Tennis: Champion left punch-drunk after unhappy hour: Wild-card entrant brings a halt to week of national gains by failing to get a game as Chang and Korda fall to unseeded German opposition

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The Independent Online
EVEN allowing for the departures of Michael Chang, the young sensation of 1989, and Petr Korda, the runner-up to Jim Courier last year, the 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 defeat of a player named Champion on the Centre Court was the talk of the French Open here yesterday.

After the national gains on previous days (Lendl falling to Huet, Becker to Gilbert, Milan to Marseille) Thierry Champion's performance in the second round was something of a disappointment. Granted, the Frenchman is ranked No 172 in the world and had to rely on a wild card to get him through the gates in the first place. Granted, also, that he was facing the 10th seed, Sergi Bruguera, the Monte Carlo Open champion and the Spaniard who blighted Stefan Edberg in the first round in 1990.

But Champion's embarrassment was compounded by being dismissed in an hour. Women's matches are supposed to be sprints compared to the men's, yet Arantxa Sanchez Vicario required 62 minutes yesterday to dispatch Naoko Sawamatsu, of Japan, 6-0, 6-0, and Gabriela Sabatini laboured for 90 minutes for a 6-3, 6-3 win against Karine Quentrec, of France.

'I felt good before the match,' Champion said. 'I was watching the Sanchez match from the locker room and wondering how there could be such a difference between two players at this level of tennis. When I went on the court I felt like a clown. I couldn't wait to get off. Even when Bruguera tried to give me the last game, I couldn't take it.'

Champion has the dubious distinction of being only the fifth man to fail to win a game in a Grand Slam match in the open era. The last was the South African Barry Moir, who experienced the power of Ivan Lendl in his pomp in the first round of the 1987 United States Open.

Chang lasted 36 minutes yesterday, much of the damage in his match against Bernd Karbacher having been done between rain delays on Wednesday evening. When they returned to the court, at 1-1 0-15 in the fourth set, the 25-year-old German worked hard (19 more points to win the first game), took the initiative and triumphed, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Korda was outplayed, 6-3, 7-6, 7-6, by another German, the powerful Marc Gollner, the much-travelled son of a diplomat who was born in Brazil, sampled cricket at school in Australia, and played club tennis en route to shaking Edberg and Lendl on consecutive days to win the Nice Open.

Edberg came through a crisis against his old rival Aaron Krickstein yesterday before advancing to the third round, 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 7-5.

Stephane Huet, the second day's story, was back among the smaller print. The French qualifier was defeated by a Brazilian qualifier, Fernando Meligeni, 7-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Guests at the world champions' dinner here next Tuesday may have to toast absent friends - the two world champions. Monica Seles is in Colorado, recovering from the knife attack in Germany, and Jim Courier has declined his invitation because he is defending the French Open title.

Courier informed the International Tennis Federation that he did not wish to change a routine which has brought him success here for the past two years. Provided his form held, he anticipated playing in the quarter- finals next Wednesday and was not prepared to attend a function the night before.

The way the order of play has worked, Courier's quarter-final would be played on Tuesday, leaving two days clear before the semi-finals. ITF officials are discussing the position with Courier's agent in the hope that he can be persuaded to change his mind and turn up to receive his trophy.

It would not be the first time a male champion has missed the dinner. Boris Becker failed to join Steffi Graf in 1990, having left Paris to practise on grass in London after losing to Goran Ivanisevic in the first round here.

The following year, Ivan Lendl, who missed the French Open because of injury, travelled from London in a private jet, already wearing his dinner suit, and returned after making a brief appearance at the function.

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