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9TH-SEEDED COURIER STUNS TOP-SEEDED STEFAN EDBERG

Jim Courier, in the biggest victory of his career, knocked top-seeded Stefan Edberg out of the French Open 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 today to set up semfinals in which Americans will play Germans in both matches.

Courier's victory over the world's top-ranked player put the No. 9 seed into his first Grand Slam semifinal. He displayed poise and power and hit enough passing shots to negate Edberg's strong net game.Courier, a 20-year-old from Dade City, Fla., on Friday will play 12th seed Michael Stich, who overpowered Argentina's Franco Davin, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

The other men's semifinal was set Tuesday, when Boris Becker and Andre Agassi demolished their quarterfinal opponents. Agassi routed Jakob Hlasek 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 in 75 minutes, while Becker said he played "almost perfect" in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over 1989 champion Michael Chang.

Courier had beaten Edberg once before, in 1989, before the Swede was No. 1, and had lost their last three matches.

"I pretty much played my normal game," Courier said. "It's the first time I've beaten the No. 1 player in the world . . . I'm a little bit happy."

Courier was deservedly pleased with his game.

"I had to keep him off of the net . . . I just needed to play my game efectively to do so," Courier said. "Once I started rolling my serve in, I felt like I was going to win 55 percent of the points from the back court, which was enough."

Courier benfitted from numerous errors by Edberg, including two in the final game, and a disputed line call. The second-to-last point was a lob by Edberg that dropped close to the baseline - the linesman called it in, but the umpire, at Courier's request, inspected the mark and called it out.

Courier also was lucky - his decisive service break in the seventh game of the last set came when he mis-hit the ball with the frame of his racket and it looped over Edberg's head as the Swede charged the net.

Courier looked up at the sky with an expression of gratitude.

"You need a little luck once in a while, and mine came through at a big moment," he said.

"He had things running for him, while I felt I was missing a lot of shots by a few inches," Edberg said. "It was typical of the match . . . My lob was out and then he hit the line (on match point)."

The last time the United States had two French Open semifinalists was in 1984, when John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors before losing the final to Ivan Lendl.

Stich's victory gave Germany two French Open semifinalists for the first time in the tournament's history.

Stich, an occasional practice partner of Becker but not a close friend, said he would rather play Becker than Agassi if he makes the final.

"His game is a bit easier for me to play than Agassi," Stich said. "An all-German final would be great for German tennis."

Stich said he, like all other players in his country, can't help but feel they are in Becker's shadow.

"He's just better than all the other players," Stich said.

Stich's route in the draw was made easier when Ivan Lendl withdrew on the eve on the tournament after hand surgery. Lendl's spot was given to a low-ranked "lucky loser" from the qualification round.

That opened up Stich's section of the draw, and he has reached the semifinals without playing a single seeded opponent. His highest-ranked foe was 18-year-old Fabrice Santoro of France, No. 50 in the world, who was stricken with stomach problems the night before their fourth-round match.

For both Stich and Becker, a victory at Roland Garros Stadium would be their first title ever on clay.

The women's semifinals, scheduled for Thursday, involve perhaps the four best clay-court players in the world, and all four are eager for the showdowns after many easy matches in the early rounds.

"When I get to the semis, it's a relief," said Monica Seles, the top seed and defending champion. "I know from here on in I have to play great tennis."

First in line for Seles is one of the two women aiming for her No. 1 ranking, third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini. Each has lost only one set in the first five rounds.

Steffi Graf, also in the hunt for No. 1, plays Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in Thursday's other semifinal. It's a battle of two former French Open champions, neither of whom has lost a set thus far.