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U.S. OPEN `DREAM MATCH' TO FEATURE CONNORS VS. LENDL ON CENTER COURT

Get ready for another dose of electricity from the U.S. Open. Jimmy Connors returns to center court at the National Tennis Center tonight.

Back in what has become a private playground for him, Connors goes against No. 9 seed Ivan Lendl. What can we expect?"Come on out and see," Connors said. "I am going to. That's all I can say. You know, everytime I come here and play, I don't know what to expect. People can leave in the middle of the match if they don't think things are going well. They can stay forever if they want to see you win. If I can go out and there is a good crowd there and if I can get stuck in the match, we could have one hell of an evening."

A four-hour battle for survival? Maybe. Connors says he will do whatever is necessary, stay as long as he must, to win at the Open. Four hours is no big deal for Lendl, who stayed 4:29 and five sets in his first round match against Jaime Yzaga.

The pairing of the charismatic Connors and the stoical Lendl promises a good show. There will be no surprises, though, from a tennis standpoint.

"I know him and he knows me," Connors said. "If I don't let him blow me off the court, you don't know what will happen."

Their series stands 22-13 in Lendl's favor and he has won the last 16 in a row after Connors captured their first eight meetings.

Their previous Open meetings have all come late in the tournament. Connors beat Lendl for championship in 1982 and 1983 and then Lendl beat Jimbo in semifinal meetings en route to the titles in 1985 and 1987.

Their games have diminished since those days. Connors now is the beloved senior citizen of the sport and Lendl is the ex-champ who seems to have lost a step.

Connors' feeling is that he can dictate how the match goes, regardless of what Lendl does. "I don't really care what he gives me," he said. "It is what I do that is the most important for myself."

Lendl seems aloof to the possibilities of the pairing. "We have played here many times before," he said without emotion. "I hope I play better than he does."

The Open crowd and the National Tennis Center turn Connors on. "It is unexplainable," he said. "I can't explain it. Those people are there to be part of what I do. Coming here day after day to watch me play, I'll never be able to repay that."