Tennis: Philippoussis blown off course

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SOME TALL poppies fell in the wind at the Stella Artois championships at Queen's Club yesterday with the distraught defending champion, Mark Philippoussis, 6ft 4in, Sandon Stolle, 6ft 4in,Todd Martin, 6ft 6in, and Andrew Richardson, 6ft 7in, failing to pass the first round.

Philippoussis, the ninth seed, was so concerned at his 7-6, 7-5 defeat by the Spaniard Jordi Burillo that he is considering missing Wimbledon; itwould relieve a number of players if he did. He telephoned his father in Melbourne after the match and emerged from that discussion to say that he is expecting to fly to Florida, where he has one of his three homes, to re-think his Wimbledon situation there.

Philippoussis said: "This year has been pathetic for me and I have just not been there at all. I am confused in my tennis. It is like I am not hungry any more, I don't know what is happening out there, it is not a great feeling."

If Philippoussis does play at Wimbledon, he is not sure to be seeded, his chances of being listed among the elite depending on charity. His world ranking suffered yesterday along with his confidence but he could still emerge at Wimbledon as a dangerous floater. He is one of the fastest servers in the world and Burillo, one of 17 Spaniards in the top 100, knew it was his day when Philippoussis missed two set points in the tie- break and double-faulted to lose it.

Stolle, whose father Fred could be seen plying his trade on these same courts more than 30 years ago, was beaten in a close finish by Chris Wilkinson, whose 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 victory made him the third British player to reach the second round after Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, who face Sargis Sargsian of Armenia and Jerome Golmard of France.

Stolle served for the match at 5-4 against Wilkinson, who was angered by some of the line calls when he dropped his serve in the ninth game. The break could have proved decisive but Wilkinson clung on in the wind, denying Stolle a match point. Wilkinson, after arguing his case unsuccessfully when the umpire overruled a call in his favour at the start of the final game, won on his second match point when Stolle double-faulted.

Wilkinson, who has three times reached the third round at Wimbledon, was last night given a wild card to this year's championships along with three other British players, Richardson, Mark Petchey, and Danny Sapsford, and the 18-year-old Marat Safin, the Muscovite who, as a qualifier, reached the fourth round of the French Open.

Petchey was beaten 6-3, 6-3 yesterday by the Texan Alex O'Brien and Richardson faded in the final set against Daniel Nestor of Canada, who won 6-4, 2-6, 6-1. Todd Martin, the 1994 champion, was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by the Swiss Ivo Heuberger, who lost his first set in qualifying 6-0 and has never looked back.

The five wild cards awarded in the Wimbledon women's singles are all to British women - Samantha Smith, Karen Cross, Lorna Woodroffe, Julie Pullin and Jo Ward.