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Mayotte bears watching at Wimbledon; facts for Malone-iacs

If one were to pick a dark horse to watch at Wimbledon next week, 16th-seeded Tim Mayotte would make a sensible and popular choice. He reached the quarterfinals in his Wimbledon debut two years ago, when the British press dubbed him ''Gentleman Tim,'' then advanced to the semifinals last year.

At 6 ft. 3 in., the world's 22nd-ranked player has the powerful serve-and-volley game to win on grass, and did well in two of this month's traditional Wimbledon tuneups. His results went largely unnoticed, but not his words. After picking up his first pro title at Manchester, he spoke out against the tour's bad actors, reportedly calling for a suspension of fellow Stanford alumnus John McEnroe. The remarks made news, particularly in England, where the story was blown out of all proportion according to Tom Ford, Mayotte's brother-in-law and a Boston-based attorney. ''Tim was substantially misquoted, '' Ford said, ''and wasn't directing his comments at McEnroe in particular.''

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Because Mayotte has a reputation as a well-mannered tennis citizen his comments commanded attention. Dick Gould, his coach at Stanford, said, ''Clearly there are some guys that stand out as models, such as (Ken) Rosewall, (Stan) Smith, (Arthur) Ashe, and Tim. They can compete like crazy, but within perspective. It is really refreshing. They play tennis because they like to play tennis.''

Mayotte's love for the game developed in Springfield, Mass., the birthplace of basketball. The youngest of a seven-child, tennis-playing family, he followed in the footsteps of McEnroe and six other Stanford greats by winning the 1981 collegiate title. He also received the Rafael Osuna Award for sportsmanship, marking only the second time an NCAA singles titlist has been so honored. A junior history major, he dropped out of school and proceeded to become the circuit's Newcomer of the Year. Eventually he would like to finish his degree and perhaps enter politics. Beware Delaware

The football teams of the universities of Michigan and Delaware could easily be mistaken for one another. They share the same colors (blue and gold), wear helmets with the same wing design, and win with about the same regularity. And now another similarity is possible. For after years as an independent, Delaware is joining the Yankee Conference, which means it may soon be as much of a league force as Michigan has been in the Big Ten. The Blue Hens already own an incredible record against what are now Yankee Conference teams. They are 46-8 overall, and 30-0 since losing to Boston University in 1969.

Dave Nelson, the Delaware athletic director, says the chief factor in joining a conference was to facilitate scheduling against other Eastern schools in the NCAA's I-AA classification. And as a member of the Yankee Conference, Delaware would receive an automatic NCAA playoff bid by winning the league championship.

Still, the gnawing question remains: Is Delaware too good for the company it will keep? Nelson doesn't really think so, pointing to tense victories over Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts the last two years. These schools will join BU, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire in trying to crack the Blue Hen riddle. They can divide the spoils among themselves for a while longer, though, since Delaware won't contend for the Yankee crown until fully absorbed into the conference's round-robin format in 1986 or 1987. More on Moses

Until Moses Malone arrived in Philadelphia and led the 76ers to this year's National Basketball Association championship, he was probably never fully appreciated. For years, his talent and determination were largely hidden from public view - or at least from the TV-watching masses. And as a private man who kept to himself and concealed his emotions, Moses didn't always invite the media following accorded more flamboyant members of his profession.

But now that Malone is the NBA's undisputed most valuable player, and an admirably tireless, hard-working one at that, his career is bound to attract closer examination. Among the facts waiting to be discovered about the three-time MVP are these:

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* Moses was a mere third-round draft choice of the ABA's Utah Stars in 1974. The NBA bypassed him altogether, not because he was just coming out of high school, but because he never applied for ''hardship'' status.

* Malone very nearly went to the University of Maryland. If he had, the school might have become the ''UCLA of the East,'' as Coach Lefty Driesell hoped it would. Even without Moses, the Terrapins went 24-5 and 22-6 in what would have been his freshman and sophomore seasons.

* By the time he was 21, Malone was a veteran of two leagues and five teams. He played briefly in St. Louis after the Stars folded, was picked up by Portland in the ABA's 1976 dispersal draft, and eventually was traded in rapid succession to Buffalo and then Houston. The Rockets reached the NBA finals with him, but finished last without him.

* Moses hasn't grown an inch since his high school days. He's still 6 ft. 10 in., but now tips the scales at 235 instead of 210.

* Mo wasn't necessarily considered a can't-miss pro prospect. Said one skeptical NBA general manager: ''There's a 50-50 chance he'll flop. There's no way this kid is a Walton, an Abdul-Jabbar, or a Chamberlain.''

* Despite a generally buttoned lip, he's responsible for two of the more memorable quotes in playoff history. Two years ago he enraged the Celtics during the championship series when he said, ''Boston ain't that good. I could get four guys off the street from back home in Petersburg (Va.) and beat them.'' And this year he added the classic, ''Fo', fo', fo','' in predicting successive four-game sweeps en route to the title. The Muhammad Ali of the hardcourt was almost right, too, as the 76ers went 12-l in the playoffs.

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