Tennis: Stich double quick to floor flawed Ferreira: A German master sees off his doubles partner as he begins his Wimbledon build-up

MICHAEL STICH expects Wayne Ferreira to fill John McEnroe's shoes alongside him at Wimbledon. Yesterday, the South African had trouble filling his own shoes as he tamely handed the Stella Artois singles title to his German doubles partner.

It was the first time they had played each other, and Stich defeated the defending champion, 6-3, 6-4, in 57 minutes, the shortest final in the tournament's 16 years. 'It all went so quickly, it felt like one minute to me,' Ferreira said. The South African would take no consolation from the fact that in 1980 McEnroe required four minutes longer to dispatch the Australian, Kim Warwick, for the loss of only four games.

The championship has launched four Wimbledon winners, Boris Becker, famously in 1985, and several Wimbledon also-rans, notably Ivan Lendl in 1990. Whatever category Stich falls into at the All England Club in the coming weeks, the 1991 Wimbledon champion will expect sterner tests than yesterday's one- sided contest, and the spectators certainly will expect better entertainment. The visiting Princess of Wales may be pleased to go back to polo.

It was not until the third game of the second set that the match produced the semblance of a rally, and Stich was two points from the title, serving at 5-2, before his opponent briefly came to life. Ferreira created two break points - his first of the match - either side of Stich's first match point, and converted the second by tempting the German to play a backhand volley, which dropped wide of a sideline.

Remembering that Stich had saved four match points against the Australian Jamie Morgan in the semi-final, the 6,000 spectators began to wonder if they were about to see a Ferreira revival. The South African's challenge proved token. Though he held serve in the next game, Stich finished him off by serving his seventh ace.

'Winning a tournament is the best preparation you can have for motivation and self-confidence,' the German sixth seed said. 'I played a decent match, nothing spectacular, just good enough to win. It was not a good match. I was the one who at least started to hit a few returns in, and Wayne got off on the wrong foot totally, and he didn't get into the match at all until he broke me at 5-3.'

The sun's reappearance seemed to put both players off their strokes. 'The weather conditions were totally different,' Stich said. 'It was hot, and I think the ball bounced more and didn't come through so quick. We had so many returns off the frame in the beginning it meant we were hitting the balls too early. Instead of moving in, we just stood on our spot.'

Had Ferreira been inhibited, having been Stich's practice partner as well as playing doubles together? The seventh seed considered not. 'I always knew what he liked to do, but I couldn't put it into play,' he said.

Matters did not improve when Ferreira and Stich then completed their doubles quarter-final against Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, carried over from the previous day because of darkness. The Australians won, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Stich, Ferreira, and even the big names who fell early in the tournament, at least have the feel of grass- courts. Andre Agassi, who has not played on any kind of surface for the past two months, is due in Germany today to resume his career.

The Wimbledon champion, who has had tendinitis of the right wrist, has been drawn against the German, Carl- Uwe Steeb, in the first round of a grass- court event in Halle, and the match has been scheduled for tomorrow. Steeb has not advanced beyond the second round in five visits to Wimbledon.

Steffi Graf's injured right foot seems to have responded to treatment. The Wimbledon champion has begun practice sessions in London.

STELLA ARTOIS CHAMPIONSHIPS (Queen's Club, London): Singles semi-finals: M Stich (Ger) bt J Morgan (Aus) 5-7 6-4 8-6; W Ferreira (SA) bt T Martin (US) 6-7 6-3 7-5. Final: Stich bt Ferreira 6-3 6-4. Doubles semi- finals: N Broad (GB) and G Muller (SA) bt J Fitzgerald (Aus) and A Jarryd (Swe) 6-7 6-4 6-2; T Woodbridge and M Woodforde (Aus) bt B Becker and P Kuhnen (Ger) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3. Final: Woodbridge and Woodforde bt Broad and Muller 6-7 6-3 6-4.

(Photograph omitted)

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