Tennis / Wimbledon '94: Memories of Forget fuel Briton's will: John Roberts on the singles encounters to savour on the first day of week two at the All England Club

THE deja vu is such that your correspondent makes no apology for recycling a line from two years ago: though the Centre Court scoreboard will say Forget Bates, we must regard it as a label rather than a directive.

Should our Jeremy once again play his way to match point against the gallant Frenchman, Guy Forget, we trust that any other similarity to this day in 1992 will immediately cease: no second thoughts, no sneezes in the crowd.

Whatever it takes - a steady nerve, a stiff upper lip, a solid serve, a bold return, a brilliant shot from the middle of the strings, or a fluke off the frame - the nation would appreciate the novelty of one of their own advancing to the quarter-finals; someone who, at the very least, could walk into the Last 8 Club without mumbling, 'Won the mixed doubles in '87.'

Since their previous Wimbledon encounter, Bates, the oldest competitor in the men's singles draw at 32, has embellished his career by finally winning a title, albeit in South Korea. His 29-year-old opponent is in the process of salvaging his career after being close to retirement following knee surgery.

It is one of those occasions when rank counts for less than finesse, fitness, and determination. Bates, No 85 in the world, has distinguished himself against celebrities from time to time (Boris Becker, Michael Chang, John McEnroe, Yannick Noah). Forget, a left- hander with a potent serve who rose to No 4 in 1991, is listed as No 1,130 on the computer but is campaigning as a top-30 contender by virtue of a protected ranking rule regarding long-term injuries.

The Frenchman considers that both he and Bates have reached the point where the expectations of others matters less. But Forget, a member of the French Davis Cup team who were consumed by national fervour after defeating the United States in the 1991 final, may be underestimating the situation with regard to his opponent. Bates is only too aware that millions, many of whom rarely give tennis a thought, are willing him to win. Moreover, he knows that he has the capability. Smile though he may, Britain expects.

One hopes that Forget is correct in another assumption. 'A lot of times you play a local player in places and people are arrogant and do things to try to make you play bad,' he said, 'but I've never felt that was the case here. It's not the mentality of the British people. I don't like it when I play in France and people don't support in a fair way. I don't feel comfortable. In England, crowds have been very good to me. They are cheering for Jeremy, which is normal, but I never feel hostililty towards me.'

So the game-plan is for Bates to make Forget dreadfully uncomfortable while everybody else behaves impeccably.

In anticipation of this treat there are intruiging supporting acts for our amusement, on the Centre Court and elsewhere in the grounds. If the second week of the Championships follows the pattern of the first, catch them while you can.

Andre Agassi's performances have afforded a delightful combination of crowd-pleasing personality and shot-making excellence, the 12th seed's matches comprising a sufficient variety of strokes to paint pictures rather than punch holes though the canvas.

Whether this will continue when Agassi confronts Todd Martin, a giant American compatriot who serves well, volleys well and returns well, is another matter. The sixth seed is a solid citizen whose intonation bears a trace of Clint Eastwood but who appears far too much of a Clean Harry ever to ask a punk to make his day.

They each have won two of their previous matches, all played on concrete courts, which are medium- paced compared with the lawns, which may slightly favour Martin. If Agassi wins this one, he will start fancying his chances to repeat his 1992 triumph, particularly as the quarter-final brings Wayne Ferreira or Jonas Bjorkman, two of the unseeded warriors.

Martin, it is confirmed, has been extracated from the superglue which detained a number of players on Court One last week, most memorably Sergi Bruguera. The French Open champion has been persuaded to venture there again, this time in the company of Chang, a devout baseliner who also appears to have been kidded into thinking that the grass has been removed this year. The difference is that Bruguera has started to volley like Stefan Edberg (circa 1990).

Provided Bruguera and Chang finish in time, Martina Navratilova will face her most difficult match so far against Helena Sukova, a familiar foe. The Martina Fan Club inundated the All England Club with letters pleading that the nine-times champion be kept on the Centre Court, but you can't win them all.

Scheduled to bring play to a close on Court One is a potential classic between Boris Becker, a three-times champion, and Andrei Medvedev, the 19-year-old Ukrainian who has still to flourish on the faster surfaces.

Pete Sampras finds himself back on Court Two, the champions' graveyard, with Daniel Vacek an opponent only too willing to do the spadework. Between them they have served 124 aces (63 to Vacek). Sampras was asked how he would alert linesmen to the perils of the impending bombardment. 'Have your eyes open, I guess.'

The same message should be printed large on the front of Goran Ivanisevic's shirt. The runner-up to Agassi two years ago allowed Amos Mansdorf only six points off his serve on Saturday, all in the second of the three sets. And one was a double-fault.

Ivanisevic hit 25 aces and 24 other unreturnable serves. He has yet to break a racket, and has only twice spoken to an umpire, Britain's Gerry Armstrong, on both occasions in a temperate manner. The man is dangerous. Whisper it, but if he beats Alexander Volkov he could be next in line for Bates.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent