Tennis: Martin's resilience sets up a date with Agassi

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The Independent Online
PLAYERS are becoming so fond of Court One that opening matches start at 2pm, or thereabouts, and do not finish until dinner-time. This tends to disrupt the schedule, even on days like yesterday, when the temperature headed towards 100 F before the thunderstorm broke.

To follow Thursday's epic between Sergi Bruguera and Patrick Rafter, which ended in the Spaniard's favour, 13-11 in the fifth set, after four hours and 21 minutes, we had four hours of Martin Damm versus Todd Martin. Or damn Martin, as Pete Sampras may have thought as he waited to play, third on.

The top seed's match against Chuck Adams eventually was switched to the graveyard, Court Two, much to the annoyance of some of the spectators on Court One, who wanted more. One informed Chris Gorringe, the All England Club's secretary, that he 'felt cheated', having queued for his ticket from midnight. Gorringe sympathised, but pointed out that scheduling was the referee's perogative.

Sampras was going well, leading Adams, his third consecutive American opponent, 6-1, 5-1, until rain and bad light caused play to be suspended for the day.

Martin, who delivered 29 aces, won 11-9 in the fifth set, and can look forward to the luxury of resting weary limbs until Monday before facing Andre Agassi in the fourth round. Agassi's impressive form on the Centre Court yesterday, when he dispatched Aaron Krickstein, another American compatriot, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6, suggests that the sixth seed will need every moment of recuperation.

There was no break for Bruguera, who had to catch up yesterday by playing, and beating, Jean-Philippe Fleurian, of France, in four sets in the third match on Court Three. The scurrying Michael Chang will duel Bruguera for a place in the quarter-finals, having defeated Grant Connell, a Canadian left-hander, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Bruguera, the French Open champion, was treated royally compared with Kenneth Carlsen, who was given a noon start on Court 13 the morning after expending a tournament's worth of physical and emotional energy over five sets to eliminate Stefan Edberg, the third seed.

Carlsen was sick about it, all over the back of the court. Such was the consideration for the Dane's indisposition that he was given a warning by the Spanish umpire, Javier Moreno-Perez, for time-wasting. Carlsen wasted no further time, packing his bag and retiring with his Swedish opponent, Jonas Bjorkman, leading,

6-4, 6-4, 1-0.

''I was feeling bad in the night and was throwing up in the morning,' Carlsen said. 'The doctor gave me a pill, which made me a little better, but I was not feeling very good when I went on the court. I was hoping to be playing second or third, at least, or maybe on Saturday. I don't know why they put us on first match, but you cannot do anything about it.'

The explanation from the referee's office was that Carlsen's previous match had finished at 4.30pm, whereas Bjorkman had finished later, playing doubles. The top half of the draw had to be played in synchronisation to catch up with lost time, which ruled out Saturday, and the order of play could not be altered because of illness. The rain on Sampras's parade was another matter.

Still, only one seed fell in the men's singles, which counts as an uneventful day after seven had been lost in the opening two rounds. The victim on this occasion was Yevgeny Kafelnikov (No 15), who was supposed to test Sampras in the fourth round, as he had at the Australian Open in January (the Russian came within two points of winning in five sets).

Not that Sampras, assuming he defeats Adams, can take anything for granted against Daniel Vacek, from the Czech Republic, who delivered 31 aces in beating Kafelnikov in another marathon, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Vacek, a 23-year-old from Prague, is ranked No 51 in the world, which shows that he is able to makes good use of the power generated by a 6ft 3in frame. It must be mentioned, however, that the Russian did not help his cause by double-faulting, No 13 coming on match point.

Agassi attracted screams of approval as his courtesy car drew up outside the main entrance, and excitement grew as he prepared to warm up for his match. He treated spectators to a wiggle by special request ('Andre, Andre, you've got class, give us a wave and show us your arse').

He showed his class when play began, ripping shots past Krickstein when his fellow graduate of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Acadamy ventured to the net in an attempt to break his rhythm, and usually out-playing him in the entertaining rallies.

This was one contest that did not begin and end monotonously with a serve, or a serve and a return, and Agassi finished with a flourish, playing a winning backhand round the umpire's chair to win the tie-break, 7-5.

The Centre Court programme began with something of a let- down, Britain's Chris Wilkinson proving unequal to the task of countering Wayne Ferreira's grass-court expertise. The South African won, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. 'He was far too good for me,' Wilkinson admitted. 'I said to him, 'Here's pounds 10 for the lesson'.'

Wilkinson had an excuse for the lack of spring in his step, but he did not make too much of it. He was having a shave after taking a bath on Thursday night when the telephone rang, and in his haste to respond to it he almost ripped the nail from the big toe of his right foot on a piece of metal.

'I phoned about five doctors and couldn't get one to come to the house,' he said. 'I nearly went to casualty, but I thought I would have been at the hospital till about one or two in the morning. I was having a bit of a problem with the toe during the match. It was affecting my movement slightly.' But he agreed he experienced greater problems from Ferreira's shots.

The call, incidentally, was from a fellow British player, Andrew Foster, wanting to organise a practice session.

So the hosts are left with a solitary singles competitor, Jeremey Bates, who opens today's Centre Court fare against Markus Zoecke.

(Photograph omitted)