Tennis: Korda decides to call it a day

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JUST FOR a change - and just for a while - the sun shone on Roehampton yesterday, the starting point in the dream for 128 Wimbledon hopefuls. But for Petr Korda, whose presence here will have come as a surprise to many, it marked the end of a controversial career which threatens to finish under a cloud of the kind which, inevitably, brought play to a halt here.

With the drugs allegations following last year's Wimbledon Championships hanging over him, last year's Australian Open champion chose the Bank of England Sports Club to announce that he was closing his account: this will be his last tournament.

Korda, perhaps fearing the worst when the International Olympic Committee give their verdict next month after the conclusion of the Championships, has decided to retire - at the age of 31 - to spend more time with his young family.

Refused a wild card for next week's men's singles, Korda could be excused for thinking, after all that has gone on during the last 12 months, that the world was against him. It was not an uncommon feeling yesterday as the tranquility of this idyllic, very English setting was punctured from time to time by grumbles and curses in 32 different tongues. Nothing, though, was going to spoil the day for the deckchair fans, who just got stuck into the sun screen and their cucumber sandwiches.

"I've got a splitting headache and I'm injured," Mark Knowles, of the Bahamas, kept saying to no one in particular by way of excuse for his errors against the Frenchman Rodolphe Gilbert out on Court 6. "It's like I've got a chisel right in the middle of my forehead." Without recourse to paracetamol, Knowles hit a few winning forehands and was suddenly as right as rain.

At least Korda kept his whinges until after the tennis, unlike his opponent, the Spaniard Oscar Burrieza, who allowed a disputed line-call to hurry him to a 7-5, 6-2 defeat. "He grumbled all the way through," Korda said.

Since testing positive for an illegal substance at last year's Championships, where he lost to Tim Henman in the quarter-finals), Korda's career has gone into freefall. Ranked 13th in the world just six months ago, he has plummeted to 116.

"I did ask for a wild card but they gave it to Mark Philippoussis," the Czech said. "It's either come here and play tennis or play politics: I chose to play tennis. Yes, basically I'm hurt. I'm trying to play my last Wimbledon. It's a long time since I last played a qualifying event."

Of the more pressing issue in Lausanne, he said: "It's not over yet and I won't talk about it until it's over. Whether I win or lose I will show the press my records. They - the LTA - didn't want to give me the wild card for these obvious reasons."

Korda experienced a heavy fall in the second set, on the occasion of the disputed line-call, and took time out for treatment to a leg injury. "It's tough, the courts here aren't so nice," he said. "I just slipped. I've had two groin operations, so I called for the trainer to get some cream on it and keep it warm.

"Wimbledon is my last tournament ever. I decided on this a long time ago. My daughter is starting school in September and I wanted to be a part of a family. I'm devoting more time to them. I might stay in tennis or I might go elsewhere, but I'll always love the game."

Wimbledon may be only three or four miles up the road from here, but there is still an awfully long way to go before the final 16 qualifiers emerge on Friday. As ever, John McEnroe, who reached the semi-finals in 1977, having fought his way through from these qualifiers, will be a source of inspiration to them all. I mean, if John McEnroe can do it...