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WIMBLEDON LOOMS FOR COURIER, SELES

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Now comes the tough part for Jim Courier and Monica Seles, each halfway to that most elusive of tennis prizes, a Grand Slam.

Now comes Wimbledon.It's one thing to win on the quick, hard courts of the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, and the slow, red clay of the French.

It's quite another to win on the erratic grass of the very proper All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where, each June, they conduct a tournament known simply as The Championships.

Welcome to Wimbledon, where the ball bounces this way and that, sometimes skidding, sometimes scooting, rarely the same two times in a row.

It can drive the best players to distraction. Ivan Lendl, who never quite solved the mysteries of Wimbledon's skips and low bounces, once stayed home from the tournament entirely, announcing he was allergic to grass. Go argue with that.

The All England Club sits serenely on the outskirts of London, its pristine grass carefully cared for, fertilized and manicured, watered and waiting. By the end of the fortnight, center court will be a scuffed remnant, beaten up by two weeks of pounding, more dirt than grass.

Still it is Wimbledon, prim and proper and unlike any other place in tennis. It oozes aura and history. It can be an intimidating setting, even for the most mature player. And for all their success elsewhere, Courier and Seles remain kids, one 21, the other 18.

Each is flourishing right now, Courier a dominating winner at the French after Seles survived a marathon struggle with Steffi Graf. Now comes the real challenge.

Neither has really solved the surface so far.

Courier, at least, is making progress. He reached the quarterfinals a year ago following a first round elimination in 1989 and a third round wipeout in 1990. "I played well there last year," he said. "I feel I can play well there again. I'll do my best."

Right now, he is the No. 1 player in the world and enjoying every moment of it, displaying the kind of charisma America demands in its tennis heroes.

At the Australian, he celebrated his victory by jumping in the Yarra River. At Paris, with the Seine too far away, he topped off his win by taking a phantom Johnny Carson golf swing, a tribute to the recently retired television entertainer who was at courtside. Then he spoke to the crowd in French, butchering the language a bit - speaking like a Spanish cow, he said - but at least making the attempt.

Now he has to get serious, tug down on the bill of his baseball cap, and go after the grass, beginning June 22. After that comes the Grand Slam climax, the U.S. Open in New York at the end of August.

Seles reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1989 and the quarters the next year before passing last June with what she said was a stress fracture in her leg.