Tennis: THE TOP EIGHT MEN

Wimbledon 97hn Roberts talked to her

1 Pete Sampras (US)

Born: Washington DC, 12 August, 1971. Home: Tampa, Florida. Height: 6ft 1in. Weight: 12st 2lb. Plays: Right-handed. Winnings: pounds 16.46m. Wimbledon record: 1st rd (1989), 1, 2, SF, W, W, W, QF.

His season has stuttered since his triumph in searing conditions at the Australian Open in January brought his haul of Grand Slam singles titles to nine. The finest player in the world when physically fit. Dominated the men's singles for three years before meeting an inspired Richard Krajicek in the quarter-finals last year. Still the one to beat.

2 Goran Ivanisevic (Croa)

Born: Split, 13 September, 1971. Home: Split and Monte Carlo. Height: 6ft 4in. Weight: 12st 8lb. Plays: Left-handed. Winnings: pounds 9.64m. Wimbledon record: 1st rd (1988), 2, SF, 2, F, 3, F, SF, QF.

Can he win the big one at last? The question is posed year after year, and the man remains the sport's greatest character never to have won one of the major titles. Agassi beat him by the twist of a wrist in 1992, Sampras demoralised him in 1994. Has spent more time on grass than usual. Needs to synchronise mind and body for a fortnight.

3 Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus)

Born: Sochi, 18 February, 1974. Home: Sochi. Height: 6ft 3in. Weight: 12st 3lb. Plays: Right-handed. Winnings: pounds 4.26m. Wimbledon record: 3rd rd (1994), QF, 1.

Defeated in five sets by Tim Henman in the opening round last year, a result which spurred the Briton to the quarter-finals. Denied by Ivanisevic in the last eight in 1995. Broke a finger taking a swing at a punchbag on the eve of the Australian Open, and gradually has regained fighting trim. One to watch.

4 Richard Krajicek (Neth)

Born: Rotterdam, 6 December, 1971. Home: Monte Carlo. Height: 6ft 5in. Weight: 13st 5lb. Plays: Right-handed. Winnings: pounds 3.65m. Wimbledon record: 3rd rd (1991), 3, 4, 1, 1, W.

Excelled himself on the lawns last year, becoming the first Dutchman to win a Grand Slam singles title. Unseeded despite being ranked No 13, but was moved into Thomas Muster's position in the draw after the Austrian withdrew. Only lost one set last year, defeating Stich and Sampras en route to final. Missed the start of the year after knee surgery and is seeking consistency.

5 Michael Chang (US)

Born: Hoboken, New Jersey, 22 February, 1972. Home: Henderson, Nevada. Height: 5ft 9in. Weight: 10st 7lb. Plays: Right-handed. Winnings: pounds 9.10m. Wimbledon record: 2nd rd (1988), 4, 4, 1, 1, 3, QF, 2, 1.

Ranked No 2 in the world, but demoted to No 5 in the seedings because of his comparatively poor grass-court record. Has beaten his first-round opponent, Todd Woodbridge, in 11 of their 13 matches. However, their only meeting on grass, here in 1993, went to five sets, Chang winning the final set 6-4.

7 Mark Philippoussis (Aus)

Born: Melbourne, 7 November, 1976. Lives: Melbourne and Monte Carlo. Height: 6ft 4in. Weight: 14st 4lb. Plays: Right-handed. Winnings: pounds 922,000. Wimbledon record: 2nd rd (1996)

Nicknamed "Scud" even before he recorded the fastest serve on the ATP Tour (142mph). Lost to Pete Sampras in the second round last year. Did not allow Ivanisevic a single break point in winning the Stella Artois final. Plays Greg Rusedski, the British thunderbolt, in the first round. Run for cover.

8 Boris Becker (Ger)

Born: Leimen, 22 November, 1967. Home: Munich and Miami. Height: 6ft 3in. Weight: 13st 3lb. Plays: Right-handed. Winnings: pounds 14.97m. Wimbledon record: 3rd rd (1984), W, W, 2, F, W, F, F, QF, SF, SF, F, 3.

Has suffered wrist problems since retiring because of a ruptured tendon during his third-round match against South Africa's Neville Godwin last year. Seems to have prepared for a mighty effort on his favourite lawns, but may run into Sampras in the quarter-finals. Will be among the favourites again, and not only because of sentiment.

9 Marcelo Rios (Chi)

Born: Santiago, 26 December, 1975. Home: Santiago. Height: 5ft 9in. Weight: 10st. Plays: Left-handed. Winnings: pounds 1.325m. Wimbledon record: 1st rd (1995), -.

Lost in four sets against Mark Knowles, of the Bahamas, two years ago on his only previous visit to Wimbledon. Seeded to play Becker in the fourth round. One of the most gifted players in the world, but does not always appear to maximise his potential. Interesting to see how he adapts to the grass on this occasion.

*The No 6 seed, Thomas Muster, withdrew injured.

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