WIMBLEDON '95: Fernandezgoes easy on her pal

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The Independent Online
That it was not to be the most Machiavellian of matches became clear after the coin came to rest. Lindsay Davenport won the toss and gave the choice to her best friend, Mary Joe Fernandez.

Yesterday's fourth-round encounter was prefaced by strange noises emerging from the ladies' locker-room. The old pals, who practise together, socialise together and recently shared a holiday to Hawaii, were both hyperventilating with nerves. Just over an hour and a half later they were in tandem again as the tears came easily after Fernandez's 7-6, 6-1 victory. "That was a pretty tough match to play," Davenport said. "She's pretty much like my sister."

But not in terms of appearance. The willowy and elegant Fernandez, we are told, is the American spokesperson for the Cities In School/Burger King Academy programme aimed at school drop-out prevention. Davenport's link with the fast-food chain appears more likely to be in the tasting department.

Neither, however, got their teeth into the match. It was a merciful release for all concerned when Fernandez eventually captured the first-set tie- break. She then realised one of the contestants would have to play Romulus and polished off the second set in 22 minutes.

Fernandez's reward is a quarter-final meeting with Steffi Graf, who is not faring too badly for someone who has a back as bad as the coalman's. Yesterday she disposed of Ines Gorrochategui 6-0, 6-1.

Some of the German's problems are caused by shot preparation that creates the impression she is in a bouncy castle. Graf now requires a daily regimen of stretches and massages, although on the court itself she has been handing out the treatment. The No 1 seed has dropped just two games in her last two matches and 14 in all.

The superiority of the top female players has also been exemplified this fortnight by Conchita Martinez. The holder was placed on the cemetery of reputations, the No 2 court, but comfortably saw off the 21-year-old qualifier, Petra Kamstra, 6-2, 6-3, and she has surrendered just 16 games in all. The Spaniard has been as easy to get hold of as a smoke ring this week, and seldom can a champion have progressed with such little fanfare.

In fact, it is getting too quiet out there even for the private Martinez, who perceives her positioning for the third occasion on No 2 as something of a slight. She will suggest to organisers that the keeper of the Venus Rosewater Dish should be paraded in front of a larger audience.

Martinez goes into a Latin quarter with Gabriela Sabatini, who yet again took her supporters from pleasure to paroxysm. In another burger tie (Sabatini opened the first McDonalds in her homeland), the relish came in a first set the Argentinian captured to love against the American Lisa Raymond.

But then Gaby's attention went walkabout and at one point in the third set she was two points from defeat. Sabatini, who recovered from a 5-0 deficit against Nancy Feber in the previous round, did it again for a 6-0, 3-6, 7-5 success. She says she feels different this year, but there appears little change in the pattern of her matches.

Much the same applies to Jana Novotna, who also took an opening set to love before struggling home 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 against Nicole Bradtke. The first set occupied 20 minutes and seemed to give compelling evidence, once again, that Novotna has the perfect game for this arena. But, as was most graphically advertised in the final here two years ago (after which she soaked the Duchess of Kent's shoulder pad), the Czech almost always seems to find an emotional manhole.

By the end, as she threw the ball up on service to a height which may have registered with air-traffic control, the breaths were getting ever deeper.

Novotna now faces Kimiko Date, the first Japanese woman to reach the quarters. She put away the daunting South African, Mariaan de Swardt, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2. In the bottom half of the draw, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the No 2 seed, is through to meet Brenda Schultz-McCarthy.

Sanchez Vicario now understands that movement other than just lateral is required for this tournament and is a more rounded player for it. She holds not so much an Indian sign over Anke Huber as a whole tribe, and yesterday won the ninth of their 10 encounters 7-5, 6-4.

Schultz-McCarthy will be no pushover, however, if she can reproduce yesterday's blend of power and dexterity. When Indonesia's Yayuk Basuki came on court, she brought with her the not inconsiderable sobriquet of the Jakarta Jaguar. On the other side of the net, though, was a woman 10in taller and more than three stones heavier, who lets it be known that she enjoys the martial art of tae kwon-do. For Schultz-McCarthy, the psychological conflict had been won, and less than an hour later, after the biggest serve in women's tennis had been unfurled, so was the match 6-3, 6-1.