Grass mows down Rios at Wimbledon Clavet gets 5-set upset on 'boring' surface

June 25, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- Bring this man clay. Bring him heat. Bring him endless baseline rallies. This is what Marcelo Rios lives for. This is how he made his reputation as a great tennis player, how he shinned up the world rankings to No. 2.

But grass is awful stuff for Rios. It's slippery. It's fast. It produces play that is as subtle as a kidney punch.

Still, Rios ventured into the wilds of Wimbledon yesterday. The Chilean played Francisco Clavet in a first-round match. And he lost, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

Afterward, Rios took a swipe at the greatest serve-and-volley show on grass. Asked if Wimbledon were overrated, Rios replied: "I think so, yes. Maybe there are little things that they're not very good at in this tournament the organization, the transportation, and all those things."

But this is what really gets Rios at Wimbledon: the grass.

"Grass is not a surface to watch tennis or to play tennis. It's really boring," he said. "But I have to learn. It's one of the big tournaments, and I've got to go for it."

Maybe next year.

Yesterday was the day the men finally grabbed hold of Wimbledon. It was a day in which the bottom half of the draw was blown apart by upsets and the tournament was gripped by petty controversies.

Rios, the No. 2 seed, was gone.

And so was Greg Rusedski, seeded No. 4, the transplanted Canadian turned great hope of British men's tennis. Rusedski, who suffered ankle ligament damage two weeks ago, was unable to resume his match against Australia's Scott Draper, which had been suspended by rain Tuesday with Draper leading, 4-6, 6-2, 5-4.

"Wimbledon only comes around once a year. It's the biggest tournament in the world. It's at home. It's the one the British public comes to support and comes to see," Rusedski said. "So, I don't want to miss this tournament. I would have been gutted if I hadn't stepped on the court at least and given it a go to try playing. Can you imagine sitting there two weeks watching Wimbledon go by and not being able to play?"

Well, Rusedski sure got a lot of thanks for his effort. The British tabloids lambasted his decision to play the match. And his coach, Tony Pickard, quit, saying there was "a breakdown in communication."

"I don't believe he should have played," Pickard said.

The other top seed to tumble was No. 8 Cedric Pioline, a finalist TTC last year. He came up against Marc Rosset, who unleashed 38 aces to win, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 13-11.

All of a sudden, the bottom half of the draw looks mighty tantalizing for two big-serving players with inconsistent games -- No. 9 Richard Krajicek and No. 14 Goran Ivanisevic.

Krajicek, the 1997 champion, won his opening-round match over Brett Steven, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2.

And Ivanisevic, a two-time finalist, blasted Grant Stafford, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. After so many missed opportunities at winning major tournaments in his career, Ivanisevic is finally starting to think of his tennis legacy.

"It's never too late for me," he said. "I'm still 26, and I believe I can do it [win a Grand Slam event]."

Did he ever doubt himself?

"Sometimes, but not really," he said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. I know why people like to watch me. It's always a thriller. They kind of expect everything, from nothing to great tennis."

There was a lot more consistency in the top half of the draw, where No. 1 seed and reigning champion Pete Sampras won his second-round match over Mikael Tillstrom, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

No. 3 seed Petr Korda defeated Filip Dewulf, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

But No. 13 seed Andre Agassi, the 1992 champion, was stuck in a thriller against Tommy Haas. Haas took a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) lead before play was suspended by darkness. Agassi also left the court furious over a disputed line call in the tiebreaker.

"I can honestly say that in 12 years that I've never seen one missed that poorly," Agassi told the umpire. "That's not an exaggeration."

Still, at least one player enjoyed his Wimbledon debut, even if rain and darkness delayed it. Jason Gambill needed three days and 11 match points finally to defeat Sjeng Schalken, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 4-6, 8-6.

"It's very exciting," Gambill said. "It's even better when you struggle and come out ahead a winner."

Featured matches

Men

Carlos Moya (5), Spain, vs. Hicham Arazi, Morocco

Richard Krajicek (9), Netherlands, vs. Dinu Pescariu, Romania

Women

Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Elena Makarova, Russia

Jana Novotna (3), Czech Republic, vs. Tatiana Panova, Russia

Venus Williams (7), U.S., vs. Barbara Schett, Austria

Pub Date: 6/25/98

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