Tradition is coming up a loser Even a Briton pulls an upset at a Wimbledon gone wild


WIMBLEDON, England -- It just isn't done this way at Wimbledon.

A Briton never wins on Saturday anymore. A U.S. Open champion doesn't get beaten by some guy who vanishes without a trace. And, for goodness sakes, what is this, teen-agers walking on any old grass court and mobbing any old legend?

Welcome to Wimbledon 1991, the fortnight when rain doused reason and produced chaos. Yesterday, the All England Club was turned into a tawdry three-ring circus under sunny skies.

Nick Brown, Great Britain's newest overnight hero, hopped off the back of his friend's Harley-Davidson and bounced No. 10 seed Goran Ivanisevic of Yugoslavia from the second round, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

Derrick Rostagno upset bewildered U.S. Open champion Pete Sampras, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, and then disappeared.

And Jimmy Connors, 38, just wouldn't go away. In his 100th career singles match at Wimbledon, Connors overwhelmed Aaron Krickstein, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, and stayed on the court to sign autographs for a swarm of teen-agers.

"It's insane," said John McEnroe, who outlasted qualifier Sandon Stolle, 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-0, 7-6 (9-7). "Everything is insane."

Wimbledon gets weirder today. After adhering to a never-on-the-middle-Sunday schedule since 1877, matches will be played to break a rain-created schedule backlog.

Would you believe half-priced tickets and first-come, first-served seating at Centre Court? What's next, festival seating in the Royal Box?

"I think the safest place will be in the locker room," Pam Shriver said.

It wasn't safe for the seeds to come out yesterday. The thicket of serve-and-volley bombers from the top half of the men's draw was pruned by Brown and Rostagno.

Brown's win over Ivanisevic was the greatest upset at Wimbledon since computer rankings were introduced in 1973. Ranked No. 2 in Great Britain and No. 591 in the world, Brown is in the midst of a two-year tour comeback after teaching tennis at clubs in Brussels, Belgium, Lille, France, and Heathrow, England, during 1984-89.

"I didn't have a car," he said. "I didn't even have my own place to stay."

Brown has a car now, but decided not to fight the Wimbledon traffic alone. He hitched a ride to the match on the back of a Harley owned by a friend named Victor.

"The first day out here, it took 90 minutes to drive," he said. "Victor got me here in 25."

Brown needed only four sets to take out Ivanisevic in front of the politest flag-waving mob spotted this side of the Atlantic. Ivanisevic, a losing semifinalist last year, had incited the Britons by knocking their tennis players. It has been said here the statue of three-time Wimbledon champion Fred Perry that guards the ** front gate has a better chance of winning this tournament than a flesh-and-blood Englishman.

"He [Brown] played OK," Ivanisevic said. "I played bad. It was unbelievable."

Sampras, the No. 8 seed, whose expression rarely changes, kept shaking his head in disbelief while losing to Rostagno. Sampras isn't the first seed to be befuddled by him. Rostagno ousted McEnroe in last year's Wimbledon and came within a net cord of upending Boris Becker at the 1989 U.S. Open.

"Derrick is dangerous at times and not so dangerous at other times," Sampras said. "All I can say is, 'I'll be back next year.' "

No one is sure when Rostagno will return. He got lost in the crowd after the match. In the third round, he'll meet Connors, who is never far from either a court or a broadcast booth.

Fifteen minutes after sweating and grinding his way through a match against Krickstein, Connors was on the air in the United States with NBC-TV.

"The 100th match was business as usual," said Connors, who has 84 wins at Wimbledon. "If you start thinking about numbers, you'll have extra pressure. You don't need that at this point."

Connors is playing free and easy, a tennis rebel who has grown into a battling elder statesman. Relegated to Court 14, a tiny jewel on the backside of Wimbledon, Connors delighted the crowd and accommodated the youngsters who had crashed the gates.

"I finally have a chance to play matches against all these guys like they used to play against me," he said. "Just serve them up and swing away from the hip. If they go in, great."

Forget tradition. Wimbledon just might be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad