On a sweltering day truly for mad dogs and Englishmen, a tennis turncoat waving a Union Jack in the midday sun took a step toward knighthood.
Greg Rusedski, branded a mercenary and defector on both sides of the Atlantic since he abandoned his native Canada for England in May, was dubbed Sir Gregory by suddenly grateful Brits when he drilled 36 aces Friday to set up a fourth-round match against Pete Sampras.
No. 1 in his former country and now No. 1 in his adopted land, which has yearned for a Wimbledon men’s champion since Fred Perry won his third straight title in 1936, Rusedski beat Olivier Delaitre 6-7 (8-6), 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in a feverish match in 106-degree heat - the hottest day ever recorded at Wimbledon.
Rusedski’s change of countries angered Canadian tennis officials who felt he had deserted them after years of support, and upset British players annoyed that he simply moved in and took over the top spot from Jeremy Bates. Chris Wilkinson, one of Britain’s best players, was one of Rusedski’s harshest critics, refusing to play Davis Cup with him.
But the Wimbledon crowds haven’t shared that feeling, and have instead wildly embraced Rusedski as one of their own during his first three victories.
“I think the crowds won me the last few matches,” said the 21-year-old Rusedski. Sampras, the two-time defending champion, showed some vulnerability to a big server when he dropped a set Friday against Jared Palmer, but then rallied to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 with 18 aces to offset nine double-faults.
Fourth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic, a two-time Wim bledon finalist, served 22 aces in beating Arnaud Boetsch 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Ivanisevic, who has 71 aces in his first three matches, won 96 percent of the points in which he put in his huge first serve. He served at an average speed of 113 mph, with a fastest delivery of 129 mph, and had two games with four aces.
Ivanisevic will next face another big-server, 14th seeded Todd Martin, who rallied from a break down in the final set to beat fellow American Derrick Rostagno 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Martin had 21 aces in the match.
In the featured women’s match, second-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, playing the best grass-court tennis of her career, ended Zina Garrison Jackson’s Wimbledon singles career with a 6-1, 6-2 triumph on Centre Court.
Known as a baseliner, Sanchez Vicario looked like a different player as she used an aggressive all-court game. Defending champion Conchita Martinez contin ued her easy march through the early rounds, beating Shaun Stafford 6-1, 6-1 in 51 minutes.
No. 8 Gabriela Sabatini rallied from 0-5 down in the first set to beat Nancy Feber 7-5, 6-1.
xxxx Day Five Men’s winners: No. 2 Pete Sampras, No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic, No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 14 Todd Martin. Women’s winners: No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, No. 3 Conchita Martinez, No. 8 Gabriela Sabatini and No. 9 Anke Huber. Upsets: Petra Kamstra defeated No. 14 Naoka Sawamatsu.Quote of the day: “In ‘92 I served 209 aces and I lost in the final. So, I would rather hit one ace all tournament and win this tournament.” - Goran Ivanisevic. Today on Centre Court: Boris Becker vs. Jan Siemerink; Jana Novotna vs. Judith Wiesner; Andre Agassi vs. David Wheaton.