Wanted: Jokers to join aces Sampras: Tennis needs injection of bad blood

July 01, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- There's nothing wrong with men's tennis that can't be changed by a little marketing or a little hatred.

At least that's the view of Pete Sampras, who easily beat Sebastien Grosjean, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, yesterday to advance to today's Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Sampras and the other men at Wimbledon have been taking some knocks over the past few days for the depressed state of the men's game, which is seen by many as a serving contest among players without personality.

So, how to fix the sport?

"The tour can do a better job at marketing the game in the United States," Sampras said.

That means commercials, personal appearances and enough hype to turn the players into household names and interesting personalities.

A little nastiness might help, too.

"When the game was successful, you had four of the guys in the top five playing in the semis and finals of all the slams," he said. "They were all different personalities, and they all hated each other. So, it's great theater. The game needs a little controversy. It needs a little bit of a Dennis Rodman type of guy."

Rodman? In tennis?

Sampras longs for that era in which Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and a young Ivan Lendl fought for titles.

Now, the men's game is Sampras against fill-in-the-blank, a sport without rivalries and without flash. Sampras is Wimbledon's top seed, favored to win a fifth title. But he admits he's not that compelling a personality.

"I just think I'm pretty normal," he said. "Because you play good tennis, everyone thinks there's got to be something a little quirky about you, and there really isn't about me. I'm kind of your normal guy who just happens to play good tennis, and that's really it. There's not a lot to analyze with me."

All he does is win.

Yet this Wimbledon could still produce a surprise and a compelling finish.

In today's quarterfinals, Sampras could face a tough fight against Australian Mark Philippoussis, who overwhelmed Jason Stoltenberg, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.

Two weeks ago, Philippoussis wasn't even sure he wanted to come to Wimbledon. He was annoyed by a loss and furious with the state of his career. So, he got a haircut and made a long-distance telephone call to his father, who gave him a pep talk. Now, he has a chance to take all the promise he has shown through the years and win a title.

"It's one of the biggest matches of my life," Philippoussis said. "This is what it's all about in the second week, playing the No. 1 player in the world. I'm just going to give it my all."

Sampras, 4-2 lifetime against Philippoussis, isn't taking his opponent lightly.

"He's got all the tools," Sampras said. "He's very, very powerful. But it takes experience and good playing [to win]."

For the British fans, the big quarterfinal match will pit No. 12 Tim Henman, the local hero, against No. 3 Petr Korda.

In the bottom half of the draw, two big servers advanced, along with two unseeded players looking for a little glory.

Richard Krajicek, the No. 9 seed and 1997 champion, ousted Wayne Ferreira, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. Next up for Krajicek is Davide

Sanguinetti, a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 6-4 winner over Francisco Clavet.

Krajicek, who has cruised through nearly unnoticed, strained his right knee, which has been surgically repaired.

"I was basically serving with one leg," said Krajicek.

In what looms as the most entertaining quarterfinal, No. 14 Goran Ivanisevic will meet Jan Siemerink. Ivanisevic defeated Todd Martin, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2). Siemerink beat Magnus Larson, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

"I'm playing maybe the best tennis that I have ever played here," said Ivanisevic, who has lost two painful Wimbledon finals, once to Sampras and once to Andre Agassi.

It's hard to figure out how Ivanisevic will play. If his serve is on, he wins. If it's not, he loses.

In the past few years, he has changed his hairstyle, grown a beard and struggled to have a composed demeanor on the court.

Now, he's added a new wrinkle, a tattoo on his right shoulder.

"Yes, it's a cross, shark and a rose," he said. "A cross is a cross. A rose, like love. And a shark -- it's a pretty tough animal."

Who says the men are boring?

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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