Lendl exits in a hurry


WIMBLEDON, England -- Because of Ivan Lendl's obsession to win his first Wimbledon title, he has become a favorite here. Every year he receives fan mail wishing him well. The only mail he will get after yesterday is sympathy letters.

Unseeded American David Wheaton's 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 victory over No. 3 seed Lendl in the third round of the 105th Lawn Tennis Championships marks Lendl's earliest exit in a Grand Slam since 1981.

It was the only major upset of the day as Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Guy Forget, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Navratilova, Zina Garrison and Jennifer Capriati advanced. In mild upsets, unseeded Christian Bergstrom beat No. 15 seed Brad Gilbert, and eighth-seeded Katerina Maleeva lost to Laura Gildemeister.

No one had any reason to believe Lendl, an eight-time Grand Slam champion, would win Wimbledon this year. But a trip to the semifinals was expected.

Because Lendl seldom shows his emotions, it was difficult to read his frustration after his loss to Wheaton.

"I'm always disappointed when I lose," Lendl said. "I'm not angry unless I throw it away or something happens that I don't think is right. But I was beaten fair and square."

Wheaton, 22, a runner-up to Stefan Edberg two weeks ago at Queen's Club, advanced to the round of 16 for the second consecutive year. Last year, he lost to Gilbert, 13-11, in the fifth set.

The Minnesota resident had experienced little success in Grand Slams this year, losing in the first round of the French and Australian opens. He expressed no sympathy for ruining Lendl's dream.

"I don't want to think of it that way," Wheaton said. "Feeling for my opponent is something I'll think about maybe after I retire

Lendl refused to feel counted out.

"I always felt and still feel that if you come close enough times, that one day has to be your day," said Lendl, 31.

Other great players also have never won Wimbledon, including Guillermo Vilas and Ken Rosewall. Vilas was often a first-round loser but did reach the quarterfinals twice. Rosewall, who only played Wimbledon six times, was a runner-up twice and semifinalist once.

During the last eight years here, Lendl was a semifinalist five times and runner-up twice. His loss to Wheaton was his worst Grand Slam showing in 35 appearances since a first-round loss here in 1981.

"I just had a terrible trip to Europe," said Lendl.

After losing in the second round of a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, to unheralded Renzo Furlan in May, he underwent surgery on his left thumb to remove scar tissue. He skipped the French Open. Some questioned his true desire to play in Paris, rather than prepare for the grass court season.

But he never got going.

A 2-2 mark on grass this year is his worst since 1981.

Wheaton, who reached a career-high No. 20 ranking on June 17, simply played the bigger points better than Lendl. Lendl squandered 12 of his 14 break-point chances and only broke Wheaton twice. Wheaton capitalized on five of his eight break-point opportunities.

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