WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- Such is the state of British tennis that when Jeremy Bates defeated Michael Chang here yesterday, there were so many Union Jacks flying from the grandstands it looked like Adm. Nelson at match point in Trafalgar.
Bates did two quick spins in celebration, pumped his fists twice -- as if he had just won the final on Centre Court -- and got a rousing, standing ovation.
As Chang put a ball into the net to end it, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, Bates could scarcely contain his enthusiasm. After all, just a few days ago, he threatened to quit tennis after 9 1/2 mediocre years on the tour.
When the English press got wind of Bates' intentions to retire, it responded in its usual soft-hearted manner. The Daily Mail asked: "How would we know?"
Before the tournament, oddsmakers in Britain set odds of 1,000-1 for a British player to win the Wimbledon title -- the same odds for an alien landing on the island.
It hasn't been an easy road, lately, for British tennis players, who have become known in their homeland as the greatest bunch of losers in the sport. Part of it is history. The last great British men's player -- indeed, the last Englishman to win the Wimbledon title, in 1936 -- was none other than 83-year-old Fred Perry, who is honored with a statue just inside the grounds at Gate 5.
Bates, who had won one match in 1992, is ranked 113th, has never won a tournament and has never ended any of his previous pro years ranked better than 96th.
"I mean, you get the jokes and jibes continually every year," he said. "But I mean, realistically, I'm interested in my ability and the other British tennis players' ability, [so] you can't afford to worry about things like that.
"All the jokes and jibes, they are all written in the press, I don't hear any of them openly," Bates said. "The other players can't believe some of the things that are written about us."
It was the second straight year that Chang left in the first round. Last year, he lost to Tim Mayotte.
Chang lost his serve seven times, hardly the proper tactic on grass, especially for a player who stands only 5 feet 8.
"I guess there are going to be days when you are going to come up short," said Chang, at No. 7 the first seeded player, man or woman, to lose in the tournament.
John McEnroe started slowly but beat Luiz Mattar, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. Playing in his 14th Wimbledon, McEnroe, 33, accomplished what contemporary Jimmy Connors could not the previous day -- get into the second round. There, McEnroe will play Pat Cash.
Connors, 39, lost in four sets to Luis Herrera on Monday and said he probably isn't coming back.
"Hasn't he said that for 10 straight years?" McEnroe said, jokingly.
In women's play, the matches were over quickly. Steffi Graf blistered Noelle van Lottum, 6-1, 6-0; Gabriela Sabatini zapped Christelle Fauche, 6-1, 6-1; Martina Navratilova stopped Magdalena Maleeva, 6-2, 6-2, and Jennifer Capriati defeated Chanda Rubin, 6-0, 7-5.
NOTES: Play was stopped at 7:30 p.m. because of poor light caused by clouds with 15 matches in progress, all but one men's doubles. The only singles match unfinished was Andre Agassi's first-rounder with Andrei Chesnokov, which was tied at one set apiece and on serve in the third set. . . . Only five active players on the Kraft Tour have won a Grand Slam singles title -- Navratilova, Graf, Monica Seles, Sabatini and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. . . . Jim Grabb was fined $1,000 for an audible obscenity, and Diego Nargiso of Italy was fined $500 for ball abuse for actions in matches Monday.