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Halard's power sufficient to subdue Sanchez - Wimbledon 1992
Thursday, June 25, 1992
Andrew Longmore, Tennis Correspondent
NOT for the first time in a chequered career at Wimbledon, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario discovered that a fighting spirit and endless stamina are not strong enough weapons to prevail on grass. In the first big shock in the women's singles at the Wimbledon championships, the No. 5 seed was beaten in three sets by Julie Halard in just under two hours yesterday. It will be little consolation for the Spaniard to know that it was quite comfortably the best match of the week so far.
The Frenchwoman paints in her spare time and has the gentle voice and manner of the artist, but she showed no shortage of killer touch yesterday, surviving the Spaniard's determined fightback to win 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Nevertheless, even that surprise might have been put in the shade had Kimberley Po been allowed to maintain her momentum against Martina Navratilova in the evening gloom of court two. Having won the first set, the nine-times champion dropped the second to the American and was only too happy to retreat to the sanctuary of the locker-room when the match was finally called off.
Navratilova might recall that a similar overnight halt did nothing to help her last year against Jennifer Capriati in the quarter-final, and her lack of sparkle was all too reminiscent.
Halard, aged 21, was well prepared for her tilt at the Wimbledon windmill. She practised with the German, Anke Huber, at Wentworth last week and for a week on grass before that in France, and clearly fancied her chances against Sanchez Vicario, whose record reflects her hazy grasp of lawn tennis. Two quarter-finals, in 1989 and 1991, have been balanced by three first-round defeats.
Halard has shown promise on grass before, reaching the final of junior Wimbledon in 1987. "Then I just hit the ball hard," she said. "No serve, no volley. Nothing. It was not really my surface." With a few twiddles, that is roughly what she did yesterday.
Sanchez Vicario's one compensation was that she could concentrate fully on her preparations for the Olympic Games in Barcelona next month. Perhaps half of her mind was already taken up by thoughts of gold medals because she was not as bouncy and aggressive as usual.
There were early hints of an upset. Halard, ranked No. 23, won four of the first five games with a series of raking forehands and punishing serves. The Spaniard had little to offer in return, other than a priceless refusal to stop running, but she finally found her own indestructible stride to take six games in a row from 2-0 down in the second and level the match.
Drop shots, lobs, passes on forehand and backhand both girls explored every angle and every blade of grass on court one before Halard's forehand finally proved stronger than Sanchez Vicario's wit. Serving to stay in the championships at 3-5, a half-volley and a forehand long sealed the Spaniard's fate and sent Halard through to a third round match against Helena Sukova, who is rather more the archetypal grass-court player.
Coincidentally, Halard's compatriot, Nathalie Tauziat, was involved in the other main tussle of the day. As the No. 14 seed, though, Tauziat was expected to win against Natalia Medvedeva. Medvedeva's brother, Andrei Medvedev, had covered himself in glory by reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open on his grand slam tournament debut last month and there was a spring in the Ukrainian's step which suggested she wanted to follow suit.
She certainly plays much the same way, two-handed on the backhand with a hefty thump on the forehand, and Tauziat had her hands full most of the one hour and 40 minutes. Medvedeva led by a break in the third set, but began to try things which were beyond her scope, perhaps out of a growing sense of fatigue, and allowed Tauziat back into the match. From 3-1 up, Medvedeva conceded five games in a row, losing 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Monica Seles, meanwhile, beat Sabine Appelmans 6-2, 6-3.
Andre Agassi will learn this morning if he has been fined for an audible obscenity during his first-round match against Andrei Chesnokov. The American has appealed against the code violation and accused Ken Farrar, the supervisor for the International Tennis Federation, of waging a personal vendetta against him after incidents at the US Open two years ago.