Wimbledon: Men's play is producing most of the surprises. Some big names leave; others are scraping by
The second week of this most unusual Wimbledon tournament has begun, and it's almost as bewildering as it is exciting. John McEnroe has gone. Sympathetic cheers from the British crowds probably still ring in his ears. But his heart is saddened by his play.
Ivan Lendl, world's No. 1, has only just scraped through two five-set matches against no-hopers.
Pat Cash, last year's champion, hopefully on his way to meet Boris Becker, twice champion previously, has had to meet a new Soviet star first - Andrei Olkhovski.
Becker ran up against America's Paul Annacone, who had already put out the upcoming young Swede, Jonas Svensson.
Jimmy Connors, who could be playing in the seniors tournament here this year if he had so wished, upstaged the powerful Hollywood youngster, Derrick Rostagno, in a five-setter - but only just. Connors could soon challenge Sweden's No. 3 seed, Stefan Edberg.
Mats Wilander, winner in Paris, has run into the heavy-serving giant, ``Bob'' Slobodan Zivojinovic, of Yugoslavia; quiet man Miloslav Mecir into Australian Wally Masur (find of the championships, so far); and Tim Mayotte into the richly talented Frenchman, Henri Leconte.
The women's section is less disconcerting, so to speak, although Hana Mandlikova, an Australian since Jan. 1, has gone, beaten by another Aussie, Anne Minter, 6-4, 6-3. Another seed, Sylvia Hanika of West Germany is out, too, beaten by America's Kathy Adams 6-3, 6-3.
But Martina Navratilova is in a determined mood and clearly means to make it a record nine singles titles at Wimbledon this year, come (as they say) what may. And what may come, of course - indeed, what seems today certain to come - is West Germany's second power player, Steffi Graf. They both look unstoppable.
Chris Evert, who may be playing in her last Wimbledon, was less convincing in the first set of her two-set victory over Akiko Kijimuta of Japan, but was a great deal more assured in the second, in which she did not concede a game. But she is seeded to meet Martina in the semi-finals and will need to improve dramatically to stand a chance in that match.
Pam Shriver is struggling, too, not being 100 percent fit. But the graceful 18-year-old Argentinian, Gabriela Sabatini, seems at the top of her game. The only question, according to the experts, is whether that game is really suitable for grass courts like Wimbledon's. Is it perhaps too much a long-rally baseline game?
This year the courts are fast and slippery. And it is noticeable that they are cutting up badly in the area where the power men of tennis land after their takeoff for a big first serve. The winner will be the one who serves and volleys best. This is likely to be true for the women as well as the men. But chance is quite likely to play a part as well.
Jimmy Connors in his tremendous game against Derrick Rostagno was very nearly robbed of the chance of victory by a netcord that looked impossible but which happened all the same. A big smash at matchpoint looked perfect. Rostagno's return was limp and hit the top of the net, very near the post. It bobbled and then fell just inside the line on Jimmy's side. He had to fight through three more tingling games before a tired Rostagno double-faulted to give him the game, the set, and the match - 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Rostagno had every reason to feel tired. He had played a 70-game match in the previous round.
John McEnroe received a hero's welcome from the British crowd, who were genuinely sad to see him go. But there was another player who won himself a standing ovation, and that was Michael Chang of the US - 16 years old, 5 ft. 8 in, but looking smaller at 135 pounds. He took the first set off the surprised French star, Henri Leconte, 6-2, with an extraordinary display of quickfire tennis and came remarkably close to taking the second set as well. Leconte reasserted himself and won 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-3, but he, too, joined in the rousing applause for young Chang.
Sixty tennis-playing countries are represented here this year. It is a great world tournament. For the British, who come in their tens of thousands to watch, it is disappointing that so few of their players make any mark these days. Only Julie Salmon in the ladies section got as far as the third round. John Lloyd, now mainly retired, and his pupil Stephen Shaw beat the seeded Paul Annacone and Christo Van Rensburg in an excellent doubles match, but that is as far as the local success goes.