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After 16 matches, first day's a washout Majoli, Moya gain first Wimbledon wins; 17 matches suspended

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- There was a quartet of rain delays and a trio of discreetly handled bomb threats. There was dew on the grass and trepidation among the opening-day combatants, such as last year's out-of-the-woodwork champion, Richard Krajicek, and two players who had not won a match here, French Open champion Iva Majoli and Australian Open runner-up Carlos Moya.

In other words, it was almost business as usual yesterday at Wimbledon, which is expecting the wettest weather in a decade. And the rain came right on schedule. Play was interrupted four times, only 16 matches were completed and 17 others were left dangling as the evening mists closed in.

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This hallowed Grand Slam event is also bereft of the expertise of the defending and seven-time champion, Steffi Graf, for the first time in more than a decade, and has two genuine British contenders for the men's championship for the first time since Fred Perry captured the last of his titles here in 1936.

Inspirational stuff for the host nation, whose omnipresent oddsmakers had routinely likened the odds of Wimbledon being won by a British player to the possibility of an alien invasion during the fortnight.

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Until yesterday, the fourth-seeded Majoli figured Martians had just as good a chance of winning a round at Wimbledon as she did. Two previous visits had produced two losses, and after defeating top-ranked Martina Hingis earlier this month in the final of the French Open, Majoli said her dreams and goals for this tournament were justifiably humble.

All she wanted to do was pass this first round, even if it meant eating grass to acclimate herself to the switch from the clay surface of the French Open.

So, buoyed by the confidence that was the inevitable byproduct of her French Open title, she made a personal breakthrough, scoring an occasionally petulant, occasionally proficient 2-6, 6-0, victory over 85th-ranked Mariana Diaz Oliva of Argentina, who still hasn't won a Wimbledon match.

Aside from a brief temper tantrum that earned a code violation for racket abuse, Majoli was determined during the match and jubilant afterward.

"It's like a dream come true; I have to say that today when I won dTC this match, I was almost as happy as when I won the French Open," said Majoli, who assembled a coaching team for a crash course on grass play that includes her "second father," Nick Bollettieri, and Peter Fleming, John McEnroe's former doubles partner.

She received some impromptu advice from nine-time singles champion Martina Navratilova.

"She told me, 'Bend your knees, be down low, move well, and you have a good chance,' " said Majoli, who has begun to feel more positive about making progress here. "I think that if my game improves each match, that everything is possible on grass."

Moya, the only Wimbledon entrant among Spain's half dozen Top 20 players, wasn't quite as optimistic as Majoli, but he, too, brimmed with relief after winning his first career match on grass.

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He defeated Texan Steve Bryan, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, benefiting from 16 double faults by Bryan.

The 10th-seeded Moya turned to his mentor, Manolo Santana, to help him prepare for Wimbledon, but he said he didn't expect to win playing from the backcourt. "I still have to improve my volley," he said.

Wimbledon's inexperienced defending champion, Krajicek, was so worried about succumbing to a case of nerves before strolling onto Center Court that he joked about needing to consume three cases of Valium to calm down.

But the fourth-seeded Krajicek handled his opening-round duties, including a gracious bow before the sparsely stocked royal box, without embarrassing himself. After inching his way into a tie breaker against 134th-ranked Marcello Craca, a slam neophyte from Germany, Krajicek turned on the power and advanced, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-4.

"I feel a little bit relieved that it's over, that I won, and the match was finished," said the Dutchman, who nonetheless found his performance aesthetically unpleasing. "I don't know if it was really a great match to watch, but these are the kind of matches where you don't look for the beauty prize."

What Krajicek is looking for is a second Grand Slam title, and the London bookmakers put him among the favorites.

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"I know I can win a Grand Slam and for sure I can win it on grass," said Krajicek, who overwhelmed his challenger with 19 aces.

Second seed Goran Ivanisevic, the two-time finalist who has almost everybody's vote as the guy they would least like to face on grass, used 24 aces to accomplish a speedy 64-minute throttling of Romania's Dinu Pescariu, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.

According to three-time champion Pete Sampras, who appeared dress clothes as one of the honoraries who helped open the $125 million edifice that replaced the outgrown Court One, "When Goran's serve starts getting hot, it's time to pray for rain."

The rain delays didn't seem to help Pescariu. Ivanisevic played at a pace that ensured his would be among the 16 matches completed on this stormy opening day.

Among the matches that weren't completed was a slugfest between Britain's unseeded Greg Rusedski and seventh-seeded Mark Philippoussis, the Australian with the world-beating 142 mph serve: Rusedski was leading 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6), 3-1 when their center court match was suspended.

Lindsay Davenport, seeded fifth, had a slow start against 89th-ranked Tami Whitlinger Jones before prevailing, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Davenport's return of serve was ineffective on key points, such as 10 of the 15 break chances she squandered.

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Yesterday's results

Men's singles, first round

Goran Ivanisevic (2), Croatia, def. Dinu Pescariu, Romania, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. Andrew Richardson, Britain, def. Sergi Duran, Spain, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-3. Brett Steven, New Zealand, def. Lionel Roux, France, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-0). Andrei Pavel, Romania, def. Filip Dewulf, Belgium, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. Carlos Moya (10), Spain, def. Steve Bryan, Katy, Texas, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Tim Henman (14), Britain, def. Daniel Nestor, Canada, 7-6 (13-11), 6-1, 6-4. Richard Krajicek (4), Netherlands, def. Marcello Craca, Germany, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-4. Juan Albert Viloca, Spain, def. Marc Goellner, Germany, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5). Javier Frana, Argentina, def. Martin Damm, Czech Republic, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

Women's singles, first round

Irina Spirlea (12), Romania, def. Henrieta Nagyova, Slovakia, 6-1, 6-0. Magdalena Maleeva, Bulgaria, def. Julie Pullin, Britain, 6-1, 6-3. Gala Leon Garcia, Spain, def. Mana Endo, Japan, 6-3, 6-3. Cristina Torrens-Valero, Spain, def. Gloria Pizzichini, Italy, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Denisa Chladkova, Czech Republic, def. Sandra Kleinova, Czech Republic, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. Lindsay Davenport (5), Newport Beach, Calif., def. Tami Whitlinger-Jones, Henderson, Nev., 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Iva Majoli (4), Croatia, def. Mariana Diaz Oliva, Argentina, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Feature matches

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Men: Pete Sampras (1) vs. Mikael Tillstrom; Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3) vs. Juan-Antonio Marin; Michael Chang (5) vs. Todd Woodbridge; Boris Becker (8) vs. Marcos Aurelio Gorriz.

Women: Martina Hingis (1) vs. Anne Kremer; Anke Huber (7) vs. Haruka Inoue; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (8) vs. Clare Wood; Conchita Martinez (10) vs. Karina Habsudova.

Pub Date: 6/24/97


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