Perhaps the seminal moment in Sánchez Vicario's career came in that 11th game of the final set. She and Graf seesawed back and forth, Sánchez Vicario holding eight game points to Graf's six break points. A fatal defensiveness finally finished Sánchez Vicario: Given multiple opportunities to close on the net and put the game away, she played from the middle and backcourt. It was Graf who began encroaching, and a volley by her was the difference in the match. Sánchez Vicario had repeatedly scored with crosscourt forehand passes. On the 13th deuce, she tried the crosscourt again, and it turned out to be once too often. Graf smelled it coming, covered the angle and jabbed a drop volley into the open court. A classic Graf inside-out forehand on the next point ended the game—and, effectively, the match. In the annals of Wimbledon, only the McEnroe-Borg 18-16 tiebreaker in 1980 could match this for drama and excellence.
The match partly redeemed women's tennis at the moment when it was hardly showing itself to its best advantage. Monica Seles, who has been absent since being stabbed during a tournament in Hamburg in 1993, made a much-anticipated announcement shortly after Graf's victory: She will return to tennis (page 22). It should have been the best possible news for the tour, which has languished without a title sponsor and suffered from lack of depth. Instead the WTA's top players responded less than magnanimously. While they agreed to grant Seles a special co-No. 1 ranking for six events, they could not agree on how to integrate Seles back into the tour for the long term. Unable to come up with a proper formula to do so, the idea was finally tabled without a resolution. "They agree they want Monica back...but," said Navratilova, who has seen it as her chief task to get Seles to return to the court, "they're all defending their own little turf."
That was one of the milder controversies of the tournament. The first player defaulted was Tim Henman of Great Britain, washed out during a doubles match for striking a ball in anger that accidentally hit a ball girl in the temple. Then there was Jeff Tarango, who stalked off the court in the middle of his match against Alex Mronz, charging chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh with corruption; his wife, Benedicte, made it worse by slapping Rebeuh. Tarango was fined $15,500 by the International Tennis Federation and is under further investigation for "conduct contrary to the integrity of the game," for which he could be suspended and fined six figures.
Then there was the case of the disappearing Murphy Jensen. He failed to appear for a mixed doubles match, and it was reported that he might have harmed himself or been snatched. Jensen's family was worried but not unduly so. Murphy had slept through a match a week earlier in Nottingham, and the night before his disappearance he'd had a cheerful dinner with a group of friends at Mr. Chow's Chinese restaurant. According to his mother, Pat, he had gotten stuck in traffic en route to the mixed doubles match at Wimbledon, heard on the radio he was defaulted and then, embarrassed by his gaffe, gone fishing with an old college buddy. "That's Murph," his partner, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy said, and by fortnight's end, Jensen himself had confirmed the tale.
Add to that an architectural debate concerning Wimbledon's decision to dig out a new No. 1 court where there once was a rolling lawn. And then there was the great ball brouhaha. Panicked by charges that racket technology was rendering grass court tennis obsolete after last year's final between Sampras and Ivanisevic, which amounted to a monotonous serving contest, Wimbledon introduced a slightly heavier, deader ball. What did it accomplish? Ivanisevic served 175 aces in the tournament, including 38, four shy of the tournament record, in his semifinal with Sampras. But Sampras was just better than Ivanisevic when the ball was in play, and he won 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. "I am always unlucky," the morose Ivanisevic said afterward. "I am unluckiest player who ever lived. I was probably born unlucky."
His only bad luck here was that of facing Sampras, whose ability to raise his game as circumstances demand is becoming a trademark. So is his knack for keeping distractions to a minimum during tournaments. He was a virtual shut-in in London, mostly staying in his hotel suite and eating meals cooked by his girlfriend, Delaina Mulcahy. "I'm antisocial," he conceded. His only foray out was to play, practice or frequent a sandwich shop, Crumpets, where he would read papers and discuss the events of the day with Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson, Tim's twin. Tom has been an invaluable substitute companion to Sampras during tournaments, and his frequent cries of "Pistol" during the final were comforting to Sampras. During this fortnight a big evening for Sampras was losing "a few quid" at backgammon to Gullikson. He ended the tournament $500 in the hole.
Meanwhile, Becker defeated Cédric Pioline of France in a thunderous quarterfinal, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. Then he took down the tournament darling, Agassi.
Becker used to strive to be older than his years, but now he seems to be trying to recapture his youth. In Bollettieri he hired a coach known for his motivational skills, which Becker said Bollettieri applied by chasing "me out of bed and onto the practice court." The result was the sort of run that used to be routine for him. When Becker defeated Pioline, he left the court with his finger in the air and a light in his eyes. "If I had lost that one...," he said to Bollettieri. Then he went out and dispatched Agassi.
Normally, Agassi's failure to reach the final would have been viewed as a national tragedy here, such is the British liking for his iconoclasm and star quality. He and girlfriend Brooke Shields dodged the tabloids by dining in their rented home on food catered by Planet Hollywood, or snuck into the restaurant for back room screenings of Crimson Tide and Apollo 13. His baggy garb, shirt and shorts flapping about his knees—"Nothing fits except his head rag and his shoes," Pam Shriver remarked—became an instant trend. "Are you aware that your shorts are see-through?" one tabloid reporter asked. "Obviously, you are," Agassi said.
But in Becker, Agassi ran into a player who is a bigger Wimbledon icon than he is, and he disappeared from the tournament as suddenly as had Murphy Jensen. Holding a one-set lead with two service breaks in the second, Agassi grew cocksure and let Becker back in. Then Becker slammed the door on Agassi in a pair of tiebreakers, the little chap able to take only one point in each, as Becker ran out the match 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6. "There's life in the big bear yet," crowed Bollettieri, who parted acrimoniously with former pupil Agassi two years ago.