot up from 20th to No. 3 in the rankings, was named ``Most Improved Player,'' and California teen-ager Stephanie Rehe won ``Most Impressive Newcomer'' honors.