Godwin has spoiler's role down pat, beating Wheaton South African qualifier to face Courier in D.C.

July 16, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Neville Godwin, a South African who had to survive a 7-6, 7-5 scare in a qualifying session to even make the field of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, has decided to stick around for a while.

"I gave the crowd what they wanted, seeing the little guy win," he said after beating David Wheaton, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3. "I'm the 'David' in every match I play; everybody's bigger than me."

Wheaton wasn't seeded, but you might remember him as the 6-4 siege gunner who hurried all the way up to the No. 17 ranking in 1991, made the semifinals at Wimbledon and won $2.5 million that year.

"The bigger they are . . . how does it go?" asked Godwin, who obviously likes this qualifying routine. He made this year's Wimbledon out of a qualifier, then barged into the fourth round, including a win over Boris Becker: "Yeah, I was the guy standing across from him when he suffered the wrist injury and had to quit."

Things have changed dramatically since London, Godwin getting many congratulatory calls from family and friends.

"My immediate goal is getting it to where I don't have to play qualifiers every week, and the ton of points I got at Wimbledon and this win is going to help. I'd like to get straight in to the Australian Open [in January], which means I'll have to get my ranking up to about No. 120."

Starting the year at No. 219, Neville arrived at No. 143 this week and figures to move up further with a win or two here.

"My game plan was simple against Wheaton, who beat me in four sets at the U.S. Open last year. He's big [6-4] and big guys often have a tough time with their movement. And he went awry on a few big points."

Particularly in the first-set tiebreaker when Wheaton had a seemingly insurmountable, 5-1 lead . . . only to have David rise up and smite the giant server.

With one win under his belt, Godwin next goes against a real giant, Jim Courier, who is seeded third and, in 1991-92, spent about 50 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world.

Yesterday's day matches, which got under way at 11 a.m., didn't finish until 11 p.m. on some courts, so there was much scrambling in and around rain delays to provide ticket holders arriving for the evening session at 7 p.m. with their "own" match.

It turned out to be Paul Goldstein of Rockville against Oleg Ogorodov of Uzbekistan, and Goldstein, a recent Stanford grad, looked like anything but a guy with a No. 979 ranking.

Goldstein won the first set, 6-3, lost the second, 3-6, and had match point in the third before Ogorodov broke in the 11th game and served out the match, 7-5.

Singles, first round

Bryan Shelton, Atlanta, def. Justin Gimelstob, New Vernon, N.J., 7-6 (7-2), 6-3. Mauricio Hadad, Colombia, def. Sandor Noszaly, Hungary, 6-3, 6-2. Jacco Eltingh, Netherlands, def. Stefano Pescosolido, Italy, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4). Sebastien Lareau, Canada, def. Stephane Simian, France, 6-3, 6-3. Patrick Rafter (15),

Australia, Jim Grabb, Tucson, Ariz., 6-2, 7-5.

Today's matches

Stadium (11 a.m.): Byron Black (9) vs. Chuck Adams, followed by Danny Cantwell vs. Karol Kucera, followed by Jean-Phillippe Fleurian vs. Chris Woodruff.

Grandstand (11 a.m.): Michael Joye vs. Gianluca Pozzi, followed by Grant Stafford vs. Marcos Ondruska, followed by Wade McGuire vs. Carlos Costa, followed by Rafter vs. Cunha-Silva/Nainkin match.

Stadium (7 p.m.): Andre Agassi (1) vs. Jacco Eltingh, followed by doubles.

Tournament data

What: Legg Mason Tennis Classic

Where: FitzGerald Tennis Center, 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW, Washington.

When: Sessions daily through Saturday, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday's final, 3: 30 p.m.

Defending champion: Andre Agassi.

Tickets: $12, $14, $17, $18, $21, $23, $27 (quarterfinals), $31 (semifinals), $35 (final). Available at gate or by calling Ticketmaster: (410) 481-SEAT, (703) 573-SEAT, (202) 432-SEAT.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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