WIMBLEDON, England — Ivan Lendl must curse the day he won Wimbledon. The junior title, that is. No boy's champion for the past 15 years has graduated to winning the men's title and the current World No. 1 is no exception.
Lendl's ambition to lift the men's singles crown has yet to be realized and all he has to show for his preparations for this year's championship starting Monday are a dose of flu and being bumped from the No. 1 seeding by two-time champion Boris Becker.
Lendl won the Wimbledon boy's singles in 1978. He was then almost a year older than was Becker when the West German skipped the junior event and took the senior Championship for the first time in 1985.
But if Lendl -- who lost in last year's final to Becker -- ever gets his hands on Wimbledon's famous silver cup, he can take heart from the fact that the last junior champion to win the senior title was Bjorn Borg. Four years after his 1972 junior triumph, Borg began his series of five consecutive senior titles, and a place in the record books of the sort that Lendl craves.
Lendl has won both the U.S. and French Open titles for the past two years. But it is Wimbledon he needs to win to satisfy his own desire to be known as one of the all-time, all-round great tennis players.
"I want to win Wimbledon and to do that I would gladly forfeit my French title and throw in last year's as well," Lendl said recently.
After taking the French title for the third time June 7, the 27-year-old Czechoslovak has had a miserable time. His agents entered him in a grass court tournament in Edinburgh to prepare for Wimbledon, but other players pulled out and Lendl's only full match all week was against his own coach, Tony Roche.
Lendl struggled in his only game on grass since the Australian Open five months ago. Rain curtailed and then ended the tournament. Lendl ended up in bed in Scotland with flu.
On the face of it, there could hardly have been a greater contrast with Becker's preparations for a crack at a third successive Wimbledon title. The West German boomed his way through the Queen's Club tournament -- despite London's traditionally persistent June rain -- and beat Jimmy Connors in the final.
But Becker's normally deadly service was broken five times by Connors, and the West German admitted, "of course I have to play better" if he is to win Wimbledon again. Becker is scheduled to open the Championships Monday against Karel Novacek of Czechoslovakia.
The three other seeds in Becker's quarter of the Wimbledon draw are players he beat at Queen's -- Americans David Pate (15th), Tim Mayotte (10th) and Connors (7th), and his first tough match should be in the fourth round where he is likely to meet either Pate or Yugoslav Slobodan Zivojinovic, who took Lendl to five sets in last year's semifinals.
Becker is odds-on favorite to win the title again, with second seed Lendl next, and Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and Henri Leconte the best-tipped outsiders, according to London bookmakers. The last time they got it badly wrong was when the unseeded Becker came from nowhere to win two years ago.
Cash, the No. 11 seed who is the favorite with Wimbledon's teeny-bopper female fans, defeated Lendl in the Australian Open semifinals in January, only to lose in the final to Edberg. He was also soundly beaten by Connors at Queen's.
Despite his grass court prowess in Australia, fourth-seeded Edberg has never got beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon. Nor has his third-seeded compatriot Mats Wilander, losing finalist in the French Open and in a segment of the Wimbledon draw that includes at least five other Swedes.
Wimbledon without John McEnroe, for the second successive year, will be like strawberries without cream -- sour cream, for many. But Connors should step into the breach left by the temperamental McEnroe's absence, officially through a back injury.
Champion in 1974 and 1982, Connors has not won a tournament for more than two years. But in the past 12 years, he has failed only once to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals, and the 34-year-old "Grinder" should be able to clown, graft and grunt his way at least that far again.
Connors is seeded seventh. Apart from promoting Becker above Lendl, the Wimbledon organizers have stuck to overall ranking lists in determining seedings -- which means that Spaniard Emilio Sanchez is seeded 16th, even though he has never won a match on the grass of the hallowed All-England Club.
Like Lendl, Martina Navratilova is determined to win Wimbledon this year. Before she gives way to Steffi Graf, Navratilova wants badly not just to extend her consecutive Wimbledon titles to a record six this year, but also to overhaul the all-time record of eight women's singles titles -- an achievement Navratilova will equal if she wins again this time.
"Helen Wills Moody's name is on that plate eight times. I want the record nine," Navratilova said. "I know it's greedy but, if anyone can do it, I can."