Ferreira survives trial by fire

Wimbledon '95: Agassi lays on the entertainment while Becker survives and Woodforde pushes South African; Simon O'Hagan reports on a day of controversy and dramatic tennis
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WHILE the Jeff Tarango walk-out dominated events at Wimbledon yesterday, there was no shortage of excellent tennis or, indeed, player v official confrontation. Boris Becker and Andre Agassi both won hugely entertaining matches on the Centre Court, while on Court One, the seventh seed, Wayne Ferreira, of South Africa, came through an anxious five-set match with Mark Woodforde, of Australia, which, until Tarango let fly, threatened to provide the day's main disciplinary interest.

Ferreira has been making quiet progress through this year's Championships - but then he rarely operates any other way, and that is how he likes it. The thoughtful challenge of the doubles specialist Woodforde unsettled him, and when his own form began to fall spectacularly apart, the fretfulness inherent in Ferreira rose straight to the surface.

Having won the first set 6-1, Ferreira suddenly suffered what almost amounted to an attack of the yips in the second, which Woodforde won 6- 1. He recovered to take the third 6-4 without ever looking as if he was even remotely enjoying himself before he laboured to a fourth-set tie- break. Leading 5-1, he looked to have the match in the bag, but the fashion in which he lost five successive points typified his overall performance.

Ferreira eventually took the fifth set 6-2, but the man who last week said he felt he was playing well enough to win Wimbledon was obviously elsewhere. In his place was someone who became so agitated that he received a warning for racket abuse when he smashed it into the ground at the end of the second set. He was later lucky to get away with what appeared to be an audible obscenity.

Boris Becker also had his problems, in the shape of Jan Siemerink. The Dutchman won the first set 6-2 thanks mainly to a series of wonderfully anticipated returns which all but negated the German's serve. Siemerink, tall, lithe and agile, continued to illuminate the match with his shot- making, but sustained pressure was beyond him.

Becker always had a harder edge to his game, and even though his first serve let him down badly (50 per cent in to Siemerink 76 per cent), he made up for it with some vicious cross-court passing shots, the power and accuracy of which brought gasps from the crowd around the court that is almost his home but on which he had not yet appeared this year.

Serving at 4-4 in the fourth set, Siemerink was hanging on, but lost a crucial point at 15-all when Becker lofted a low volley that looked to be dropping out. The Dutchman adopted the pose of somebody ushering the ball beyond the line and then, as he realised it was dropping in, his attitude suddenly changed to that of a man running after a bus he thought was going to stop for him but hasn't. Although he got back to 30-30, Siemerink was under pressure. Becker got the break and served out to win 2-6 6-2 6-2 6-4 and move towards a meeting with the 6ft 8in Belgian Dick Norman.

It is 10 years since Becker changed the face of modern tennis when his ferocious hitting made him the youngest Wimbledon men's singles champion at the age of 17 years and seven months. Then they all started to play like him. But the original exponent of the power game, looks as though he might again show his rivals how it is done.

The Centre Court crowd were later treated to a terrific battle between Agassi and David Wheaton, the latter's spiky aggression allowing him to draw level at a set-all having lost the first set before the No 1 seed came through in four sets. He now meets Alexander Mronz, the beneficiary of Tarango's walk-out.

There were also wins for Cedric Pioline and Petr Korda, whose three-set removal of the dangerous Brett Steven of New Zealand confirmed the strength of his challenge. Pioline and Korda now meet, while the other tie to be finalised was Jacco Eltingh against Ferreira, Eltingh having ended the dream of Mats Wilander. All the fourth round ties, both men's and women's, take place tomorrow.

The last 16 in the men now includes only seven seeds - Agassi, Ferreira, Becker, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Todd Martin, Goran Ivanisevic and Pete Sampras. Among the rest are a lucky loser - Norman - and the unconsidered Japanese Shuza Matsuoka. A mixed bunch indeed, from which the likeliest finalists to emerge are still Agassi and Sampras, the top two seeds.