Wimbledon Champs, Past and Future

There was no need for sprinklers last week on the green grass at "Swimbledon." A proliferation of rain drops culminated in the soggiest first week of Wimbledon play of the century.

For only the second time in history, the traditionally tranquil middle Sunday of the two-week tournament - usually a day off from play - was declared "People's Day," with ticket prices plummeting and the common folk welcomed in for a backlog of waterloggged matches.

No sooner had match play resumed when three of the top women's seeds were sent sliding off the draw: fifth seed and 1996 Olympic Gold medalist Lindsay Davenport of the US, sixth seed Amanda Coetzer of South Africa, and 1994 champion Conchita Martinez. Then second seed Monica Seles was upset on Monday. With Steffi Graf absent due to injury, Wimbledon is certain to have a first-time winner on the women's side - most likely, Martina Hingis.

On the men's side, the first week ushered out second seed Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia, American Michael Chang, and seventh seed Aussie Mark Philippoussis, and ushered in the Britons: 14th seed Tim Henman and big-serving Greg Rusedski are giving British fans cause to make some noise. A Boris Becker-Pete Sampras quarterfinal contest is anticipated, but the draw is wide open to the finals.

An elite group of Wimbledon champions did more than capture a few coveted Grand Slam titles: They captured the hearts of tennis fans everywhere. Wimbledon watchers may wonder what has occurred in the lives of some of the greatest Centre Court players. Here's an update:

Billie Jean King

Singles titles: 1966-68, 1972-73, 1975

King, the holder of a record 20 Wimbledon titles (singles, doubles, and mixed doubles), was named one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century in a 1990 issue of Life magazine. She is the director and spokeswoman of World Team Tennis professional and recreational leagues and serves on boards of sports and charitable groups. King works as a television analyst and has coached national women's teams - the 1995-96 Federation Cup squad and 1996 US Olympic team.

Jimmy Connors

Singles titles: 1974, 1982

Despite six appearances in Wimbledon finals, Connors won just twice. Often heralded as the most exciting player of the last 30 years, he has become a prime attraction on the senior circuit. He was ranked first on the over-35 Nuveen Tour the last two seasons and has won 23 of a possible 40 senior titles since the inaugural 1993 season. Connors lives in Belleville, Ill., his hometown, with his wife and two children.

Martina Navratilova

Singles titles: 1978-79, 1982-87, 1990

Wimbledon is still Navratilova's favorite tournament, and for good reason, given her record nine singles titles, plus 10 more in women's and mixed doubles. Between World Team Tennis and laid-back Legends Tour events, she is a mystery writer. Her second book, "Breaking Point," was published in 1996 and a third is on the way. Martina enjoys a number of sports, her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and skiing near her home in Aspen, Colo. She is covering Wimbledon for HBO.

Bjorn Borg

Singles titles: 1976-80

Borg holds the record for the most consecutive men's Wimbledon titles. He competes on the over-35 senior circuit and in 1995 won his first championship since 1981, beating Connors. He was ranked seventh last year. Off the court, Borg spends time with his 11-year-old son in Stockholm.

Chris Evert

Singles titles: 1974, 1976, 1981

After retiring in 1989, she founded Chris Evert Charities, Inc. which has raised more than $5.2 million to combat substance abuse, particularly among children, and sits on boards of several organizations. She competes on the Legends Tour, and is a partner and coach at the Evert Seguso Bassett tennis center in Boca Raton, Fla. Evert lives in Florida with her family, husband and former Olympic skier Andy Mill, and three sons, ranging from age 1 to 5. Evert is covering Wimbledon for NBC.

John McEnroe

Singles titles: 1979-80, 1984

McEnroe won three singles and five doubles crowns at Wimbledon and still excites fans at senior tour events, winning a tournament two weeks ago. A tennis commentator for NBC and USA networks, McEnroe is also an avid art collector and New York city gallery owner. His rock group, the Johnny Smyth Band, will release its first album this year. He has four children, aged 18 months to 11, and recently married rock singer Patty Smyth.

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