Wimbledon, England — This is proving to be a most magical, most brilliant Wimbledon. Superb, almost un-English, weather. Enormous crowds, tens of thousands standing in line for many hours around the park and up the hills and past the village church, dressed for the Spanish seaside. Strawberries and cream selling for $1.50 per single strawberry because of the demand.
And tennis of equal wonder. Seeds scattered in the sun with offhand prodigality, half of them gone before the quarterfinals. And every match played in the most excellent spirit.
Pat Cash, an unseeded Australian who has spent very little time playing this year because of two physical setbacks, cheerfully disposed of the No. 2 seed in the men's singles, Mats Wilander, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. 6-3. Now the player once known as ``Hard Cash'' heads for a match with the elegant Frenchman Henri Leconte.
India's Ramesh Krishnan, small (5 ft. 7 in.), cool, and artistic, put out the West German hopeful Eric Jelen 6-4, 7-6, 6-2, pitting himself next against the 6 ft. 6 in. Yugoslav Slobodan Zivojinovic, the man with the thunderbolt serve.
Then there's defending champion Boris Becker, bigger than ever, smashing his way past Sweden's Mikael Pernfors, who had so recently beaten him on clay. The 18-year-old West German star, seeded fourth, looked practically unstoppable this time, serving 23 aces in a very short match (6-3, 7-6, 6-2), and now prepares to face the greatly improved Czech Miloslav Mecir.
Top-seeded Ivan Lendl, in the easier half of the draw, had trouble against Californian Matt Anger, who became the first player to win a set off the reigning US Open champion. But Tim Mayotte, the American with a power game well suited to grass courts, played his way to the quarterfinals with no trouble at all.
Among the women, top-seeded Martina Navratilova has her heart set on a clean sweep of titles -- singles, mixed doubles, and women's doubles. In the mixed she partners Hans G"unthardt, in the women's, Pam Shriver.
Navratilova, who is seeking her fifth straight singles crown, enjoyed an easy path to the quarterfinals, beating relative unknowns Amanda Dingwall, Jane Forman, Kristin Kinney, and Isabella Demongeot. Then on Tuesday she beat West Germany's Bettina Bunge to advance to the semis for an eighth time.
Hana Mandlikova, the top Czech, also earned a spot in the semifinals, although she struggled to do so. Lori McNeil, an unseeded American, took the first set 7-6, before Hana turned it on to dominate thereafter 6-0, 6-2.
No. 2 Chris Evert Lloyd gave everyone a fright, including herself. In the first set of her match against Kathy Jordan, who upset her here in 1983, Chris found herself down 5-1 and facing a succession of set points. She survived them, gritted her teeth, tightened her game, and toughened her forehand to win 10 games in a row and the match, 7-5, 6-2.
Chris needed all the shots at her command again in the quarterfinals to overcome Czechoslovakia's Helena Sukova 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
Also advancing was 16-year-old Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, who disposed of Sweden's Catrina Lindqvist in the quarterfinals 6-2, 6-3.
Ten countries were represented in the last 16 players in women's singles and nine among the men, indicating how truly international the talent in tennis has become.
Although the home crowds were disappointed that there was not a single British player among them, they have been thrilled by the emergence of a British player of real class -- Andrew Castle, who has now been selected for the British Davis Cup squad to meet Australia in July.
Castle defeated the up-and-coming Australian Brod Dyke, rated almost 200 places above him in the rankings, then took Wilander all the way in a thrilling five-setter.
With John Lloyd slipping sadly out of singles tennis, the emergence of Castle provides a real boost for the British game. And now the lawn tennis association here has a new program in action for boosting it further. This includes the provision of 100 more indoor centers.
Wilander, who has never reached the quarterfinals in six tries, has had a very tough and disappointing tournament. He met Cash in an inspired mood, too, and the powerful Aussie is bigger and stronger than Castle.
Cash finished off the match with a terrific ace, quite in the Becker class. The crowd was screaming for Cash -- at least the young girls were -- and Cash himself, as well as the umpire, had to call repeatedly for quiet. But Wilander took it all calmly, hard but calmly.
And in general the spirit in which the matches have been played has been superlative this year.
It is an international tournament, played in international weather and in international goodwill. Magical, magical, magical.