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Strawberries, Cream and No-Names Being Served at Wimbledon

June 28, 1986|MIKE DOWNEY | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — John McEnroe? No.

Jimmy Connors? No.

Ivan Lendl? Maybe.

But one of the following four lucky contestants definitely is going to make the men's singles semifinals at the 100th Wimbledon tennis tournament, so come on down:

Christo van Rensburg!

Slobodan Zivojinovic!

Eric Jelen!

Ramesh Krishnan!

Yes, the 16 survivors here now will include four guys whose names resemble a Scrabble board, and one of them will be among the final four. We told you this was anybody's Wimbledon. It might even be a nobody's Wimbledon.

Not one seeded player remains in this group's part of the draw, owing to Friday's 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 upset of No. 6 Joakim Nystrom by Krishnan--whose father, Ramanathan Krishnan, made the Wimbledon semifinals in 1960 and '61.

As for the star of our show, Lendl still has not lost a set since the tournament began, a state of affairs that 23-year-old Matt Anger, from USC, will attempt to correct when he plays the men's favorite Monday. Anger took care of John Sadri Friday in four sets.

Lendl and the 10th-seeded Tim Mayotte also were winners, and they remain on a collision course for the quarterfinals. But they are the only seeded players left in their half of the draw.

Six seeded players still occupy the bottom half--Mats Wilander, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Henri Leconte, Brad Gilbert and Mike Pernfors. The top half, however, already has lost Connors, Anders Jarryd, Kevin Curren, Martin Jaite, Johan Kriek and now Nystrom.

So, the winner of next week's anticipated Lendl-Mayotte match will proceed to a semifinal date against one of Wimbledon's surprise guest stars, all of whom need introduction:

--Christo van Rensburg, 23, of Uitenhage, South Africa, currently is ranked No. 214 in the world, just ahead of the immortal Dacio Campos. His big claim to fame is that last year he and Paul Annacone won the much revered Australian Open doubles. Friday, Van Rensburg upset Robert Seguso, the terminator of Jimmy Connors, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

--Slobodan Zivojinovic, 22, of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Bobo to his friends, husband of Zorcia Zivojinovic, is a 6-foot 6-inch, 200-pound fellow whose name was garbled fondly and often exactly one year ago Thursday, when he upset Wilander at Wimbledon. Bobo also bumped off McEnroe in Australia, winning the final set, 6-0, and inspiring McEnroe to yell: "You're going to pay for this!" Dollars or dinars, nobody knows.

--Eric Jelen, 21, of Trier, West Germany, is a soldier who is piling up mileage in the fatherland's frequent-furlough program. After his first-round upset of 1985 Wimbledon runner-up Curren, Jelen said he didn't even know what rank he was. A hastily released biography revealed: "Eric has a new hobby when not playing tennis. Apart from listening to music, he has started to play golf." Stop the presses.

--Ramesh Krishnan, 25, of Madras, India, is a 5-7, 138-pounder who might be mistaken for a ball boy if he gets on the same court with Bobo Zivojinovic. Tired of being called short and stocky, Krishnan has dropped 22 pounds in the last six months. His is not a tale of India indigence. "We had a tennis court at the house when I was a child, so it was kind of natural that I took to the game," he said.

With his father watching from the grandstand on a stunningly sunny 86-degree day, Krishnan used the Wimbledon grass to his advantage, "chipping" away at Nystrom with a variety of shots: low, lower and lowest.

"He has a very good game for grass because he hits the ball low all the time," Nystrom said. "It looks as if he's not hitting the ball very hard, but actually, when I bang against him, it feels as if the ball comes back very fast."

Krishnan needed his sound strategy and chancy shots because he rarely volleyed and served erratically, double-faulting twice on match point in the final set. He squandered five match points before putting Nystrom away.

Next, Krishnan will play Jelen, who defeated David Pate of Las Vegas, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4. Zivojinovic, a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 winner over Ken Flach, will move on to meet Van Rensburg. And the survivors will head for the quarterfinals, where spectators will try to identify them without a scorecard.

Yet, truthfully, this is not so odd as it would seem. For the previous nine years, an unseeded player advanced into the Wimbledon semifinals. Tom Okker, Pat DuPre, Brian Gottfried, Rod Frawley, Mayotte, Chris Lewis, Pat Cash, Becker--even McEnroe was unseeded when he played here in 1977.

Who knows who else will materialize? This year's round of 16 also includes Eddie Edwards, the 29-year-old South African who attended Pepperdine. Edwards earned a shot at Mayotte by hanging on against Jakob Hlasek of Czechoslovakia, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. He, too, would like a quarterfinal crack at Lendl.

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