Wimbledon `99: In The Court Of The 16 Men's Seeds

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1

Pete Sampras

US; age 27; ranked

Incredible. Has now won five titles in six years and is just one away from equalling William Renshaw's 3-year record of six Wimbledons.

Started the year as he had ended the previous six - as world No . Has entered only six events in 999, but just won at Queen's.

This is his backyard. "It's my Super Bowl," he says. Apart from Lareau in round two, will have no problems until quarters. Against one Mr Rusedski? Odds: 6-4 favourite

"He's got the tools to win. Mentally, I think he knows now that he's on the edge of winning Wimbledon."

On Tim Henman

2

Patrick Rafter

Aus; age 26; ranked 2

Puzzling. Reached fourth round in last three years. Has the game for the surface, but yet to show his Flushing Meadows resolve here.

World No 2? Did little until losing to Kuerten in tight final on the clay of Rome. Exited French in third round; did not even enter Queen's.

Has won two US Opens and can beat anybody on his day. In tough part of draw where he could face Enqvist, Becker or Hewitt. All before even making the quarters. 9-

"If he can work hard and stay committed, he'll be an excellent player."

On Roger Federer

3

Yevgeny Kafelnikov

Rus; age 25; ranked 3

Surprisingly poor. Apart from a quarter-final defeat by Ivanisevic in 995, has never progressed beyond the fourth in four attempts.

Won Australian Open in January. Became world No in May, but has not got past third round in eight of his last nine tournaments.

"Getting there is easy, it's staying that's hard," said Sampras. First- round exit at Queen's doesn't bode well. Very tricky third round against former finalist, Cedric Pioline. 25-

"I don't know how he's going to handle the pressure of a Slam final."

On Thomas Enqvist before the Australian Open final in January. He won in four sets.

4

Andre Agassi

US; age 29; ranked 4

Patchy. Won in 992 after refusing to play in three previous years. Has since reached the semis in 995. Second round exit last year.

Andre's back. Unspectacular start to 999. Recent wins in Hong Kong and Paris prove his divorce is not affecting his tennis, though.

Will be confident following his emotional win at the French Open. Crowd favourite. Tough fourth- round tie against Tommy Haas. Should be challenging for title. 2-

"He's a journeyman."

On Vince Spadea, a fellow American, who went on to beat him in the US Open.

5

Richard Krajicek

Neth; age 27; ranked 5

Champion in 996. Semi-finalist last year. Has won 22 of 29 matches, despite going out four times before fourth round, since 99.

Started badly, then won in Battersea and Key Biscane, and reached five successive quarters. Poor displays on clay of late.

If physical and mental fitness are right, there's no better grass player. Lightning quick serve and movement. Woodbridge in round two is tricky; should make quarters. 9-

"Sometimes on the court he is also like Agassi in that he's not as sharp as he should be."

On Nicolas Kiefer.

6

Tim Henman

GB; age 24; ranked 6

Encouraging progress. Last year's semi-final defeat by Sampras followed quarter-final appearances in 996 and 997. Almost there.

Failed to win a title so far in 999, but reached three finals, including Queen's, and showed encouraging form on less-favoured clay.

Seeded low, but in the "right" half, away from Sampras who says Tim will win here one day. After beating him in the final? After Perry in 936, can Tim do it 999? 8-

"It is always difficult playing someone like him. You don't know quite what to expect."

On Marc Rosset.

7

Mark Philippoussis

Aus; age 22; ranked

Progressing. A quarter-finalist last year, has almost all the attributes to win. Only his temperament lets him down. He has time, though.

Has won two titles since February, in San Jose and Indian Wells. First round exit in Paris was disappointing. So too his defeat at Queen's.

If he can stay focused and ignore the hype around him, he has a chance. Huge round four against Rusedski. If things don't go his way, though, tends to give in. 6-

"It's great having him by my side."

On Pat Cash, one of his coaches.

8

Todd Martin

US; age 28; ranked 2

The quiet man of tennis is always there or thereabouts. He's been in the last 6 twice, quarters once, and two semis. Time for a final?

No titles, but probably his most consistent start ever to a season. Has played well on all surfaces and seems to be injury-free at last.

Many people's strong outside bet. May face big-serving teenager, Roger Federer, in round two. Key tie will be against Goran Ivanisevic in round four. 33-

"He competes better than 75 per cent of guys on the tour and the fact he also knows how to play the game bodes well for the future." On Lleyton Hewitt.

