Tennis: Martin on his tod as Courier tastes defeat

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Jim Courier, who used to dominate the Italian Open, lost to a barely known Argentinian, Hernan Gumy, in straight sets in the second round yesterday and said: "When I'm playing well on clay I eat those guys for lunch.''

The American fifth seed, champion in 1992 and 1993, looked as if he could have chewed the head off one of the 18 marble statues which surround the Grandstand Court.

To be fair, Courier acknowledged that Gumy, ranked No 61 in the world, could play. His grievance was with his own error-strewn performance in windy conditions in losing, 6-4, 6-4. The 24-year-old Argentinian sympathised, but refused to allow the standard to detract from the best result of his career.

No acrimony there, which made a change from certain things which have taken place here this week.

The Australian Mark Philippoussis and Roberto Carretero, of Spain, almost came to blows during their first-round match. Carretero hit a short ball from close to the net and Philippoussis belted it straight back at him. During the change-over, the Spaniard shouted at Philippoussis because he had not apologised, and the Australian objected because the umpire did not tell Carretero to shut up.

Philippoussis recovered his composure and won, advancing to the third round yesterday with a straight-sets victory against Adrian Voinea, of Romania.

Thomas Muster, while hardly diminutive, would need to stand on a box to look the 6ft 6in Todd Martin in the eye. So when Martin said he wanted a little discussion with him yesterday, the defending champion listened.

The pair are due to play each other in the third round, but Martin first wanted to set a few points straight regarding the Austrian's comments the previous day about Americans.

Muster's diatribe was aimed at the leading Americans, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, who, he contended, showed no respect for the European clay- court tour by failing to turn up for them.

Martin accepted that Muster had exempted Sampras from criticism following the death of his coach, Tim Gullikson, but was concerned about the tone of the Austrian's comments; specifically: "We wait for the Americans to come and offer them a lot of money and they shit on our heads''.

"It's not necessary to speak in these terms about your peers," Martin said. "I don't see it being very positive to have kids reading what he said or hearing it on television. Tennis players, if not friends, should at least be allies in building the game.''

Muster emphasised that his chief concern was for the future of the clay court tournaments leading up to the French Open.

Martin, who beat Alberto Berasategui, a finalist at the 1994 French Open, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, is the last remaining American. Malivai Washington lost to Carlos Moya, of Spain, 7-6, 7-5. Muster advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win against Petr Korda, runner-up to Courier at the 1992 French Open.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 31