Bates: the odds-against favorite

June 26, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- Englishman Jeremy Bates moved behind the baseline on Centre Court to begin serving for his match yesterday. And that's when the roar went up.

"The noise was incredible -- and they were all cheering for me,he said with wonder in his voice. "It was so loud, I thought the whole place was going to fall down. It was just incredible."

And then he tried to toss the ball on match point and the ballsomehow, stuck to his hand.

This had happened to Bates once before on Centre Court. He was serving for the match against Guy Forget in 1992, a match that would have put him in the quarterfinals and made him the first Englishman to accomplish such a thing since Roger Taylor in 1973, but he couldn't close it out.

"The entire place went, 'AHHHH,' " Bates said. "Theremembered and I remembered, and then I just put my hands out and shook all over. I couldn't resist. I couldn't believe it was happening again. I thought it was pretty funny."

And it was, because this time Bates eventually did get the balout of his hand and into the air for the winning point against Markus Zoecke, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Bates' next opponent, the man between him and the quarterfinals, is again Forget, who beat Jakob Hlasek, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).

"I don't feel I have all of England on my shoulders," Bates said. "feel all of England is supporting me. I travel 30 weeks a year, and I'm abused 29 of them. It's really nice to have one week where everyone is cheering for me."

But how much longer will the cheers go on? Every year, the English players arrive at their home tournament with less than rousing expectations. And the newspapers do little to lift their spirits, carring a daily box draped in black announcing their falls.

Bates, 32, was not expected to be the man England pinned ithopes on. Though he is having his best year in singles, he was a 1,000-1 shot to win. After his first-round victory, the odds dropped to 500-1, and before yesterday's match he was 250-1. "Same as the chances of the Loch Ness Monster showing up," said a local betting parlor manager.

Becker's 90 minutes

It was Boris Becker's third match, and, for the third time, he won with relative ease. Though not quite as easily as he seems to think time-wise.

"I'm most glad I'm winning in an hour and a half every time,Becker said after beating Javier Frana, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. "In .. a tournament, playing best-of-five, anything can happen. We've seen it here, so it is good to get in and get out, no matter how good you think you're playing."

In fact, all of Becker's matches have taken close to two hours.

No. 1 seed Pete Sampras, whose match was called because of rain Friday at 6-1, 4-1, picked up where he left off and ousted Chuck Adams, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

"So far, so good," said Sampras. "I've been playing pretty welland I'm confident."

He should be, he has yet to drop a set.

Luck of the draw

Fans were in a furor yesterday because they didn't get to see their favorite tennis player Friday, even though they had stood in line all night and paid 20 pounds, about $32, to do just that.

They were upset, not because they didn't get to see Agassi, bubecause they didn't get to see Sampras, whose match was moved from Court 1 to Court 2 at the last minute.

"We spent the entire day watching buildup matches in thintense heat, looking forward to seeing Sampras in the evening," said Jane Neat of Hampshire, one of the all-nighters. "Who did we get to see? Conchita Martinez!"

Record speed

Zoecke lost to Bates yesterday, but he tied the record for

fastest serve in the men's game.

Zoecke blasted a 134 mph fastball that matched the 199Wimbledon serve of Marc Rosset.

Against Markus, it's very important to go accepting the aces and the unhittables," said Bates. "He has the biggest serve on tour, and I'm thankful he didn't hit me in the chest with it."

Shelton survives

Qualifier Bryan Shelton, who ousted No. 2 seed Michael Stich last week, survived again, defeating Jason Stoltenberg, 7-6 (9-7), 5-7, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4. This is the 12th time in the open era that a men's qualifier has reached the round of 16.

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