Tennis: Edberg has hold over Ivanisevic

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The Independent Online
The popular acclaim which has accompanied Stefan Edberg throughout his retirement season continued here yesterday when the Swede advanced to the quarter-finals of the Stella Artois Championships at the expense of Goran Ivanisevic.

It was Edberg's third consecutive win against the Croat, and he now leads their head-to-head 9-8. Ivanisevic won their only previous encounter on grass, at Wimbledon in the 1992 quarter-finals.

Ivanisevic seemed more concerned about a strained tendon in his right knee, which was strapped from 2-5 in the second set, than the defeat, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6. "I always play bad here," he said. "I don't feel so bad, because I always lose. When you come to England you have to have some kind of tradition, so this is mine.''

Edberg, seeded as low as No 14 because of his ranking at No 26, performed with the verve which brought him the title here in 1991 and the Wimbledon championship on two occasions.

Recovering from the disappointment of losing the first set tie-break, 7-3, the Swede took control of the second set from the moment in the third game when Ivanisevic lost his temper after being denied an ace by a line call.

It appeared that Edberg would cruise through the final set after Ivanisevic double-faulted into trouble in the third game, and was broken. But the Croat assured the Centre Court of a dramatic finale by breaking back when Edberg served for the match at 5-4.

Ivanisevic never recovered after double-faulting to give the Swede a 3-1 lead in the tie-break, and although he looked startled when his forehand service return was called out on match point, at 3-7, there could be little doubt that Edberg had earned his success over the two hours' play.

There was a minor sensation when the top two seeds advanced to the last eight, the No 1 being that grass-court alien Thomas Muster. The Austrian gains the vast majority of his ranking points on clay, and has yet to win a match at Wimbledon.

Muster is the antithesis of the No 2 seed, Germany's Boris Becker, who has never been able to win a title on clay courts but yesterday became the first man to win 100 matches on grass since John McEnroe in 1989.

Becker defeated the American Jonathan Stark, 6-4, 6-2. Muster beat Andrei Olhovskiy, 6-2, 6-4, unnerving the Russian into committing the kind of errors Britain's Tim Henman rarely had a sniff at the previous day.

Muster and Becker, who have been on the tour for 13 years, learned the game on slow European clay. But while Muster's tenacious baseline style remains true to its roots, Becker's inclination to serve and volley enabled his career to take off at Queen's and soar at Wimbledon.

Asked where he would seed Muster for Wimbledon, Becker smiled and said: "You'd better ask me on Sunday." He added: "Thomas did win on a fast indoor court in Essen last October, and if you have good groundstrokes and good returns you can play well from the backcourt at Wimbledon, as Agassi has done.''

Muster is seeking to find a happy medium between his baseline style and the advantage of attacking the net. "I'm still thinking too much about what I have to do," he said. "I think my timing was better today, especially on the returns, but I was not too happy with my serve.''

Becker, who was runner-up to Pete Sampras at Wimbledon last year and winner of the Australian Open in January, expressed satisfaction with his recovery from a thigh injury which caused him to miss the French Open.

QUARTER-FINALS LINE-UP: T Muster (Aut) v M Woodforde (Aus); S Edberg (Swe) bt T Martin (US); M Stich (Ger) v W Ferreira (SA); P Rafter (Aus) v B Becker (Ger).

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