Tennis: Stich loses his cool in the heat

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The Independent Online
THE SLOGAN for this year's Australian Open - 'It's all on the line' - is at odds with Michael Stich, who has disputed calls almost every step of the way to the fourth round.

Yesterday, the 1991 Wimbledon champion was accused of gamesmanship by his Australian opponent, Jason Stoltenberg, after again succeeding in having Cyclops, the service line machine, switched off.

'Michael maybe used a bit of gamesmanship, and it paid off for him,' Stoltenberg said after losing to the bad-tempered German, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1. 'Maybe he got a couple of things he mightn't otherwise have got. He got the Cyclops turned off, and I don't think the serve he blew up about was that bad. I thought it was in.'

Stich was fined dollars 500 ( pounds 325) for an audible obscenity directed at David Littlefield, the umpire of his previous match against Fabrice Santoro, of France. The supervisor then agreed that service calls would be made without the machine.

Stoltenberg wondered if Stich's behaviour had influenced the umpire of yesterday's third-round match, Dana Loconto. 'There was one call in particular in the third set, after he went off at a changeover. I hit a backhand right on the line and Dana overruled the call (one of in). Dana must have a good eye or be pretty gutsy to make an overrule like that. I hope he wasn't intimidated by Michael.'

Stich said his only problem had been with Cyclops. 'The machine wasn't working. It was obvious. You have close calls, and the machine doesn't make a sound. Then, all of a sudden, the linesman calls it out, but the day before they tell you they are not allowed to overrule the machine. It doesn't make any sense at all. I asked what whar was happening, and he turned the machine off again.'

Jim Courier, the defending champion, who was fined dollars 1,000 for making an obscene gesture to an umpire on Wednesday, was in calmer mode yesterday. The world No 1, who has yet to drop a set, advanced to the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win against Guillaume Raoux, of France.

'I try to keep everything cool, and occasionally it gets to the point where I need to have a release,' Courier said. 'I try and have one release, and not more than one, and then try and retreat back inside.'

Andrei Medvedev said he made so many mistakes in his match with Petr Korda that 'compared to me the linesmen are just angels.' The 18-year-old Ukrainian was so disappointed with his performance in losing to the seventh seed, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), that he considered a cruel net cord on match point to be a fitting climax. 'I played a very, very bad match and I deserved to lose on the net cord,' he said. 'If I did the net cord, I wouldn't even take it. I would say, 'let's play a let'. '

Two American qualifiers, Chris Garner and Kelly Jones, advanced to the fourth round, and Garner, suffering from cramp and dehydration in temperatures rising to 32C, had to go straight to hospital for tests. He is expected to be fit to face Korda tomorrow.

It was the first time in his career that Garner, a 23-year-old from Bay Shore, New York, ranked No 220 in the world, had played a five-set match. On his only previous appearance in a Grand Slam tournament, the 1990 United States Open, he lost to Sweden's Peter Lundgren in the first round.

Garner eliminated Todd Witsken, a fellow American who had ejected the big-serving Richard Krajicek from the shooting gallery on Wednesday.

Witsken, defeated 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, was so upset at failing to convert break points in the final set that he did not make the customary walk to the net to shake his opponent's hand. As he stood bemused, Garner went round the net to console him.

Jones, 29 in March and ranked No 447, was thought to have abandoned singles to concentrate on a successful doubles career. David Wheaton discovered otherwise as the Californian recovered from

0-6 in the opening set to win the next three, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. He now plays the 11th seed, Guy Forget.

Wheaton, who eliminated Michael Chang, attracted a large female audience to Court Six, and Jones blamed their vociferous support of his opponent for his poor start to the match. 'They were just out of control, screaming and yelling in my face,' he said. 'I just said a couple of things to them, hoping to calm them down. It didn't work, and I lost my concentration. After the first set, I thought I was history.'

The only qualifier to have advanced to the quarter-finals here was Goran Ivanisevic, in 1989.

In view of what happened at Wimbledon last summer, tomorrow's fourth-round contest between Monica Seles and Nathalie Tauziat is being previewed as grunt 'n' groan.

Tauziat, it will be remembered, became the first player to protest to an umpire about the distraction of the Seles decibels during their quarter-final at the All England Club. Martina Navratilova followed suit in the semi-finals, and a muted Seles was no match for Steffi Graf in the final.

Seles, the defending champion and world No 1, and Tauziat, the 13th seed, insist there is no prospect of a grudge match, pointing out that their encounter at the Virginia Slims Championships in November passed without incident.

Tauziat expressed no regrets about being the whistle-blower. 'I did it at Wimbledon because she was disturbing me,' the Frenchwoman said, 'and if she is disturbing me again I will say the same thing. I hear she's changed and doesn't grunt as much. We'll see.'

Seles said she had had 'a private talk' with Navratilova but had not discussed the subject with Tauziat; chiefly because conversation is not on their agenda. 'Nathalie and I didn't say 'Hi' at all basically from the time I came on the tour. She seems a very nice person, and I don't have anything against anybody. But I had enough pressure going into the first year on the tour at the age of 14 without somebody making it harder for me.'

In one sense, opponents could regard a grunt from Seles as a mark of respect. During the first week, none pressed her hard enough to merit a squeak. She has yet to lose a set, conceding only six games in three matches, and was particularly impressive in defeating the American Patty Fendick yesterday, 6-1, 6-0. 'Nathalie is in great form, so I'm sure I'm going to have a tougher match than all three of them,' Seles said.

France also boasts the presence of Julie Halard and the Canadian- born Mary Pierce in the fourth round. Halard eliminated Zina Garrison-Jackson, the 1990 Wimbledon finalist, 6-4, 7-5.

Melbourne is represented by Nicole Provis, who plays Gabriela Sabatini, the third seed.