Tennis / Wimbledon '93: Wilkinson embarks on a victory mission

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The Independent Online
IF HIS match did not quite contain the excitement and drama of Chris Bailey's last night, nevertheless Chris Wilkinson could claim to be a winning home player on the day when the British put two names into Wimbledon's third round.

That has not happened since 1977 and Mark Cox and Buster Mottram. Like Andrew Foster the previous day, and like his first-round scoreline, Wilkinson gained his ticket through a straight-sets victory, and the way things are going, that fact will soon cease to be a surprise.

Having paid due credit to Wilkinson's skill and composure, it has to be admitted that he was helped on his way by his Canadian opponent, Sebastien Lareau, who appeared lacking in the motivational reserves which carried Hampshire's hero to victory.

'I'm a man on a mission,' Wilkinson said, 'and my mission is to win.'

'What, to win the tournament?' came the follow-up question. 'Why not?' he replied. 'I'm playing well enough to beat anybody at the moment.'

The trouble is it is not just anybody he has to beat next but the twice champion, No 2 seed and bookies' favourite, Stefan Edberg, who sent the customers on Centre Court to sleep with the methodical ease of his defeat of Amos Mansdorf, of Israel.

The Wilkinson-Edberg match could also go ahead on the most hallowed piece of turf. 'That would be great because the only time I have been there was to have my picture taken. The only time I have got near Edberg on a court was last year when we practised together. It was fun but I can't remember what happened. Or rather I can, but I'm not saying]'

Wilkinson admitted that he had not been at his best but then he did not need to be. Serving for the match at 5-2 in the third, he managed to concede the next two games to love. It proved only a tiny bump on the road ahead, a love service game which he concluded with an ace to send him through.

The change to the British No 2, who unofficially rises to the top of the tree with his progress here, is remarkable since the Davis Cup humiliation in Hungary which he bore particularly painfully. His were the first and last defeats of the tie and the numbing experience sent Wilkinson off in search of a Mediterranean beach where court strategy gave way to cocktail selection.

The transformation was immediate, his defeat on his return to tennis of Goran Ivanisevic at Queen's showing him that the game was there to be enjoyed after all.

'I actually look forward to getting on court now, while the change in all of us this week is that we now believe we can win. Two players in the third round is nice and Mark Petchey and Chris Bailey were unlucky not to make it three or even four.'

The women were forced to play second fiddle with Mandy Wainwright and Monique Javer finding it impossible to repeat their first-round achievements. Wainwright had one word for her 6-4, 7-6 loss to the Italian Gloria Pizzichine - 'bellissimo' - which says as much for her sense of humour as it does for her grasp of Italian.

She also speaks French and German, is bouncy and full of fun and her popularity was evidenced by the number of familiar voices she could detect around the court.

'After my win on Tuesday I always seem to be on the phone with people ringing up to say 'well done'. Some were hinting for tickets.'

Sadly for her fan club, Wainwright was a bag of nerves as she started her big day and lost the first three games with barely a struggle. A possible opening in the second set when Pizzichine hurt her ankle did not in the end materialise, although she did haul her way back from 5-2 down to force the tie-break.

Then she was off to study the Highway Code, the priority today her driving test, and after that she will consider how to spend her prize-money.

'My brothers (14-year-old twins Rodney and Craig) want one of those multi-gym things so I'll probably buy one of those,' she said. Then remembering her words would end up in this morning's newspapers, she quickly added: 'On second thoughts, I'll probably take them out for the day instead.'