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Germans March at Wimbledon

Tennis: Becker and his protege, Kiefer, win, but it's the rainy weather that dominates.

July 02, 1997|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England — First rain, then darkness interfered with tennis here Tuesday, a day that promised much but delivered little.

The day began with the sun but it left quickly, replaced by rain. And more rain.

Officials at the All England Club had hoped to complete the men's fourth round, but early optimism gave way to interminable delays that stretched the schedule beyond the limits of available light.

Pete Sampras had been scheduled to play, but the backed-up schedule got him on Court 1 after 7:45 p.m. He was leading Petr Korda, 6-4, 4-2, when play was suspended at 8:40.

Defending champion Richard Krajicek was battling both his opponent, Englishman Tim Henman, and the rabidly partisan crowd when that match was suspended with Henman ahead, 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-5).

The fourth-round matches will be finished today. At least, that is the hope.

Two Germans advanced, one as expected, the other surprisingly. Boris Becker, seeded No. 8, defeated men's tennis' hottest commodity, ninth-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5). And 19-year-old Nicolas Kiefer upset the tournament's third-seeded player, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6-2, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.

The men have five unseeded quarterfinalists for the first time since 1967.

Kiefer has been one of the German junior players Becker has been working with informally. Here, Becker has been advising Kiefer about his opponents. Becker said Kiefer reminds him of Andre Agassi with his superior hand-eye coordination.

Becker's own opponent, Rios, is making a name for himself, not only for his play but for his explosive temperament on court and his aloof bearing with his fellow pros off it.

Rios, 21, a clay-court specialist, has complained here that the grass--which he says is fine for cows but not tennis--restricts his talent.

That talent, however, has Rios tabbed as the next breakthrough player.

On Monday, he signed a sponsorship deal with Nike, reportedly for a $2.5-million signing bonus and $3 million a year for five years.

Rios has won few titles or awards, although he was singularly "honored" this year before the French Open.

French tennis writers and broadcasters awarded him Le Citron--the Lemon--for the second consecutive year. The recipient is the player judged by the panel to be the most "unfriendly, obstructive, irritating or just plain boring" in dealings with the media in the previous 12 months. Rios is the only one to have earned it two years in succession.

(The panel also awards L'Orange to the player deemed easiest to get along with. Martina Hingis won this year's prize, and not a minute too soon, given her subsequent snotty behavior.)

One panelist called Rios' consecutive awards "a tremendous achievement" and noted that only Andre Agassi has also won twice, although not successively.

(In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that Agassi won on his own one year, and a few years later, he and his entourage won Le Citron, the only time a team has been awarded the title.)

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Today's Featured Matches

MEN

* No. 14 Tim Henman, Britain, vs. No. 4 Richard Krajicek, Netherlands.

* No. 1 Pete Sampras, U.S., vs. No. 16 Petr Korda, Czech Republic.

WOMEN

* No. 4 Iva Majoli, Croatia, vs. Anna Kournikova, Russia.

* No. 1 Martina Hingis, Switzerland, vs. Denisa Chladkova, Czech Republic.

* Yayuk Basuki, Indonesia, vs. No. 3 Jana Novotna, Czech Republic.

* No. 8 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain, vs. Nathalie Tauziat, France.

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