Agassi comes up aces in first test at Wimbledon Serves up straight-set win

Edberg struggles in opener

June 22, 1993|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,Los Angeles Times

WIMBLEDON, England -- Now here's how to make a real entrance at Wimbledon:

You put Charlton Heston in the Royal Box, you knock as many aces as there are commandments, change your serve so it seems as if you're hitting with a stone tablet, wave to the crowd, bow twice, win in straight sets and hit the door.

"I could have played 10 sets out there," Andre Agassi said. "I didn't want to leave the court."

Just about everything went according to plan for Agassi, the reigning Wimbledon champion, who started slowly, then screamed past Bernd Karbacher, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0, in a first-round match yesterday on opening day.

A group of youngsters in the first row of stands held up a message on a bedsheet to greet Agassi as he walked onto the court to enthusiastic applause: "Agassi is No. 1, No Question."

Agassi was grateful for the warm reception.

"I came out here today, it was the second-best feeling of my life," he said. "The first one was winning it."

That was understandable. Besides being down a service break in the first set, Agassi didn't have anything much to worry about.

His sore wrist and elbow weren't bothering him and neither was Karbacher, who is just getting over bronchitis.

So, the injured beat the sick and even if it was a match better suited for a hospital ward than Centre Court, Agassi's serve was a picture of health.

Karbacher said he had one major problem, besides trying to track the ball on Agassi's serve.

"Everything is much harder when you cannot breathe well," Karbacher said.

Agassi sent 10 aces skidding over the grass, matching his career high, all the while using a new motion designed to limit stress on his wrist. In Agassi's new serve, the backswing is shortened to almost nothing, sort of like the way Jay Berger used to serve.

Agassi rated the results as semi-encouraging.

"I think I am just 50 percent comfortable with it and 50 percent tentative with it," he said.

Meanwhile, fortunate to still be playing is Stefan Edberg. The two-time Wimbledon champion got out of the first round with a shaky, 7-6 (11-9), 6-4, 6-7 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5) victory over Greg Rusedski, a 19-year-old qualifier from Canada.

Neither Jim Courier nor Michael Stich experienced the same difficulties as Edberg. Courier blitzed Gianluca Pozzi, 6-0, 7-5, 6-4, and Stich breezed past Jan Siemerink, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.

Michael Chang's first-round match with Paul Haarhuis was suspended in the fifth set with Chang about to serve at 3-1. Chang won the first two sets, 6-2, 6-2, and Haarhuis won the third and fourth, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

Courier, whose best Wimbledon result was the quarterfinals in 1991, said he isn't ready to talk about winning here.

"Ask me in about five rounds, if I get there," Courier said. "It's hard to say. Wimbledon, for me, it's not my natural surface. It's a crap shoot."

Until recently, Agassi felt the same way about his chances. The problem was the tendinitis in his right wrist. Agassi went to five specialists, who told him they don't expect his wrist to get worse in the short term.

Agassi said his wrist was so painful in early April, when he lost to Sergi Bruguera in the quarterfinals in Barcelona, that playing Wimbledon was in doubt.

The only other match Agassi has played since was in Halle, Germany, last week, when he lost to Carl-Uwe Steeb. "If you don't play for a month and a half [you're nervous]," Agassi said. "I mean, it really has a lot to do with just not playing a lot of matches and coming back to defend the greatest title in the world."

Besides his serve, Agassi has a couple of other new wrinkles this year. He is keeping his shirt tucked in, unlike last year when his midriff was often exposed.

Agassi also seems to be packing a little extra weight, which may be why his shirt remains in place.

TODAY'S WIMBLEDON

FEATURE MATCHES

(Seeds in parentheses)

CENTRE COURT Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Kirrily Sharpe, Australia; Michelle BJaggard-Lai, Australia, vs. Martina Navratilova (2), Aspen, Colo.

COURT ONE Pete Sampras (1), Tampa, Fla., vs. Neil Borwick, Australia; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3), Spain, vs. Radka Zrubakova, Czech Republic.

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