Each day, swarms of children gather outside the players' entrance at the All England club, begging for autographs from their heroes and heroines.
Today, they had a problem. The star of the first day of ladies singles play -- 14-year-old Kathy Rinaldi -- is younger than most of the pubescent autograph brigade.
There were other highlights this gray humid day besides Rinaldi's achievement of becoming the youngest person to win a match at Wimbledon.
Three less-than-famous seeded women were upset: Sylvia Hanika (No. 9), who lost to Mary Lou Piatek, 6-4, 7-5; Regina Marsikova (No. 15), who lost to Lucia Romanov, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3; and Joanne Russell (No. 16), who lost to Pam Teeguarden, 6-2, 6-7, 11-9.
Also, the wave of first-round men's upsets continued as No. 10-seeded Guillermo Vilas, a terrible grass player, lost in five sets to hot Mark Edmondson, who beat Roscoe Tanner last weekend in the final on grass at Bristol. The score today was 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3.
That brought to five the number of original seeds who have disappeared; all, ironically, have been in John McEnroe's half of the draw. That means that among seeds, McEnroe could only have to face Balazs Taroczy (15th) and Tanner (eighth) to reach the final.
That, however, was the extent of McEnroe's luck today. For his racket-smashing and referee-cursing rages of Monday, he was fined $1,500 this afternoon. More severely, he was given the sternest warning in Wimbledon history, that any further "misconduct" would be interpreted as "aggravated behavior" under major offenses of the players' code of conduct. That could lead to a maximum $10,000 fine, and/or suspension -- a suspension that would not go into effect here.
As Rinaldi, just three weeks past her 14th birthday and a few weeks out of the eighth grade, stood in the midst of that swarm of adoring children, she seemed fascinated as she signed her name in a large, schoolgirl's handwriting.
Of course she knew she was the youngest contestant at Wimbledon since 1907, and, after beating 19-year-old Susan-Lee Rollinson, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7, this afternoon, the youngest person ever to win anything here.
What had not sunk in on her yet was the meaning of being so good so young.
Rinaldi looked each child in the face, in case they might really want to meet her eye. They didn't: eyes down, always. This seemed to perplex her. The question in her face was: "Hey guys, why won't you look at me? I'm just another kid."
She was learning her first lesson in fame. Already, the distance grows from others.
Rinaldi blew a big bubble-gum bubble, then popped it. Her father gave her a chocolate bonbon. Rinaldi dutifully searched for a scrap of paper to wad up her gum, then searched for a trash can before getting around to the candy. She, at any rate, was still a child.
However, she didn't play like one.As dusk approached, and Rinaldi entered the last stages of a brilliantly close 2-hour 36-minute match against Rollinson, a tiny 19-year-old grass court whiz at retrieving, the word had spread that something special was taking place.
Not only was Rinaldi playing in her first Wimbledon, but she was being tested in the extreme immediately. She was going to have to show what she was made of.
On the terrace of the players' tea room that overlooks Court No. 2, the biggest names in women's tennis gradually gathered to watch this moment of truth -- Chris Evert Lloyd, Billie Jean King and many others. What's the new kid got?
"Gee, Chris is my idol," said Rinaldi. "I didn't know they were there."
What Evert saw gave her no pleasure and elicited no applause. What Evert witnesses was yet another of the unnerving succession of two-fisted baseline belters who have been cloned as her eventual successor as queen of tennis.
First, it was Tracy Austin in '77, who became the first 14-year-old to play at Wimbledon (three months older than Rinaldi). Then, last year, it was 15-year-old Andrea Jaeger, who became the youngest player ever seeded at Wimbledon. This year, at 16, she is No. 5 seed and has designs on the title.
With the sun going down, Rinaldi showed she has the same rich bloodlines. Twice, Rollinson served for the match and, twice, Rinaldi broke her when she needed it most; once, Rinaldi faced match point and responded by hitting out all the more fiercely.
