Tennis / Wimbledon '94: Game struck by grievous bodily arm: Guy Hodgson sees two young finalists serve up a vision of the sport's future

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WE SAW the future of tennis yesterday and, guess what, it is 6ft 4in tall and fires down a serve in a way that would get grudging respect from the creator of thunderbolts.

Those people tempted to leave Centre Court in pursuit of a rally would have taken a glimpse of the junior boy's final on Court One and turned round immediately as Pete Sampras versus Goran Ivanisevic offered a greater variety of shot. The serve is king today and tomorrow does not hold up much hope of an abdication.

The colossus firing the ball down from a frightening height was a 17-year-old Australian called Mark Philippoussis whose height is backed up by a build that suggests his Greek ancestry comes from loftier origins than his Melbourne taxi-driver father is letting on to. At 17 his weight approaches 14st, which suggests he is going to be a significant figure when he finally stops growing.

The leviathan from Down Under, who conquered Britain's Jamie Delgado in the semi-finals, did not join former alumni such as Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash and Stefan Edberg as winner of the junior event but he mapped out the kind of tennis we will see in a year or so: crash embellished with bang and topped with a touch of wallop. Subtlety, to put it mildly, did not get much of a look-in during 2hr 9min of serve and little or no return.

Philippoussis lost the final 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 to Scott Humphreys of the United States, yet the tell-tale signs were on his shirt that he is the more likely long-term winner. Humphreys, from the nation that has made sponsorship a near art form, had a pristine clean, advert-free top while his opponent's sleeves were adorned by endorsements. The corporate arm wrapped round the corporal force.

Two years ago Ivanisevic fired down more than 100 aces at a tournament in Stuttgart, and then warned that the future would be even more a case of grievous bodily arm. 'The top players now can't control wide-body rackets,' he said, 'but there are kids who have grown up with them. Some of them serve faster than me.' Yesterday we may have seen the first shifts in power.

Humphreys, who will give headline writers a field day in the

future as he lives in Alamo, California, won yesterday because Philippoussis could not harness the strength in his frame to consistently get his first serve in. Only half his initial shots found the target and it was with the remainder that the American profited.

He took the first set tie-break 7-5 by virtue of the one point gained against the serve but did not break Philippoussis over a game until the last of the match. In between it appeared that the Australian would prevail - indeed most of the final match statistics were in his favour. He broke Humphreys in the second game of the second set and seemed impregnable with the ball in his hand. But with the pressure of having to serve to save the match he crumpled.

The last game summed up the match: one ace and two double faults, the second on match point. The serve had decided it again.