Sanchez Vicario ousted by Halard
Thursday, JUNE 25, 1992
WIMBLEDON , England -- There was an outbreak of silliness at Wimbledon on Wednesday. Andre Agassi blew kisses to the crowd, Monica Seles was asked about the size of her backside, and in the midst of these absurdities a top player was quietly retired from the tournament.
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain, a baseline specialist who was seeded fifth, faltered on the speedy grass and became the second major casualty of the tournament. The culprit was Julie Halard, a hard-hitting 21-year-old from France, whose 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 upset was the biggest win of her career.
"Anything can happen on this surface," said Sanchez Vicario, 20, who won the French Open in 1989 and had twice progressed to the quarterfinals here. "You have to concentrate 100 percent. Probably today I wasn't there 100 percent."
Others trembled, but not as badly. Martina Navratilova, a nine-time champion, split the first two sets 6-2, 3-6, against No. 87 Kimberly Po, a 20-year-old from California, before their match was suspended overnight because of darkness. Defending champion Michael Stich had a scare on Court 2 before defeating Israel's Amos Mansdorf 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3. And second-seeded Stefan Edberg won in straight sets over Gary Muller of South Africa 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
Pete Sampras, the American seeded fifth, strained even harder before he toppled Australia's Todd Woodbridge 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (9-7), 6-4. Sampras' labors paid off, advancing him to the third round for the first time here.
Tenth-seeded Ivan Lendl had a slightly easier passage but still needed four sets to defeat an obscure 21-year-old German, Arne Thoms, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 7-5. And Croatia's Goran Ivanisevic, the eighth seed, served 34 aces on his way to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3 victory over Mark Woodforde of Australia.
Agassi had to struggle, too, before defeating Russia's Andrei Chesnokov in a match suspended because of rain and darkness Tuesday night at one set apiece and Agassi serving at 1-2, 0-40 in the third.
But Agassi, who won over the British when he returned to Wimbledon last year and gleefully adhered to the predominantly white clothing rule, had no problem being the darling of the local fans. After his victory Wednesday, the shaggy-haired American received a screeching ovation, which prompted him first to bow dramatically, blow kisses to the crowd and then finally strip off his shirt and hurl it into the stands.
Later, he was asked an array of ludicrous questions by the British press, including whether he has taken to wearing a white cap during matches because he is balding. "Are these questions for real?" he said laughing.
No player, however, was subjected to as ridiculous a news conference as the top-seeded Seles. Seles was accorded the privilege of her first Centre Court appearance in two years and neatly disposed of Belgium's Sabine Appelmans 6-3, 6-2. Afterward, she was asked about her grunting, whether she is addicted to butter and whether she had gained weight.
The 18-year-old Yugoslav deserved a medal for showing a sense of humor in the face of such inquiries. The stories, she said cheerfully, were the product of "people who have nothing to do all day (except) come out with headlines so they can sell papers. You can laugh at these stories. I think the No. 1 player is always going to get controversy."
As for her tennis, Seles said her game is on track except for her service return. "I'm definitely going to have to return a lot better," she said.
Perhaps the tournament needed some foolishness off the courts to compensate for the lack of upsets on them. So far, it has been a remarkably upset-free Wimbledon , with No. 7 Michael Chang and Sanchez Vicario the top seeds to have been dismissed.
Like Chang, who lost to Britain's Jeremy Bates on Tuesday, Sanchez Vicario encountered an opponent having a great day. Halard, a somewhat rangy righthander with a big serve and forehand, showed uncommon poise as she drilled crosscourts that kept Sanchez Vicario constantly on the run.
"I don't feel disappointed," she said. "She played better than me, and she beat me."