Nowwhere to go but down Lendl's slide continues with Wimbledon exit

June 25, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- Ivan Lendl arrived quietly yesterday morning, getting out of his car in front of the players' entrance, looking neither right nor left.

He certainly didn't look at the fans lining the ropes at the entrance. And for their part, the fans didn't seem to expect him to. No one even called his name.

Without a smile or wave, Lendl disappeared into the cavern that is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for what would turn out to be one of his most disappointing days.

At 33, he is the tournament's oldest entry, and time is short for Lendl's tennis career. This week, he has been the forgotten man. Speculation about who will win Wimbledon seldom included Lendl.

Yesterday, he became the first of the top 10 seeds to lose, when Arnaud Boetsch, 24, beat him, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, on Centre Court.

At that point, Lendl, the seventh seed, became Wimbledon's invisible man, leaving the grounds without stopping for the post-match interview.

Lendl holds the record for the longest overall career ranking at No. 1, 270 weeks, has eight Grand Slam tournament titles, butnever has won Wimbledon and probably never will.

"This is the biggest day, the biggest victory of my life," said

Boetsch, a 6-foot Frenchman. "It is a big victory against a big name. In the past, I have played Boris Becker and Andre Agassi and I didn't play as well, because I was always in awe of them. This time, I didn't think about it."

When it comes to Lendl, there seems little left to think about. He lost in the first round at the Australian and French opens. And now he has exited Wimbledon in Round 2.

Even his opponent, who two weeks ago won his first tournament with a victory over Wally Masur at Rosmalen, Netherlands, spoke of Lendl's tennis demise.

Boetsch had seen Lendl play in Nice, France, on clay and said he saw a way to win. Boetsch, who had lost decisively in two earlier meetings with Lendl, went for the body slam.

"In Nice, I thought he was a bit slow and lazy," Boetsch said. "I decided I would aim always for his body all the time. He doesn't like that, and after the first set, he didn't move very well and he missed a lot of backhands and I got a lot of confidence in my serve."

In fact, Boetsch said he was so sure he could beat Lendl that he was surprised when he lost a set.

"The first set, he made a lot of aces," Boetsch said. "But then he slowed, and, to me, it was sad. He is a great, old player, and it is a pity he has never won Wimbledon.

"But I played great."

Boetsch's game was deadly in the face of Lendl's aging legs. His big serve, which produced 14 aces, was precise, his passing shots deadly, his lobs over Lendl disheartening, as they dropped just inside the baseline.

Boetsch hit every line on the court.

When Boetsch served for the match at 5-4, Lendl momentarily came to life, ripping a forehand winner. But then another forehand went wide, a backhand cross court went centimeters wide and, finally, a simple forehand banged into the net on match point.

"He shook my hand and told me, 'Nice match and good luck,' " said Boetsch, who is ranked 24th.

"I could sense his sadness. But he has won a lot of tournaments. He's still a great player, and he won two or three -- I don't know how many times -- the French Open [three]. He didn't win here, and I don't think he ever will, but he's still a great player."

TODAY'S KEY MATCHES

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(Seeds in parentheses)

CENTRE COURT Patrick Rafter, Australia, vs. Andre Agassi (8), Las Vegas; Brenda Schultz, Netherlands, vs. Jennifer Capriati (7), Saddlebrook, Fla.; Henri Leconte, France, vs. Aaron Krickstein, Grosse Pointe, Mich.

COURT 1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3), Spain, vs. Patty Fendick, Sacramento, Calif.; Boris Becker (4), Germany, vs. Jakob Hlasek, Switzerland; Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Helen Kelesi, Canada.

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