9

Greg Rusedski

GB; age 25; ranked 3

Up-and-down. Reached fourth round in '95 but went out in second in '96, and followed his '97 quarter with first-round exit in '98.

Playing better than his ranking suggests. Despite a bad day in the quarters at Queen's, his form has been good - not least on clay.

After clocking a serve at 38mph at Queen's, must feel confident he can beat the world record and opponents on the way. Big test is Philippoussis in round four. 2-

"He was probably the best returner of serve that I have played."

On Paul Goldstein.

0

Goran Ivanisevic

Croatia; age 27; ranked 5

The nearly man. Played in three finals, lost three (including last year to Sampras). Has also reached a quarter and two semis in Nineties.

Very poor by his standards, reaching only two quarter-finals until the grass of Queen's brought him some form and a semi-final at last.

That weird serve, that wild hair, that wiry beard, that wicked mood, that wonderful nonchalance. May just be his year. He deserves it. Look out for Rafter in quarters. 25-

"If I had a son, I would just show him the [Mark] Woodforde picture and say: `Don't play tennis like this'."

On Mark Woodforde.

Gustavo Kuerten

Brazil; age 22; ranked

Embarrassing. Played two, lost two. For Kuerten, the grass is definitely greener on the red clay.

Unremarkable start to the season. Found his rhythm on the clay of Monaco. Won there and in Rome. Also French Open quarter-finalist.

Will land in London ranked seventh in the world, but won't gain any ranking points here. Can book return flight to Rio after first round against Chris Wilkinson. 00-

"He's a very tough man to beat on this surface [grass]."

On Greg Rusedski.

2

Carlos Moya

Spain; age 22; ranked 0

Predictable, on the surface. Another clay-court specialist, he has never progressed beyond the second round.

Started poorly on the Hardcourts of Australia, but got better in the US and, of course, really got going on the clay. Time for a dip in form.

Even if he gets past round one, Courier will be waiting in round two. Has as much chance of winning Wimbledon as Kuerten. Namely, no chance. 66-

"To beat Rios, you have to play a complete match."

On Marcelo Rios.

3

Karol Kucera

SVK; age 25; ranked 4

Non-existent. Three first-round exits - including last year - in five years and a career best of round three, in 996, say it all.

Started brightly Down Under. Continued good run of form at Hardcourt tournaments in US. Did little on clay, will do nothing on grass.

Has 50 per cent chance of reaching the second round. And there's only a 20 per cent chance of that. Easy draw means he may reach fourth round. 40-

"What Andre did was a little unfair. My ball toss was not good and I have had problems with that."

On Agassi after he mockingly dropped the ball when serving.

4

Tommy Haas

Ger; age 2; ranked 7

Learning. Followed his second- round exit in 997 with departure in the third last year. But not until he had knocked out Andre Agassi.

Semi-finalist at the Australian Open and winner in Memphis, his early form had dipped a bit since the clay. Looks sharp again now.

Results suggest the current German No 2 is maturing. There are few bigger hitters in the game. Mouth-watering return tie with Rafter in round four. After that... 66-

"When I was , I used to sit on the sidelines and watch Agassi play. I used to look up to him."

On Andre Agassi.

5

Nicolas Kiefer

Ger; age 2; ranked 8

Exciting. Came from nowhere in 997 and gatecrashed the quarters as a precocious 9-year-old. Third-round loss to Krajicek in '98.

Is playing well and won in Tokyo as recently as April. Wins over Rafter, Rusedski and Krajicek prove he can beat anyone on his day.

Not tallest of players, but his speed always gives him a chance. Emotional second round in prospect with Boris Becker. Will the old German No beat the new? 66-

"It's very helpful for me because Boris knows my opponents far better than I do and is able to give me advice for all my matches."

On Becker, his mentor.

6

Felix Mantilla

Spain; age 24; ranked 6

Predictably poor. Much more at home on the clay, he went out in the first round in 997 and, surprisingly, not until the third last year.

Semi-final in Auckland was a fluke. No significant results until reaching clay, on which he won in Barcelona and made the semis in Rome.

See Kuerten and Moya. First- round exit looks likely. 00-

"The last two days we had dinner together, but on court we are not friends."

On Carlos Moya.

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