WIMBLEDON : Of Mice, Men: They’re Tough Acts to Follow

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

After surviving a week’s worth of Wimbledon, John McEnroe thought very hard about what is still to come.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” he said.

It will have to be to exceed the standard that was set during the first week.

The high cost of strawberries at the concession stands got everybody’s attention, as did the discovery of Mickey, a mouse living at Court 1.


There were also the many travails of Boris Becker. To start the week, he was turned away from the practice courts by a security guard who wouldn’t let him in without his pass.

Next, the Fleet Street tabloid press turned on Becker, first about the color of his shirt, which some thought wasn’t predominantly white, as required under tournament rules.

Then, according to the Sun, Becker supposedly criticized Wimbledon for imposing sort of a class system that favored the better players.

Proving that the Sun never sets on anything provocative, it quoted Becker as saying: “Even if you wear blue underpants on the practice court, you get in trouble.”


Becker claimed he never said any such thing about underpants. Many believed him because he has enough problems already trying to save his shirt and win this tournament.

And people think Wimbledon is only about tennis.

McEnroe knows better. He is currently working on his serve as well as refining the particular brand of intensity that he brings to his matches.

When McEnroe plays John Fitzgerald of Australia today, he is going to need all of that intensity. Fitzgerald thinks McEnroe is not the player he once was.


“If he happened to win this tournament, then you would have to start thinking he is pretty darned good again,” Fitzgerald said. “But I think the general feeling is that he . . . is not dominating nearly like he used to.

“He is not ranked one or two in the world now, but he is still a good player.”

So is McEnroe ripe for an upset?

“I don’t know about ripe, but not as green there,” Fitzgerald said. “I think people feel he’s certainly more beatable now.”


McEnroe is ranked No. 8 and Fitzgerald No. 41.

McEnroe, who said his concentration is better than ever, said intensity has a different meaning for him now.

“It’s really hard to describe,” he said. “It’s something that separates champions from great players. There’s different levels of intensity. There are intense people who play club tennis and they think they’re intense.

“There’s all different levels and that’s what competition is all about,” McEnroe said. “But you have to be very careful not to let it overwhelm your whole life. That’s why I’ve sort of taken that step back because it was too much to have to live that way all the time.”


Meanwhile, top-ranked and top-seeded Ivan Lendl is closing in on his expected semifinal showdown with Becker.

But first, Lendl must finish off Peter Lundgren of Sweden, then get past a quarterfinal opponent, who is expected to be a 6-foot 6-inch Yugoslavian with a huge serve: Slobodan Zivojinovic.

American Dan Goldie, who sent Jimmy Connors home, matches big serves with Zivojinovic.

Becker’s path to Lendl appears less cluttered. Becker will play American Aaron Krickstein, to whom he has never lost, then play the winner of the fourth-round match between unheralded Americans Leif Shiras, ranked 141, and Paul Chamberlin, ranked 91, the two lowest-ranked players remaining.


Defending champion Stefan Edberg, who will play Amos Mansdorf of Israel today, will play the winner of the Michael Chang-Tim Mayotte fourth-round match in the quarterfinals.

Mats Wilander would play either McEnroe or Fitzgerald in the quarterfinals if he can make part-time magician Christo van Rensburg of South Africa disappear.

Not being one of the favorites with the bookies is unimportant to Wilander.

“Anything can happen at Wimbledon,” Wilander said. “Obviously, (oddsmakers) are not rightall the time because if they were, everybody would quit betting.”


The women’s draw looks a lot more predictable. At the center of such speculation is Chris Evert, who must defeat another American, Patty Fendick, to get into the quarterfinals.

Evert has had an easy draw so far with victories over Peanut Harper, Hu Na and Anne Hobbs. It is possible that this could be Evert’s last Wimbledon and Fendick, a feisty doubles specialist, represents her toughest match yet.

With Gabriela Sabatini and Pam Shriver missing from the bottom half of the draw, Martina Navratilova needs to beat Hana Mandlikova of Australia to stay on track for a possible semifinal meeting with her Australian Open nemesis, Helena Sukova.

But the women’s match of the day is between Steffi Graf, the current No. 1, and 15-year-old Monica Seles, who many expect to eventually replace her.


Seles, a Florida-based Yugoslav, lost to Graf in the semifinals of the French Open, but seems to have had the kind of training that will do her some good.

Her father used to draw pictures of cartoon characters Tom and Jerry on practice balls, just the sort of thing Seles loved.

“First I would hit Tom, then I would hit Jerry,” she said.