In this game, habits are hard to...

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — In this game, habits are hard to break

WIMBLEDON, England -- Grunting isn't the only thing that has raised the already high eyebrows of those running the All England Club. Apparently, spitting has become an issue as well.


A former umpire, who worked for 20 years and retired in 1987, observed that he had never seen anyone spit on the lush grass courts of Wimbledon until recently.

"I know their equipment has changed, but surely the players' salivary glands remained the same?" said the official, who was not identified.


One of those guilty, three-time champion Boris Becker, said it is difficult not to spit during the heat of a match.

Said Becker: "Everybody has their habits. Say you won't do something, and then you get on the court and play and you forget it. Sure, I'd like to stop. But I'd like to never spit, never swear, and serve 138 aces, but that's not going to happen."

He didn't spit yesterday during the completion of his quarterfinal loss to Andre Agassi, but he didn't serve 138 aces, either. He had 13 for the match.

Old man McEnroe

After John McEnroe's three-set victory over Guy Forget, a female steward near courtside was overhead telling a friend, "The old man's done it again."

The woman was probably twice McEnroe's age.

Speaking of McEnroe, he and doubles partner Michael Stich advanced to the semifinals yesterday. Unseeded, McEnroe and Stich defeated Paul Haarhuis and Mark Koevermans of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. They will play Forget and Jakob Hslasek in the semifinals.

A pound for an ace


Who's the favorite to win the men's championship come Sunday? According to Ladbrokes, Great Britain's largest betting house, it's Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia.

Ivanisevic, who will play Pete Sampras in one semifinal today, is now 2-1 after one bettor placed 10,000 pounds on him. Ivanisevic, 20, is a left-hander with a 130-mph serve. A semifinalist here two years ago, he has 133 aces in the tournament.

Masters of tennis?

The beleaguered state of tennis in Britain received a tremendous shot with the play here of Jeremy Bates, who reached the round of 16 before losing to Guy Forget of France.

Now there is talk that Nick Bollettieri, the Bradenton, Fla.-based tennis impresario who coaches Agassi, is discussing with British officials the possibility of starting a similar academy in this country.

"I think they're interested," Bollettieri said. "They've seen what we've done with the Agassis and [Jim] Couriers [a former protege]."


Cream cheese and caviar

They talk about the high prices of food at the U.S. Open. Well how about $3 for a small slice of pizza? Or $2.40 for a seven-ounce bottle of orange juice (fresh-squeezed)?

Perhaps the best bargain can be found outside the club, where two women are operating a bagel stand in front of one of their houses. A bagel with the works -- cream cheese, lox, caviar and black pepper -- was $5.60.

Forecast breaks tradition

The forecast today calls for showers -- all day and heavy at times. The traditional 2 p.m. start has been moved up to noon. If the men's semifinals can't be played, they will be played tomorrow along with the women's final.

Navratilova, Shriver advance


In women's doubles yesterday, fourth seeds Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver of Lutherville reached the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Jo-Anne Faull and Julie Richardson. The five-time Wimbledon champions will play top seeds Jana Novotna and Larisa Savchenko-Neiland in today's semifinals.