WIMBLEDON, England -- Jim Courier won't have to worry about making an eloquent victory speech in front of the Duke and Duchess of Kent a week from today. The world's No. 1 player won't have to worry about the mounting pressures that would have come with winning Wimbledon.
Courier's dream of winning the 106th championship, as well as this year's Grand Slam, ended prematurely yesterday at the All England Club with a shockingly quick, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, &r; third-round loss to Russian qualifier Andrei Olhovskiy, ranked No. 193 in the world.
"He rose to the occasion," said Courier, who became the first top male seed to lose to a qualifier in the open era of tennis and only the second top seed to fall before the quarterfinals in that same 24-year period. "Some days you win. Some days you lose. Some days it rains, but it didn't rain today."
On another sun-splashed afternoon in this London suburb, the only reign that fell belonged to Courier. After winning this year's Australian and French opens, Courier watched his bid to become the first male player to win all four majors since Rod Laver in 1968 evaporate. Top-ranked Monica Seles will continue her chase when Wimbledon resumes tomorrow after the traditional day off today.
Meanwhile, Steffi Graf nearly saw the defense of her third title crumble as suddenly as Courier's pursuit of his first. Playing the last match on Centre Court, Graf dropped her first set to Mariaan de Swardt of South Africa, won the second set decisively and then needed to hang on for a 5-7, 6-0, 7-5 victory.
Though many expected the heavyset de Swardt to fold in the 80-degree heat, she hung on to provide Graf with some nervous moments. She fought off a break point in the eighth game to even the set, then won the first point on Graf's serve. But in the end, Graf was too strong for her 21-year-old opponent, ranked 76th in the world. She won eight of the last 10 points and the match.
"It was a very difficult match," the 23-year-old German said of de Swardt, who is playing doubles here with Elise Burgin of Baltimore. "She really just played well. She served very well. Except for that one game in the first set [when she was broken in the final game], I don't feel bad at all for some reason."
The victory for Olhovskiy, 26, was the first major upset among the men. It also was one of the most significant in recent memory, considering the disparity in their rankings and the fact that Olhovskiy qualified for the main draw by winning, 9-7, in the fifth set of his final match.
"It was great match, I played great tennis," said Olhovskiy, who reached the fourth round for the first time in four visits to Wimbledon. "This was the best match of my career. What can you say?"
Playing with a graceful style that reminded Courier of former Wimbledon semifinalist Miloslav Mecir, as well as employing a powerful serve that defused Courier's blasts from the baseline, Olhovskiy took charge in the opening set. Though Courier evened the match in the second, he never gained control.
The match started slipping farther out of his usually strong grasp when, after holding off one break point at 3-3 in the third set, Courier double-faulted on a second deuce point and netted a forehand volley to be broken. In the fourth set, Olhovskiy fought off a break point to even it 4-4, broke Courier to take the lead and closed out the match.
"Maybe I served much better today. I returned it well, no mistakes," said Olhovskiy. "The difference between top guys and guys in top 200, it's all in the head. I feel confidence."
"I never felt the match was over at any stage," said Courier, whose frustration was obvious. "I always feel I have a chance so long as I haven't shaken hands [at the net]. I kept plugging away out there, did everything I could, and unfortunately today it wasn't enough. But there will be a tomorrow."
The defeat of Courier -- his first after a 25-match winning streak -- opened up the top half of the draw for three-time champion John McEnroe, who will meet Olhovskiy after beating 16th-seed David Wheaton yesterday, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. It also could clear an easier path for ninth seed Guy Forget, who defeated fellow Frenchman Henri Leconte, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Forget will face Jeremy Bates, Britain's newest national hero. Bates reached the fourth round for the first time with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Thierry Champion of France. Three-time champion and fourth-seeded Boris Becker, who has struggled a bit in the tournament, fought off former Georgia Tech star Bryan Shelton, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5). Andre Agassi, the only other men's seed to play yesterday, advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 victory over Derrick Rostagno.
"It was another struggle," said Becker, who should face another test in 14th-seed South African Wayne Ferreira, a 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 winner over Luis Herrera of Mexico. "I played against a guy who can really play well on grass, especially with his serve, and I had to stay out a lot until I had the chance to make it. Then he makes a double fault at match point. It's a perfect ending for me."
Now that he will have to play Olhovskiy rather than Courier, McEnroe will have to alter his mind-set, not to mention his tactics. He admitted that he made the mistake of taking some opponents lightly in the past, as he said he did with Pete Sampras in the semifinals of the 1990 U.S. Open. He said he
won't do it again.
"It's a totally different mentality now; I'm now the favorite," said McEnroe, 33, who seems to have recaptured the magic of a decade ago. "If he's capable of beating Jim Courier, he's capable of beating me."
"So long as he plays well, he's got as good a shot as anybody," Courier said of Olhovskiy. "It's a long tournament, and I would be surprised to see him in the final. But I've been surprised before."
Such as yesterday, for instance. But he wasn't alone. The rest of the tennis world was left scratching its head as well.