Tennis / Wimbledon '94: Agassi in tune for a show-stopper with the flying Dutchman: The second week of Wimbledon begins with confrontations of markedly different approaches. John Roberts examines styles

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The Independent Online
ANDRE AGASSI'S admirer, Barbra Streisand, is supposed to be joining us at Wimbledon and will probably lose 6-0, 6-0 to Steffi Graf. It is regrettable that the star of stage and screen was not there to assist the all-singing, all-dancing stewards, umpires and line judges in entertaining drenched spectators on the second Friday last year. What was the one from Funny Girl? 'Don't Rain on My Parade.'

Agassi is not the only one who believes in getting by with a little help from friends. Zina Garrison-Jackson has been improving her speed and fitness with the Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee's husband, Bob. Martina Navratilova, who defeated Garrison in 1990 to win her record ninth title, has added Dr Leonard Stein, a therapist from San Francisco, to her coterie. 'That's what happens when you get older,' the 36-year-old Navratilova said. 'It's not just the muscles that go funny, it's the joints as well.'

As Stefan Edberg observed: 'The first week is over, and we go into the interesting week.' A week made all the more interesting by questions such as who is Richard Matuszewski?

Matuszewski is a tall 28-year-old from New Jersey, ranked No 117 in the world, who has become Edberg's fourth-round opponent by virtue of a victory against Javier Frana, the Argentinian who eliminated Britain's Jeremy Bates in the opening round. Frana is the Italian for landslide, which is a fair description of what has taken place in Edberg's half of the draw.

Goran Ivanisevic, whose 206 aces trumped everbody except Agassi last year, was the latest casualty, capitulating on Saturday to the American Todd Martin, 6-0 in the fifth set of the Croat's third consecutive marathon. In his epic with Ivanisevic on Thursday evening, Britain's Chris Bailey, as with Bates against Guy Forget on this day last year, was left to rue the match point which eluded him.

Chris Wilkinson was able to break Edberg's serve six times on the Centre Court on Saturday, which was remarkable considering that the Southampton flyer was defeated in straight sets by the second seed.

After a week notable for British participation, the nation is left to cheer Andrew Foster, from Stoke, ranked No 332 and climbing, in a fourth-round match against Pete Sampras, ranked No 1. Top of the bill? Not on this mouth-watering day. Rightly or wrongly, Foster and Sampras will be dispatched to Court 14, following two all-American matches between Jennifer Capriati and Lisa Raymond and Todd Martin and David Wheaton.

The Centre Court presents two potential show-stoppers - Boris Becker versus Henri Leconte and Agassi versus Richard Krajicek - separated by a women's match of contrasting styles between Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Helena Sukova.

Women take precedence on Court One, with Gabriela Sabatini v Anke Huber and Navratilova v Nathalie Tauziat separated by Jim Courier v Wayne Ferreira, the South African serve-volleyer.

Edberg and Matuszewski make their way to Court Two after Graf has dealt with Meredith McGrath, an American ranked No 148, and Michael Stich attempts to improve a 1-5 record against Petr Korda in their first match on grass.

It is possible that Foster's prospects will be improved by playing on one of the smaller show courts. Bates, Bailey and Wilkinson won friends but not matches on Centre Court, and Sampras, in common with Edberg, is accustomed to the world's great arenas. Foster may feel at home and the American less comfortable in close proximity to a partisan crowd, bearing in mind that Sampras was distracted the other day when a Chelsea Pensioner opened a bag of sweets.

Wherever the proving ground, class usually tells. An American colleague, keen to know about Foster, was told that he was a Brit who looked like a tennis player. 'And Richard Dunn looked like a heavyweight contender, right?' was the response.

Becker against Leconte could be one for the connoisseur, pitting the German's power and self-conflict against the Frenchman's finesse and sense of fun.

Their history dates to the Wimbledon quarter-finals of 1985, when Leconte, the romantic hero, was defeated in four sets, a statistic to be logged as the unseeded, 17-year-old wunderkind surged on to become the youngest men's champion.

Becker again won in four sets when encountering Leconte in the 1986 semi-finals en route to a successful title defence. Leconte has won only two of their 10 matches, both times on clay courts in 1988, in Hamburg and at the French Open.

Today's meeting comes at an interesting time. The 25-year-old Becker has been building up a head of steam after giving his supporters reason to doubt that he still had the driving force, and Leconte, ranked No 75, has reached the stage of his career when he can play without having to shoulder the hopes of his nation.

The Frenchman shares the same birthday as the United States. Though it is doubtful that he will mark his 30th with an appearance in Sunday's final, he has again brought his audiences moments of pleasure.

Some would argue that Leconte has a lot to answer for. It was his comprehensive first-round win against Agassi in 1987, when the Las Vegan first raised his mophead at the All England Club, that kept the American away from the lawns for three years.

The defending champion's match with Krajicek may help resolve questions on both sides of the net. Is Agassi genuinely fit enough to respond to heavy artillery the way he did a year ago? Does the Dutchman have the self-belief to reinforce his impressive service game with solid returns?

Agassi defeated Krajicek, 7-6, 6-3, 7-6, in the third round on returning to Wimbledon in 1991, but so much has changed for both players that it would be misleading to take that as a guide.

The best players continue to seek perfection, as instanced by Navratilova talking about working on her serve. 'I have a tendency to pull off with the body, following the ball, especially in the ad court,' the great left-hander said. 'That makes me hit the ball into the net, or not get enough slice on it. You have to go the other way than you think. You have to go out to the left to get the ball to go that way.'

Streisand's 'Zen Master' evidently is not the only one making technical adjustments.

Chris Bailey, the British No 3, has agreed a two-year sponsorship deal with the drinks company, Schweppes, and Chrysalis TV which will enable him to continue working with his New Zealand coach, Nick Carr. Immediately after his five-set match with Goran Ivanisevic last week, Bailey criticised the Lawn Tennis Association because he said it was not certain that it would continue to fund the arrangement.

Courier's strength, page 28

Results, Order of Play, page 29