Lendl in Wimbledon driver's seat with good sport Becker gone

Well, there's going to be a new men's singles champion here this year, that's for sure. Ivan Lendl now takes over as favorite, although his victory is by no means certain. In each match so far, Ivan has been made to struggle, even against US collegiate champ Richey Reneberg whose first major event it is.

``I was within five points of catching the Concorde at one stage in the match,'' Lendl remarked afterward.

Boris Becker meanwhile may have lost his second-round match against the almost unknown but inspired Australian Peter Doohan 6-7, 6-4,2-6,4-6, but he has not lost the admiration of the tennis public here.

The British appeciate a good loser almost as much as a good winner and Boris took this hard, this incredible defeat with good grace. He was awarded leading editorials in two national newspapers the next day for his sportsmanship.

In the women's championship, where several seeds have also fallen, Martina Navratilova breezed through to the fourth round, beating Peanut Louie Harper in a match that lasted just 47 minutes. She appears to have a clear run into the semifinals.

Steffi Graf - in commanding form so far - has Pam Shriver, Helena Sukova, and Gabriela Sabatini in her half of the draw, any one of whom would give her a tough match.

Several new potential stars have risen among the young men. There's Doohan for one. The day he beat Becker he might have beaten anyone in the tournament. And then there's the totally unknown Soviet player, the powerful left-hander Alexander Volkov, a tournament qualifier who dismissed 12th seed Brad Gilbert. Nor on his Wimbledon showing can one dismiss Reneberg, who only left college a few weeks ago.

And now the fixed stars have to fight it out for the championship. Jimmy Connors is one. Any of these could go all the way: Tim Mayotte, Mats Wilander, Henri Leconte, Pat Cash, or perhaps Anders Jarryd of Sweden, who upset fifth-seeded Miroslav Mecir in straight sets on Monday. The big Yugoslav Slobodan Zivojinovic, who was a surprise semifinalist in this tournament a year ago, has an outside chance of fame and glory too.

Cash beat fellow Australian Paul McNamee - better known as a doubles player - 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, and afterward McNamee said, ``There's nobody he can't beat. It has made a difference, Becker losing. A lot of players have a chance now.''

One of the reasons is the fickle weather. Play is often interrupted. A player may have to wait on the sidelines three or even four days before his or her next match. And on the court the grass may be slippery and without fire.

Although everyone was astounded that Becker should go out so soon, many observers felt that the courts this year would not suit his game. Last year many of his second serves were aces. Not this year. He never really got the feel of the grass.

Although he has experienced several tight matches, Lendl now has come to terms with the unusual condition of the courts. He will never have a better chance to win Wimbledon.

Among the women, Sukova and Graf both also have come to terms with the grass. Helena put out Britain's last hope, Jo Durie, 6-1, 6-3, in commanding fashion. She is reckoned the most improved player in the world.

Steffi is now perhaps the most aggressive. For the first time in six years there seems to be the small shadow of a doubt about Martina, about her power and commitment. Everyone expects to see her in the final all the same.

Ah, how one wishes it was possible to forecast England's weather.

A few days ago there seemed the chance of a heat wave in the coming week. But as I write, some thunderstorms are rollilng up - except in the English Channel a little farther south, where there is thick fog.

It has its drawbacks, this weather. But it does help to make this an exceptionally open and exciting tennis championship.

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