In victory, Rinaldi threw both arms into the air, then gave her fist a little pump. Afterward, she was charmingly shy, breaking up her quick, modest answers to questions with delighted trills of laughter or an embarrassed wrinkle of her nose. She already has more natural crowd appeal (translated smile appeal) then Evert, Austin or Jaeger at their first major appearances. s
"My dad just gave me a big hug," said Rinaldi, who will start high school in the fall and says her hobbies are arts and crafts and playing the piano. "It's all just been great so far. I really enjoyed myself on the court. It's Wimbledon, so I was a little tense and nervous.
"Oh, no. I didn't have any trouble falling asleep last night," said the beaming Rinaldi, who was a quarter-finalist at the French Open last month on clay, a better surface for her than grass, which exposes her difficulties when she must charge forward.
Watching Evert, Austin, Jaeger and Rinaldi -- all winners this afternoon -- was like seeing four separate incarnations, not of the same person but of the same powerful, dangerous condensed life experience: instant, early, teen-age fame.
Evert beat Chris O'Neil, 6-3, 6-0; Austin beat Jennifer Mundel, 6-0, 6-2, and Jaeger beat Nerida Gregory, 6-1, 6-1.
"When I first arrived (at the U.S. Open at 16 and Wimbledon at 17), I never smiled, never showed any emotion," said Evert. "People thought I was very cold. It took them years to start to learn who I was. Back then, I was just shy, intimidated and generally scared to death.
"All three of these girls (now in a clean 18, 16, 14 progression) handle themselves well already," she added. "All I'd tell them is, don't burn yourself out. Don't learn to hate tennis."
Austin has made the most stunning growth in her five years on the tennis stage. It seems like yesterday when she was almost frighteningly unsure of herself, seemingly quarantined in her cutesy pinafore dresses and pigtail ribbons. Now, she's a confident young woman who knows she wants to act.
"I've always wanted to be feminine," she said softly, still consciously demure but now nearly adult.
"A lot of my 14th and 15th years, I don't remember. They were a blur," said Austin. "I was traveling everywhere, playing juniors, adults and going to school.
"You move up to the game step by step, but then, one day, it's like there's an explosion and your picture is everywhere. That may have happened to Rinaldi a little today. The biggest shock is that people want to write about you when you're that young.
"I was like a pioneer," said Austin, proudly. "I was on the cover of SI (Sports Illustrated) when I was 13. I was the first 14-year-old to be written about a lot. I didn't really have anybody's footsteps to follow in.
"Now, I think it's easier for Andrea and Kathy. It's like everybody says, 'Well, who's the next one?' And it only takes a few months for everybody to learn about you. . . I'm glad they're here," Austin said, snickering. "It takes pressure off me and puts it on them."
The growing up doesn't take long. Last year, Jaeger was a delightful novelty. One year later, she is fighting not to cause a fuss because she's hot and bothered about only being seeded fifth, which figures to give her one more tough match than the top four players.
Jaeger still has the pigtails and plays with her fingernails as she talks. She likes being here at Wimbledon because of "the tradition and, you know, all that stuff."
But she can do a dodge-the-issue monologue on the subject of seedings that would do justice to a Bond Street barrister.
"If you're going to come and cause a disturbance, you might as well stay home, 'cause you've just got to come here and keep your mind on tennis," said Jaeger. "I was disappointed, but you've just got to come out and prove they're wrong."
The demands and pressures on these children are nearly tangible. Each is, or probably soon will be, the centerpiece in a multimillion-dollar tennis conglomerate. If they win, it's fortune and fame, for everybody. If they don't, everybody from parents to agents to manufacturers to fans is disappointed bitterly.
And each year, there are more of them and no additional room at the top. What does Jaeger think about Rinaldi already supplanting her as the latest freckled, smiling darling of the crowd?
"It's sure all right with me," said Jaeger. "Now, it's all on her."
Jaeger didn't say what the "it" was, but she didn't seem at all sorry to lose it.