Martinez makes way for the revolution

Guy Hodgson reports on a cull of women's seeds on the outside courts
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The Independent Online
If you have to have a revolution, then People's Sunday is as good a time as any. The last remnant of the ancien regime, at least the women's part of it, was overthrown yesterday, and if the tournament ever ends, a new queen will be crowned.

Conchita Martinez, the 1994 champion, was never a rock solid member of the old guard but with Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova missing she was the only one left with experience of winning a women's final. Not any more. A 6-4, 6-2 defeat by Helena Sukova means new hands will lift the Venus Rosewater Dish.

The owner of those hands could be the top seed, Martina Hingis, who swept aside the American Nicole Arendt 6-1, 6-3, or Monica Seles, who survived a scare against Kristina Brandi, but she will not be British. Karen Cross and Lorna Woodroffe went out yesterday, the former missing a match point.

The end for the 10th-seeded Martinez came in the relative obscurity of Court Three. Against the serve and volleying of the 6ft 2in Helena Sukova, playing in her 15th Wimbledon, she succumbed in under an hour. Sukova's mother, Vera, was a finalist in 1962.

Martinez was one of five seeds yesterday who wished the clouds had continued to rain on their parade. And parade they did, Lindsay Davenport, Amanda Coetzer, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy and Barbara Paulus going out between 12 noon and 3pm. Not so much People's Sunday as Feeble Sunday.

Davenport, the Olympic champion, was the highest ranked casualty at fifth, going down 7-5, 6-2 to Denisa Chladkova, of the Czech Republic. "She was better than I expected," the American said. "To play my first match on Monday and to play again Sunday was definitely a throw-off. This was the wierdest and most difficult Grand Slam."

Schultz-McCarthy, the serve and volleyer who ought to do well at Wimbledon but rarely does, lost 6-2, 6-3 to Belgium's Sabine Appelmans while Coetzer, the sixth seed, lost in the second round for the fifth time in seven years, collapsing 6-2, 6-1 to Canada's Patricia Hy-Boulais. Paulus was defeated 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to Japan's Naoko Kijimuta.

Seles was overcome by her emotions when she had a standing ovation from the Centre Court after swallowing Brandi 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, which had her wiping away tears.

"It came as a surprise," she said, "but the crowd were very spontaneous. I felt the support a lot last year when I won my first match and lost the second on Court One. I really didn't want to repeat that." At a set down overnight a repeat was a possibility but from 3-3 in the second, Seles rattled off six of the next seven games.

The crowd, she said, was what made the Championships different. "We're staying in a house a couple of roads up from Wimbledon and I can see how dedicated the fans are, sleeping outside. At very few places do you see that."

You had to go back to 1985 to catch a glimpse of a British woman in the fourth round but Cross almost got there. The 23-year-old world No 322 has been beating women so far up the rankings they are out of sight, but she nearly went into the realms of fantasy when she had Iva Majoli, the French champion and fourth seed, at match point down at 5-4 in the second set.

Majoli was wrapped like a mummy due to a back injury and with her movement restricted an upset seemed likely. The Croat's injury eased, however, and by the third set she was flowing, winning 4-6, 7-6, 6-4. "I'm pleased because I've had a great tournament," Cross said, "but it's hard not to feel disappointed having come so close."