Courier courting little respect at Wimbledon

July 03, 1991|By Melissa Isaacson | Melissa Isaacson,Chicago Tribune

WIMBLEDON, England -- Jim Courier isn't complaining, min you. It's just that well, you know, he is the French Open champion. And he did beat Andre Agassi in the finals. And he has made it through to the Wimbledon quarterfinals as the tournament's fourth seed.

Maybe, you know, some time he might get to just see Centre Court. Take a little better peek at it than the brief look he got during a rain delay on Monday. Hey, maybe play on it, even.

When Agassi's finished, of course.

Until yesterday, Courier has been a fixture on Court 14, a so-called show court located just south of Scotland.

It's the price of being a -- egads -- clay-court specialist, a breed with which the good people of the United Kingdom have barely a passing acquaintance. An American with nary a pair of spandex shorts, who has nothing more distinctive about him than one of the hottest tennis games in the world right now.

After handily defeating 14th-seeded Karel Novacek 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on Court 1, Courier is hoping maybe one day . . .

"Maybe not this year, maybe next year," he said. "Who knows? But I have a feeling one of these days I will play in there. It is the best court in the world. So I would like to be able to tell my grandkids that I have played there."

Actually, Courier wasn't complaining at all. Not when his was one just six matches completed before rain interrupted play for the eighth day in these 9-day-old championships.

Also moving on to the quarterfinals of the men's draw yesterday were No. 1 Stefan Edberg, who eliminated No. 16 John McEnroe 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-4; No. 6 Michael Stich, who defeated Alexander Volkov 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5; and American David Wheaton, a contemporary of Courier and Agassi from junior tennis days, who defeated Jan Gunnarsson 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

Two women's quarterfinal matches were completed, setting up a semifinal matchup between top-seeded Steffi Graf -- a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Zina Garrison -- and Miamian Mary Joe Fernandez, who disposed of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-2, 7-5.

Interrupted was a much anticipated match between nine-time champion Martina Navratilova and Jennifer Capriati. The best match of the day, or at least the best start of the day, had Capriati winning the first set of her career against Navratilova 6-4. She was down a break in the second set at 2-3.

Among the men, No. 7 Guy Forget was leading Tim Mayotte 6-7, 7-5, 6-2, 4-3, and Thierry Champion was ahead of Derrick Rostagno, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 4-1.

Edberg, who next plays the Rostagno-Champion victor, has been masterful in his bid to repeat as Wimbledon champion. And McEnroe felt the full brunt of his grasscourt efficiency in the first match of the day on Centre Court.

Edberg became progressively stronger on his service game, winning 21 straight points on serve from the sixth game of the first set to the first game of the second.

He took the first-set tiebreaker thanks, in part, to two mistakes by McEnroe -- a backhand volley pushed just long on the first point and a double-fault that give Edberg a 4-1 lead.

It was all Edberg would need, and he would ride the momentum through a nearly flawless second set, losing just three points on his serve and six points on McEnroe's serve.

"It was frustrating," McEnroe said. "He's a really tough guy to hTC break. He volleys real well behind his serve, and I had some opportunities, but it wasn't like I had all kinds of opportunities by any means."

If the match lacked drama, however, it would be provided by two of the three women's matches played.

Sanchez Vicario fought off two match points before succumbing to Fernandez, a clay-court power whose previous best run here was to the fourth round.

It was the first victory for Fernandez in four attempts against Sanchez Vicario, and she said the victory gives her confidence against Graf.

"I think I have a good chance," Fernandez said. "I'll try to do the same thing as I did today, try not to give her too much rhythm and play aggressively."

That might be easier said than done against Graf, who had an easy time against Garrison and describes her tournament thus far as "so far, very good."

Capriati could say much the same thing. She started out impressively against the defending champion, breaking Navratilova twice in the first set and showing an ease with Navratilova's serve, perhaps helped along by her fourth-round victory over Brenda Schultz, the hardest server in the women's game.

The meeting was the first between Capriati, 15, and Navratilova, 34, since last April when Navratilova swept the youngster 6-2, 6-4. A victory for Capriati would be her first over a top-four player.

The match will resume today, with the victor to advance to the semis against the winner of Gabriela Sabatini vs. Nathalie Tauziat, which had Sabatini leading 6-2, 1-0 when play was halted.

Scheduled but not played were matches between No. 5 Agassi and Jacco Eltingh and No. 2 Boris Becker and Christian Bergstrom.

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