Agassi outlasts Krickstein in a grass-roots match

June 25, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- This was what the grass courts of Wimbledon were made for.

The game wasn't a five-set thriller or even a matchup of serve-and-volley specialists.

But on Centre Court, Americans Andre Agassi and Aaron Krickstein contrived to use every inch allowed between the stark white lines to their advantage.

Their rallies stretched individual games to seven deuces and more, and lengthened their match deep into the fading light.

Finally, with rain beginning to pelt the court, Agassi made a final stretched-out backhand for a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory.

In the moments it took Agassi to return to his chair and before he could pack his gear, the Wimbledon grounds crews had Centre Court under wraps.

Agassi was so startled by the quickness of the effort, he didn't even toss a shirt into the stands.

Given the performance, it was somehow fitting that he should walk off to cheers of appreciation, rather than squeals of passion.

Krickstein had won their last two meetings with ease -- at the U.S. Open in 1991 and in a real stinker in Washington last July.

Yesterday, his game was good enough to give Agassi an entertaining match, but it was not sharp enough to avoid the results that come from too many unforced errors.

Yet they played long rallies and crisp points. Krickstein hit drop -- shots from the baseline. Agassi hit power drives down the line. And they even volleyed a little.

It was power and powder-puff and though Agassi won in straight sets, it was choreographed to entertain.

"You're not really in tune with whether it's fun when you're playing well and you're near the end of the match," Agassi said. "But you have a strange, you know, a great feeling about how you're feeling . . . and I had that strange feeling."

On Monday, Wimbledon could get a whole lot tougher for the No. 12 seed and that strange, winning feeling could be hard to come by.

Come Monday, Agassi will face No. 6 seed Todd Martin, who is not known for his stamina, though he showed some staying power yesterday.

In 92-degree heat, Martin survived a five-set match against Martin Damm, 6-2, 6-7 (1-7), 4-6, 6-3, 11-9, to move into the fourth round, the round of 16, against Agassi.

Since No. 2 seed Michael Stich and No. 3 seed Stefan Edberg were ousted, Martin has moved into a favorite's role behind No. 1 seed and defending champion Pete Sampras.

Though Martin describes his jump among the oddsmakers as "a bit unfounded," Agassi considers the match against 6-foot-6 Martin's power serve and admits he's in for a dangerous game.

"I can create a certain amount of frustration for serve-and-volley players -- when you get up set point and a guy hits a second-serve ace, that's frustrating," Agassi said. "And to return well is such an important factor, because these serve and volleyers aren't comfortable hitting the second serve and staying back, especially against a baseliner when the courts get slow.

"But there is no question that a Todd Martin kind of game will put a lot of pressure on me, too, to have to hold and to have to counterattack a lot of his big approach shots."

Agassi is the sunshine here. As the top seeds have dropped faster than a fan can down a bowl of strawberries and cream, he has become an even hotter commodity.

Attendance is down by nearly 7,000 a day, though the tournament is over its 28,000 capacity daily.

Of the players left in this tournament, only Agassi and Boris Becker are creating any fervor among fans.

Three London newspapers quoted All England Club chief executive Chris Gorringe as saying he hopes "Andre Agassi continues to do well. We need to keep the interest going. There are not enough charismatic figures in the game and people want excitement and they've not been getting it."

Yesterday, Gorringe denied the comment, saying he was speaking of tennis in general, not this tournament.

But ever since Agassi won Wimbledon on his third try in 1992, he has been the people's favorite.

That was evident yesterday. Though the Centre Court crowd responded to the terrific shots of both players, it was Agassi the fans urged on after he fell behind Krickstein 2-5 in the third-set tiebreaker.

FEATURED MATCHES

Centre Court

* Jeremy Bates vs. Markus Zoecke

* Linda Harvey-Wild vs. Martina Navratilova (4)

* Amos Mansdorf vs. Goran Ivanisevic (4)

Court 1

* Boris Becker (7) vs. Javier Frana

* Nancy Feber vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (2)

* Guy Forget vs. Jakob Hlasek

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