Connors loses, says he may not be back Only first-day upset is appearance of sun

June 23, 1992|By Richard Finn | Richard Finn,Contributing Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- The curtain went up on Wimbledon yesterday with a little bit of everything going right.

First, there was no rain.

After last year's opening day washout and the daily deluges that nearly washed out the entire first week, only aces and sunshine fell on the All England Club grounds.

"When you see a nice day, it kind of makes everybody a little bit happier," said fifth seed Pete Sampras after a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 runaway over Andrei Cherkasov.

Providing the right counterbalance of sobriety and historical revelance was the sight of Jimmy Connors striding off Court 1, likely leaving the hallowed Wimbledon green grass for the last time in his career as a tired first-round loser.

"It is less than 50-50 that I will be back to Wimbledon," said Connors, 39, after going out against Luis Herrera, the light-hitting and lightly known Mexican Davis Cup player, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. "It's not worth the pain anymore."

Last year, Connors had reached the U.S. Open semifinals in an energetic revival. Yesterday, he was eliminated in 2 hours, 16 minutes against an appropriate backdrop of fading sunset.

"When I get to a point in the match where my hips go, my knees get too sore, my back stiffens up and I don't move as well, then my son, who is 13, would have a good chance against me," said Connors.

Connors played without his customary vigor. He lacked punch in his strokes and offered only brief pockets of resistance against the 20-year-old left-hander.

In the third set, Connors turned back Herrera on three set points to hold serve for 5-5. But, two games later, the spunky Herrera closed out the set with an overhead winner. The slam finished off a point that featured great scrambling all around the court by the pair.

Connors stiffened once more in the last set, saving four match points on his serve to hold for 3-5. But Herrera wrapped his first Grand Slam tournament match victory on the fifth try on an error by Connors.

It was a quick end to a 20-year Wimbledon career that netted Connors the 1974 and 1982 crowns, as well as four runner-up showings.

Connors won't hang up the racket yet. He is set to play TeamTennis this summer for his Los Angeles hometown team and probably will play in the U.S. Open in August.

"Right now, it is 75-25 to play, but it is going down," he said.

No one else of note went down on the star-studded program.

The No. 1 seeds, Jim Courier and Monica Seles, kept their Grand Slam hopes alive with routine victories.

"I couldn't envision a better start," said Courier, who had 14 aces in throttling Markus Zoecke, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. "I was in stride all the way."

Seles marked her return after last year's last-minute withdrawal because of a leg injury by cruising past Jenny Byrne, 6-2, 6-2.

Three past champions -- second seed Stefan Edberg, third seed Michael Stich and fourth seed Boris Becker -- didn't drop a set.

Edberg, the 1988 and 1990 winner, beat Steve Bryan. Stich, the reigning champion, defeated Stefano Pescosolido, and three-time winner Becker handled Omar Camporese.

The day had opened with a touch of British pomp and circumstance on the Centre Court.

Before the matches, the Duke and Dutchess of Kent toasted and honored Dan Maskell, who had announced his retirement earlier this year after 43 years as Wimbledon's TV voice.

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