A pair of Latin American upstarts gave Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl fits before the top two seeds won their opening-day matches at Wimbledon today.
Lendl, seeded No. 1, started his latest run for a first Wimbledon championship by dropping the first set against Christian Miniussi before beating the 22-year-old from Argentina 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.It was a staggering start for Lendl, who had devoted his season to winning at Wimbledon and fine-tuned his game for three months on grass courts. Even when he was down a set, however, Lendl was confident he had taken the correct path.
"You don't worry about you've been doing, you worry about what you're going to do to get out of it," he said.
It was the second year in a row that Lendl struggled against a young South American in the first round. Last year, he needed five sets to defeat Nicolas Pereira of Venezuela in his opener.
Becker, the defending champion and second seed, looked uncomfortable, of all things, on the Centre Court grass he calls his second home. He slipped all over the place but kept his feet - and his power game - often enough to beat 18-year-old Luis Herrera of Mexico 7-6, 7-6, 7-5.
"It was very wet and soft," Becker said. "The first round is always difficult, but on such a court it is more difficult."
Wimbledon's two-week run quickly produced its first upsets, with the men's and women's 16th seeds eliminated.
Yannick Noah of France lost to an 18-year-old qualifier from South Africa.
Wayne Ferreira took advantage of Noah's service problems and won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on an outside court, almost before the fans on Centre Court were in their seats awaiting Becker's opener against Herrera, or Lendl's match against Miniussi on Court 1.
"This loss was tough," Noah said. "Wimbledon was always special to me." Ferreira, winner of the Wimbledon junior doubles title last year, broke for the match at love when Noah double-faulted. Noah gave the teen-ager a break with another double fault earlier in that set.
British tennis, maligned for so long, got something positive on a sun-dappled day.
Sarah Loosemore, undecided whether to pursue a tennis career or go to Oxford University, beat 16th-seeded Barbara Paulus of Austria 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
Brad Gilbert of the United States, the No. 7 seed, had a tough time before beating Bruno Oresar of Yugoslavia 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; 10th-seeded Jonas Svensson of Sweden defeated Fabrice Santoro of France 6-4, 6-3, 6-2; David Wheaton of the United States beat Magnus Larsson of Sweden 7-6, 6-4, 6-2, and Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon winner who needed a wild card to make it this time, overcame Dimitri Poliakov of the Soviet Union 4-6, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
Hana Mandlikova of Australia, a former U.S. Open champion who has said she is retiring after Wimbledon, struggled before beating Laura Lapi of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 11-9.
Mandlikova saved three match points in the 11th game of the third set, then wasted two of her own in the 16th game. She finally broke for the match on a beautiful backhand crosscourt and three Lapi errors.