More seeds swept from Agassi's path

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It is always sad to witness great champions in decline, particularly those who grace the sport with dignity as well as distinction. There was further evidence yesterday that time is running out for the exemplary Stefan Edberg.

On an afternoon when Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Andrei Med-vedev also added their names to the list of beaten seeds in Andre Agassi's half of the draw (leaving only Boris Becker and Wayne Ferriera), the elimination of the 29-year-old Edberg was an ominous sign for admirers of elegance on the grass.

There was also a touch of irony. Chang, the fifth seed, was defeated in straight sets by the unseeded Petr Korda, from the Czech Republic, who is coached by Nottingham's Tony Pickard, Edberg's former mentor.

The Kensington-based Swede lost in round two for the second consecutive year, experiencing his heaviest defeat in 13 successive Wimbledon campaigns. His response when asked if he would return was as indecisive as his reactions to the explosive serves of his opponent. "It makes you wonder," he said with a gentle shrug, "I hope so."

On the corresponding day last year, when seeded No 3, Edberg was defeated in five sets by Kenneth Carlsen, a Dane ranked No 113. Yesterday, seeded No 13, he was blown away, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, in 98 minutes by Dick Norman, a "lucky loser" from the pre-qualifying, ranked No 176.

Dick Norman? When the name first appeared in tournament results even some of his Belgian countrymen assumed that he was Australian, a tennis- playing relative of Greg, perhaps. At 6ft 8in, Dick from Waregem has to be the great white minnow. He had won only one match on the mainstream tour this year - against a compatriot, Sjeng Schalken, in Rosmalen a fortnight ago - before arriving to make his debut at the All England Club.

The 24-year-old Norman was told of his promotion to the main draw on Sunday afternoon, having lost to the Australian Sandon Stolle in the final round of the Roehampton qualifying. He has already beaten two Wimbledon champions, Pat Cash (1987) and Edberg (1988 and 1990), so only Boris Becker, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras bar his path to the title.

Cash actually retired injured after losing a first set tie-break to Norman, but there was nothing fortunate about the Belgian's success against Edberg, who was on the receiving end from the start on Court 14.

Several experts wonder if Norman serves even faster than Greg Rusedski's 137mph; Rusedski among them. The problem is that serves are only timed on the centre courts, which tend to be no-go areas for players of Norman's status.

Though the Belgian served as many double-faults as aces yesterday (eight), Edberg was in no doubt about Norman's power. "You feel like David and Goliath out there," the Swede said. "He served me off the court. The ball bounces up over your shoulder most of the time. If you don't see the ball well, and you don't react to a big serve on a hot day on a grass court you've got no chance, simple as that."

One of the reasons why we have not seen more of Norman is that he was out of the sport for seven months after undergoing surgery to both knees in August 1993. Recovery has not been easy with such a depth of talent in the game, and Norman apparently did not behave too well during a challenger event in Adelaide last December, when he became annoyed at the comments of the three spectators in the grandstand.

"In the beginning of the year I programmed all my tournaments for Wimbledon," he said. "I wanted to play really well here, and I got lucky, being a lucky loser. I thought if I served well could take a lot of good players out of the tournament. I was very nervous when I started to play against against Cash, but today I had no problems at all with the pressure. Because Stefan is not playing as well as before, I knew I had a chance to win."

Edberg is due to complete 50 consecutive Grand Slam appearances at the United States Open in August, but longevity takes a toll.

Mats Wilander took his leave of the sport when he considered he had reached his peak, and returned because he found he could enjoy the competition without worrying overmuch about his results. The former world No 1 had triumphed on every major stage except Wimbledon, and yesterday he advanced into the third round, retrieving a two-set deficit to defeat Marc Goellner, of Germany, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

Courier, the runner-up to Sampras in 1993 and seeded No 11 for this year's championships, fell to Cedric Pioline, of France, ranked No 58. An English reporter made the point to Courier that a couple of years ago, when he was the world No 1, he was a "real mean son of a bitch", and now he seemed like a nice guy. Billie Jean King interjected on the Floridan's behalf. "That's OK," Courier said, "I take pride in him calling me a mean son of a bitch."

Medvedev, the 15th seed, was defeated by the Californian Jeff Tarango, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Agassi, meantime, continued to romp through the opening week, marking his arrival on the Centre Court by defeating McEnroe the younger (Patrick), 6-1, 6-1, 6-3, in 96 minutes. He now plays David Wheaton, who eliminated him in the quarter-finals in 1991.

Steffi Graf required five match points to make her way into the third round past South Africa's Amanda Coetzer, 6-3, 7-5, but showed no signs of stress from either her suspect back or her sprained wrist. "Maybe I was thinking [about my back] a little bit today, waiting for something to happen," she said. "And maybe my concentration was not one hundred per cent. Otherwise, I felt no problems."

The most emotional occasion of the day was reserved for Court One, where the 34-year-old Jo Durie bade farewell to Wimbledon. Britain's last credible contender on the women's tour - a semi-finalist at the French and United States championships and No 5 in the world in 1983 - Durie lost to Jana Novotna, 6-2, 6-2.

Though unable to make the most of her opportunities, Durie made her exit as a singles competitor with a smile on her face and the cheers of the crowd in her ears.

"I felt full of joy in a way," she said, "because I was just so pleased that I made it to the second round on a big court." She will now devote some of her time to encourage British players to raise their game.

Wimbledon's soft centres, page 8

YESTERDAY AT

WIMBLEDON

Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Stefan Edberg and Andrei Medvedev fall in the second round

Emotional farewell for Jo Durie, who is beaten in straight sets by Jana Novotna

Zvereva survives early scare but Sukova departs

Tim Henman and Caroline Hall kiss and make up

Comments