Tennis flounders in rain Play at Wimbledon falls behind schedule

June 27, 1991|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Correspondent

WIMBLEDON, England -- Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Michael Chang, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier have yet to hit a tennis ball. The British are still alive in men's and women's singles. Pam Shriver's 6-0, 7-5 victory over Andrea Leand is considered a premier match in a city other than Baltimore.

Wimbledon 1991 is in trouble, big trouble.

Yesterday, for the third time, rain doused London and nearly washed away the championships. Only 18 of 100 scheduled matches were completed, bringing the three-day total to 46. Normally, 180 matches are played in the first three days.

"I was rushing to get finished," Shriver said after finishing off Leand with a seventh match point. "I looked up and saw the dark clouds. You're playing with weather pressure. You say, 'OK, what's going on here? It's going to be a nightmare.' "

At this rate, Wimbledon will end the day before the U.S. Open begins.

"It's not critical, but it's getting close to that," said tournament referee Alan Mills.

Things could get worse. The rain is expected to continue today, making this the wettest Wimbledon since the 1985 championships. The most recent Wimbledon to drag on to a third Monday was in 1988 and a third Thursday was needed to complete the championships in 1922.

Two women's seeds managed to slog through matches yesterday. No. 2 Gabriela Sabatini waited out a 5 hour, 50 minute rain delay and defeated Monique Javer, 6-4, 6-0. No. 9 Jennifer Capriati defeated her grass- court practice partner, Shaun Stafford, 6-0, 7-5.

"I'm just happy I played," Sabatini said. "It was very hard to wait around all day."

Gigi Fernandez upset No. 10 seed Helena Sukova, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, and in a suspended match, Richey Reneberg upset No. 12 Andrei Cherkasov, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

Of course, the mysterious withdrawal of Australian and French Open champion Monica Seles continued to titillate the British tabloids. Under the headline, "Is Monica A Wimblemum?" the London-based Sun claimed that Seles quit Wimbledon because she is pregnant. The story -- first reported in two Yugoslav newspapers -- appeared next to a picture of a racket-wielding woman named Gayner, who was dressed in earrings, a headband and two wristbands.

"I think the story is ridiculous," Capriati said. "Obviously, it's not true, hopefully. These tabloids, they say whatever they want to say."

6The tabloids are saying this is England's worst June.

ZTC "In printable language, it has been a frustrating and depressing three days," Mills said.

Depressing for organizers . . . for fans . . . for players. Sorry, there are no ticket refunds at Wimbledon. Wouldn't be the proper nor the financially rewarding thing to do.

The players meanwhile have turned their tea room into sweltering waiting room. They eat. They play cards. They read. They wait.

"It is becoming a little frustrating. I don't mind one day or two, but the third day is frustrating," said defending champion Stefan Edberg, whose first-round match against Marc Rosset is now three days old and remains 6-4, 6-4, 0-1.

Aaron Krickstein has waited three days just to get on a court against Stefano Pescosolido. He'll wait again today.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Krickstein said. "It wilbe very difficult to win Wimbledon now for anyone. Fitness will be a factor. Mentally, it's depressing. Physically, it's tiring."

Stefano Capriati held court over a cup of coffee before his daughter, Jennifer, finally ventured on to Court 1.

"You see the public, so nicely patient," Stefano Capriati said. "You don't see mad faces here. It's difficult in the rain. What can you do? Rain talking, it's a new sport."

Jennifer Capriati, who made the first fashion statement of thtournament by playing in culottes, admitted it was difficult to cope with the delay.

"I was bored out of my mind," she said. "I was just hanging around."

Officials appear ready to trash the veterans and juniors tournaments. Men's doubles will be limited to best of three sets. Start times will be temporarily pushed up one hour on Centre Court and Court 1, and 90 minutes on the outer courts. Days off in singles are unlikely.

Don't expect Wimbledon officials to fill the first Sunday -- the traditional dark day -- with matches. Neighbors of the All England Club staunchly oppose allowing an extra day of traffic and

tourists to clog their streets.

"It's not just the tennis," Mills said. "It's all the domestic things, stewards, ball boys, volunteers. We'll just continue to start early into the second week.

Of course, the sun is expected to shine Sunday.

Has anyone mentioned building a dome over this place?

Idle seeds

Seeded players who have yet to begin singles play aWimbledon:

Men

Boris Becker (2), Ivan Lendl (3), Jim Courier (4), Andre Agassi (5), Guy Forget (7), Michael Chang (9), Emilio Sanchez (11), Jakob Hlasek (13), Karel Novacek (14), Brad Gilbert (15)

Women

L Jana Novotna (6), Katerina Maleeva (8), Sandra Cecchini (15)

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