"Let's face it, we're a third-rate tennis nation now," says Roger Taylor, a handsome idol before Lloyd, the best British player in a generation or more. "I tried to get an indoor facility built near here, but it was voted down solidly. They voted against tennis in Wimbledon! But it is not all the climate or the courts. Our players lack singlemindedness, guts, the killer instinct—call it what you like."
Worse, Wimbledon, that great international festival, is becoming too American. Of the 128 players in the Gentlemen's Singles, 50—39%—are Yanks. In the Ladies', 51 of the 96—53%—are from the U.S. In just a few years, the U.S. press contingent has increased threefold. Some apostates say that the best food on the hallowed grounds is in the NBC tent. As you know, the Beatles moved to Hollywood or New York, London Bridge was installed in Arizona, the Queen Mary in Long Beach. One has this horrible rainy-day nightmare of some developer in Florida or even Texas, God forbid, building a planned condo community. Ye Old Villa Rancho Estates, and buying Wimbledon, Centre Court and all, as the showpiece.
Wednesday, June 25
Only 96 matches behind schedule, but it did not rain. Wednesday's child is....
Andrea Jaeger, yust 15, the youngest seed ever (No. 14), all pigtails and precision, braces and baseline. Here we go again. She won 4 and 2.
Scott Davis, 17, tall, California, top seeded in the juniors, came through qualifying to the main draw. Opponent: Corrado Barazzutti, alias The Little Soldier, 24th in the world. He and a rude coterie of his Italian countrymen raucously cheer and taunt. When not in Rome, do as the Romans do. The Little Soldier chats with a girl in the stands while Davis is preparing to serve. He hits a return 150 feet, over several fences. "That didn't bother me," Davis says afterward, "but I knew he was doing it to bother me, and that bothered me." Davis didn't win, but he didn't take the bait, either. Tab the kid.
Ramesh Krishnan, 19, short, son of India's greatest player, Ramanathan Krishnan. Same feather-duster strokes. Father, portly now, watches silently. Ladies in saris, diamonds on their faces, watch silently. Ramesh beats Bill Scanlon, '79 quarterfinalist. Scanlon, losing, does insulting mimicry of Indians. With dignity, Krishnan family pretends not to notice.
And, nostalgia buffs, Pam Shriver. U.S. Open finalist way back in '78. Posted a 100-1 shot here. Unseeded. And she is still only 17. After that magical Open, Pam went back to prep school, but when she graduated last June, she promptly hurt her serving shoulder. Then tonsils. Then confidence. "She's fallen a long way," says her coach, Don Candy, "and you don't fall that far and get up unscathed." She says, "It's tough to live with certain things when you're not finding them again." Like what? "Like success."
It is almost eight o'clock under the northern sun of summer solstice before Shriver's first-round match even begins. So stylish she is, so unlike the other young women players. Glamorous and leggy as a woman, animated and pouty as a girl. "Sugar!" she cries in disgust. You're beautiful when you're angry, baby. She moves, serves and volleys, mixes it up like a pitcher: she's an Oriole fan, knows good pitching. But she is also..."awful," says Candy. Still, Shriver is ahead 3-1 in the third, at 8:52, when her German opponent begs off because of darkness. Shriver and Wimbledon are through three days and still not through the first round.
Thursday, June 26