Tennis: Wimbledon '94 / Why another Martina is one to watch: Martin Johnson sees an unequal contest between a British prospect and poached salmon

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The Independent Online
THE All England Club's marketing department has come a long way since their first tournament in 1977 creamed in a pounds 10 profit, and business has been particularly brisk inside the Wimbledon museum. The place is full of old rackets - and not just the one inviting spectators to splash out on Wimbledon's official mugs, tea-towels and salt cellars.

They will shortly be requiring some of the souvenir cash to spend on building a museum annexe to accommodate a shrine to Navratilova, although out on Court 7 yesterday, there was another exiled Czech-born girl by the name of Martina - and she too was displaying the class that may one day have them queueing up to view her autographed sweatbands from behind a glass case.

At the age of 13, Martina Hingis has already won the French Open junior title two years running, and while yesterday's straight sets victory over her Canadian opponent, Vanessa Webb, was not entirely child's play, she makes her senior debut in October, and is clearly one to keep an eye on.

Now based in Zurich, Hingis did not have to expend too much sweat yesterday, and hot though it was, she came off court a relatively dry Martina. In terms of temperament, however, she is not a totally blank Czech, and during a sticky patch in the first set, one or two toys were thrown out of the pram in the form of a spot of racket banging.

Generally, though, the banging mostly involved the Canadian's head against a brick wall. She competed as hard as she could, which is why the first set went to 12 games, but the difference in class was underlined by the difference in racket noises. Hingis' strings rarely produced less than a melodic hum, while there were a few too many twangs and clunks from Webb's side of the court.

Over on Court 17, one of Britain's better male junior prospects was also going through to the next singles round, even though Jamie Delgado does not sound much like one of ours. His father is Spanish, which may explain his tendency to take a siesta during his matches, mostly during the opening set.

As in his first-round match, Delgado had to come back from a set down yesterday, against a Japanese opponent who himself made a sluggish start when he was ordered back to the dressing-room to change a pair of shorts that were too colourful for the umpire's liking.

The biggest question mark about Delgado's ability to translate his obvious talent at senior level is his size. It is not often that a Japanese player is bigger than his opponent, and while Delgado's superior touches were enough to see off Hiroto Suzuki (only a 50cc model yesterday) he will require heavier calibre ammunition against better opponents.

Wimbledon has certain ground rules when it comes to patriotism, and the raucous vocal encouragement of the kind given to Jeremy Bates is more acceptable than Union Jacks draped over the courtside. The spectator who wanted to advertise her allegience yesterday was swiftly invited to remove it.

Delgado was born in Birmingham, which makes him a pukka enough Brit, even though his adopted football team is Real Madrid. At 17, he has been around a fair time, and won a junior tournament in Miami a couple of years ago, although the world of British tennis is littered with talented juniors saddled with the one-to- watch label.

There was a decent enough crowd watching him yesterday, although the interest around the court did not extend to the corporate hospitality clientele in the adjacent boxes. The standard fare on Court 17 is ordinary enough to make it a pretty curious place for the siting of sponsors' balconies, and Delgado's match failed to persuade anyone to interrupt their poached salmon and strawberries.

One in 10 of spectators, by the way, are this year eating their strawberries with natural yoghurt as opposed to the traditional topping of fresh cream, which (along with discovering that the non- corporate, public marquee customers consume 200lb of bean sprouts per day) was one of the less riveting pieces of information in the press pigeon holes yesterday.

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