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Connors Keeps On Beating 'Father Time'

July 01, 1987|Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England — The improbable Wimbledon of Jimmy Connors continued today, taking him past muscular Yugoslav Slobodan Zivojinovic 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 and into the semifinals of a tournament the 34-year-old American first won 13 years ago.

Connors came back less than 24 hours after winning a thrilling five-set match to reach the final four on the grass courts of southwest London for the 11th time--a year after a first-round elimination at the All-England Club.

The last time Connors won any tournament was October, 1984, in Tokyo. His last Grand Slam tournament win was the U.S. Open in 1983. He was slipping in the rankings, and it looked earlier this year as if he would soon be out of the top 10 for the first time since the ratings were originated, in 1973.

But saying repeatedly, "I can still play," Connors fought back. Seeded seventh in the tournament, he became America's last hope for the men's championship when countryman Johan Kriek was eliminated Tuesday.

Game From the Book

And against Zivojinovic, he held off Father Time at least one more day with a game that was right out of the how-to-win book he virtually wrote more than a decade back--strong service returns, passing shots down the lines and sharply angled volleys.

He won on his fourth match point when Zivojinovic netted a backhand volley. Connors saluted the crowd by holding up his index finger--No. 1.

On Friday on Centre Court, he will play 11th-seeded Pat Cash of Australia, a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 winner over third-seeded Mats Wilander of Sweden.

Connors, winner in 1974 and 1982, was one of three Wimbledon singles champions to make the semifinals today.

Navratilova and Evert

Defending champion Martina Navratilova and three-time winner Chris Evert set up the 73rd renewal of their storied rivalry with straight-set victories.

Top-ranked Ivan Lendl, desperately seeking a first Wimbledon championship, played what he described as perhaps his best match ever on the grass courts of the All England Club to beat Frenchman Henri Leconte.

He will play Sweden's Stefan Edberg, the fourth seed.

The women's semifinal field was completed when Steffi Graf of West Germany rallied from a set down to win her 44th consecutive match, beating sixth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Graf's opponent in the final four Thursday will be fifth-seeded Pam Shriver of the United States.

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