Joyce’s Long and Winding Road Takes Him to the Fourth Round : Wimbledon: Well-traveled Santa Monica player beats the heat and Wilkinson.

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The glamour of the nomadic life of a professional tennis player wore off for Michael Joyce somewhere over Brazil, on one of the seven flights he had taken to play in Sao Luis, on an island in the northeast of the country.

It wore especially thin when--as he faced a Brazilian player in the final--the Samba drums fans insistently pounded threatened to drive all thoughts from his head.

His tennis life became more bearable Friday, when Joyce defeated Chris Wilkinson of Great Britain, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, to move into the fourth round of the Wimbledon championships.


It was the hottest day on record at Wimbledon, with an air temperature of 96 degrees and recorded temperatures of 106 on Centre Court. One player collapsed of heat exhaustion in the late afternoon.

Shirli-Ann Siddall of Great Britain called for a trainer during the third set, then was carried off the court on a stretcher. She was given fluids and rested but was not hospitalized.

Siddall and partner Danny Sapsford retired from their match against Dominique Monami and Leonardo Lavalle with the score at 2-6, 6-1, 1-1.

One seeded player fell in Friday’s third round. Naoko Sawamatsu, seeded No. 14, was beaten by Petra Kamstra, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).

Joyce, ranked No. 119, has been quietly advancing by knocking off seeded players. He upset 10th-seeded Marc Rosset of Switzerland, the Olympic gold medalist, in the first round and 16th-seeded Guy Forget of France in the second.

His opponent on Friday was unseeded but, being English, had the crowd on his side. One fan even shouted, “Miss it” when Joyce was preparing to hit an overhead. He hit a winner.


Joyce, who graduated from St. Monica High and lives in Bel-Air, a month ago was on his back with mononucleosis. He was out for six weeks, long enough to weaken him, shed 15 pounds and cause concern about his ability to play at Wimbledon, the first Grand Slam event in which he was entered in the main draw.

He practiced for only five days in preparation.

Friday’s heat combined with 2 hours 55 minutes of tennis conspired to cause Joyce to fade in the fourth set.

“I was feeling really bad at the end,” Joyce said. “I was serving great--sometimes the more tired you get you actually serve better. I think I got through more on my heart and physical condition and I kept telling myself that this is Wimbledon. If this was another tournament, maybe I would have given in to myself, but I would never give up here.”

Joyce’s constitution doesn’t seem to allow for giving up. He won the boys’ 14-and-under indoor national championships despite a broken toe. He won the boys’ 18 hard-court championships despite a strained stomach muscle.

At 19, having been noticed by the USTA’s development staff, Joyce was asked to attend a training camp. While there, he was bumped by U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson while playing basketball and separated his left shoulder for the second time.

Three pins were inserted in his shoulder, and he lost five months off his career. When he returned, he decided it would be better for his ranking to leave the United States and play in whatever challenger tournaments would take him.


At Joyce’s level, players chase points rather than prize money, and Joyce put in the mileage to lift his ranking.

The grueling travel was made easier because of his relationship with his travel agent--his mother.

Joyce has played at spots all over the world, hot, small, remote or insect-ridden. He has played in Malta. He played in Nagoya, Japan, where he had to take a bus for two hours every day to get to the courts. For players chasing points, there are no free tournament cars.

Joyce has played extensively in Brazil, where he won over crowds with his fighting style and on-court sense of humor.

“I’m big in Brazil,” he said.

While most of his high school friends went off to college, mainly UCLA, Joyce has gone his own way, the long way.

“I don’t have the same life as my friends,” he said. “Like a lot of players, I find my friends now are a lot older. I wouldn’t give it up. I am trying not to think about the fact that I’m in the fourth round of Wimbledon. It’s hard to believe.”