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Attention again shifts from rackets to rumors - Waistlines, hairlines latest gossip material
Thursday, June 25, 1992
WIMBLEDON, England -- Tennis questions, anyone?
After three days of fairly routine results and no appreciable amount of rain, the most intriguing aspect of the 106th Wimbledon has more to do with rumors than facts.
Rumor: Monica Seles is addicted to butter and is gaining so much weight that Fila has asked her to stop wearing body-hugging outfits. Also, tournament officials have told her she might start getting penalized for grunting on every point.
Fact: Seles, the women's top seed, advanced yesterday with a -- grunt -- 6-3 -- grunt -- 6-2 second-round victory over Sabine Applemans of Belgium. When asked if she could stop grunting, Seles said, "If I do that, they will pick on something else. . . . Then my skirt will be too short.''
Rumor: Andre Agassi is wearing a cap while playing because he is hiding an increasing hair loss. He is also reportedly upset about the warning he received for spewing an obscenity Tuesday night in his rain-delayed first-round match against Andrei Chesnokov of Russia. The match was finished yesterday before a crowd seemingly made up solely of British schoolgirls.
Fact: Agassi, seeded 12th, also made it to the third round, with a -- squeal -- 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 -- squeal -- 7-5 victory over Chesnokov. When asked where that piece of news about his hair might have come from, Agassi said, in all seriousness, "It comes from Britain.''
It wasn't big news yesterday that No. 5 seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain was stunned by Julie Halard of France, thus becoming the first women's seed to lose. It wasn't big news that the rain has held off for most of the first three days, which is probably some sort of Wimbledon record. It wasn't big news -- not yet anyway -- that nine-time champion Martina Navratilova split her first two sets with Kimberly Po.
What got the biggest cheer, especially from the teen-age girls sitting above Centre Court, was the way Agassi turned his post-match celebration into some sort of wet T-shirt contest, peeling off his sweaty top and flinging it 20 rows into the stands. So what if Agassi seemed to feel comfortable at the net?
At his news conference later, a reporter who last year wrote a story at Wimbledon that the mysteriously absent Seles was pregnant ("Wimblemum'' was the headline) had two questions for Agassi: Andre, why did you take your shirt off? You got the girls more excited, more than they already were? "Are these questions for real?'' he asked incredulously.
Now seriously folks, for the most part, the start to what is the most famous fortnight in sports has gotten off to a rather sluggish, albeit dry, start. Consider the defeat of Sanchez Vicario, one of the few women aside from Seles and Steffi Graf to be given a legitimate chance of winning.
That Halard, ranked 23rd in the world, advanced to the third round of Wimbledon for the first time wasn't nearly as interesting as, say, Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia hitting one of his serves right-handed after it became apparent that Mark Woodforde of Australia wasn't going to return his powerful left-handed serve. Woodforde, who is also a lefty, hit the return right-handed. Weakly.
Earlier, a frustrated Woodforde had swung his racket playfully by the top of the strings and Ivanisevic made as if he were going to hit the ball with the head, as if he were using a bat. But Ivanisevic had second thoughts about changing tactics, considering that his 34 aces were the second-most in Wimbledon history.
"I am not a baseball player, I am European,'' said Ivanisevic, whose 129-mph serve helped him advance with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3 victory.
Agassi is neither a baseball player nor European, but he seems to be getting more comfortable on the grass at the All England Club. He had some shaky moments in his opening-round match against Chesnokov, which was interrupted by the elements Tuesday and began yesterday with Agassi double-faulting to fall behind 2-3 in the second set.
Agassi, who had lost both the second set and his temper after winning the first, came back to break Chesnokov to go up 6-5 and then closed out the set. But he dropped the first two games of the fourth set -- blowing a 30-0 lead in the second game -- before putting Chesnokov away.
"A lot of people say, I like to struggle and get through, and others say, I like to win easy and build myself up,'' said Agassi, who likely will appeal the fine that is expected to be handed down today by Grand Slam supervisor Ken Farrar. "I'd like to feel I'd like to get through. If it's easy, there's a lot to say that can help you confidence-wise.''
Among the men yesterday, Agassi wasn't the only seed to struggle. Defending champion and No. 3 seed Michael Stich of Germany double faulted at love-40 to lose his first set to Amos Mansdorf of Israel, but rallied behind his own 130-mph serve for a 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Former U.S. Open champion Pete Sampras, the No. 5 seed, went to tiebreakers his first three sets against Australian Todd Woodbridge -- winning the first two and losing the third -- before securing a 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-9), 6-4 victory to advance into the third round here for the first time. Two-time champ Stefan Edberg also had a pair of tiebreakers in a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) win over Gary Muller of South Africa. Ivan Lendl dropped a set along the way in a 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 7-5 win over Arne Thoms of Germany.
Now that he is seeded 10th and treated as just another player in the draw, things have quieted for Lendl at Wimbledon. Nobody is asking why he hasn't won here, or if he ever will.
Agassi is getting plenty of questions, and it's getting tough for the man who has everything but a major title. Of all the things he was asked about yesterday -- from his long hair to the screaming fans to why he didn't have more color in his mostly white attire -- perhaps the silliest was this: "Have you brought an iron with you this year?''
"An iron?'' said Agassi, rolling his eyes. "Next question.''
Tennis questions, anyone?