TENNIS : Braasch laughs loudest as Stich comes unstuck

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The Independent Online
Karsten Braasch bears a passing resemblance to Rolf Harris and scurries into his serve with the elegance of Groucho Marx. Having eliminated Stefan Edberg from the Lipton Championships here yesterday, he told the Centre Court crowd that he won in straight sets in order to watch Michael Jordan's comeback on television.

It was refreshing to encounter a jocular German after Michael Stich's graceless departure on Saturday, the 1991 Wimbledon champion compounding a dismaying 6-3, 6-2 loss to Michael Joyce, a Californian ranked No 126 in the world, by saying that he did not like being in Miami and did not think it was worth returning again.

Braasch thoroughly enjoyed his unaccustomed place in the sun. The 6-3, 7-6 win against Edberg in the second round of the most prestigious tournament outside the four Grand Slams provided his most invigorating experience since he advanced to the final of the Los Angeles event last August, only to lose to his compatriot Boris Becker.

At that time, Braasch was Stich's doubles partner in the German Davis Cup team, chiefly because Becker was sulking. On Becker's return to national service this year Braasch was discarded; not that he could complain, being ranked No 102 in the world and No 5 in his homeland.

The 27-year-old left-hander from Westphalia would not expect to be mentioned in the same breath as Becker and Stich, though that is not such a bad thing when the two German rivals are fighting an unedifying battle of pride regarding who should be paid most for representing their country.

Braasch capitalised on Edberg's declining form, retrieving a 1-4 deficit in the second set and winning the tie-break 7-1, the Swedish 11th seed double-faulting on match point.

Still some way behind tennis's dollar millionaires, Braasch is an easy- going type who likes a drink, a smoke and a joke. He once asked officials if it was permissible to smoke during change-overs. Most of the international officials here have sufficient time on their hands to hold a seminar on the subject.

Between 30 and 40 visiting umpires and line judges from 12 different countries were stood down by the organisers when doubts were raised that their visas did not entitle them to work in the United States as a result of a change in the law in 1993. Seven Britons, including Jane Tabor and Mike Morrissey, who regularly officiate for the International Tennis Federation, await the outcome of a commission which is due to clarify the situation today.

It was an encouraging weekend for Australians. Paul Kilderry, a qualifier ranked No 194, defeated the sixth seed, Richard Krajicek, 6-3, 3-6, 6- 2, and Mark Philippousis, 18, the youngest competitor in the men's singles, eliminated Krajicek's Dutch compatriot, Paul Haarhuis, 7-6 6-3.

These results followed Todd Woodbridge's straight sets win against the ninth seed, Todd Martin, in addition to which Mark Woodforde has lined up another crack at Jim Courier, having won three of his previous seven matches against the seventh-seeded American.

Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi both opened with straight-sets victories. Sampras, who needs to reach the semi-finals to deny Agassi the chance of taking the world No 1 ranking, defeated the Californian Derrick Rostagno, 6-3, 6-2. Agassi beat Japan's Shuzo Matsuoka, 6-2, 6-4. Rostagno had not played a match on the main tour for 18 months before Saturday's three- sets win over Britain's Mark Petchey.

Sampras's coach, Tim Gullikson, who has a brain tumor, begins a six-month programme of chemotherapy treatment today.

Clare Wood, Britain's only other representative in the singles events, lost her second- round match against Angelica Gavildon, 6-3, 6-4. The Mexican, ranked 142 places above Wood at No 43, defeated Jana Novotna to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals in January.