There was no tennis at the All England Lawn Tennis Club today. The 1985 Wimbledon championships are to begin here Monday and, with the grass courts still wet and soft after two weeks of rain, no one was allowed to practice on them today.
The question left hanging, even as the sun broke through on a crisp, fall-like day, was whether there would be tennis Monday. The weather has been spotty at best the last two weeks.
If the weather cooperates, John McEnroe, the two-time defender and top seed, will open on Centre Court. His opponent will be Peter McNamara. Two years ago, such a match would have been dangerous.
But in 1983, while ranked No. 9 in the world, McNamara tore up his knee during an indoor tournament in Rotterdam and doctors said he would never play again. For almost two years, he didn't. He made it back to competitive tennis last December, wearing a huge knee brace. Now he has shed the brace but has yet to win a Grand Prix singles match since his return.
He owns a home right down the road from Wimbledon and his residence there -- along with his former top 10 status -- won him a wild card spot into the field.
"When I was hurt, I'd often drive past here and just roll my car up to the gate and look at Centre Court," he said today. "I'd just sit there and look at it and say, 'Someday, I'll play there again.' Well, at least I made it back to Centre Court."
He doesn't figure to stay long. McEnroe is not playing as well as he was at this time last year when he raced to his third singles title here, losing only one set in seven matches. His left thigh has been troubling him all year, and he served poorly throughout the French Open, when he was beaten soundly in the semifinals by Mats Wilander, who went on to win the tournament.
But McEnroe is favored here and should dispose of McNamara with little trouble. McEnroe is one of 13 men's seeds scheduled to play on opening day.
In recent years, Wimbledon has broken tradition and scheduled women's matches on opening day. But even though the All England Club's 325 permanent members now allow this, women play only on the outside courts. Of the 18 women's matches scheduled, only one involves a seed -- No. 8 Zina Garrison, who will play Eleanor Reinach.
The only men's seeds not scheduled to play Monday are No. 3 Jimmy Connors, No. 12 Miloslav Mecir and No. 15 Tomas Smid. The rest will be testing the grass, most for the first time this year.
The most intriguing matches could involve unseeded players. An unseeded player has reached the men's semifinals seven of the last eight years here, and the one many people are betting on this year is Boris Becker, 17, the West German who won the Queens Club warm-up in London two weeks ago. He serves well and has excellent ground strokes.
He broke an ankle here a year ago while playing on court No. 2 against Bill Scanlon. Monday, he is scheduled to follow McEnroe and Wilander on Centre Court, playing hard-serving Hank Pfister.
"Becker can be a factor against anyone," said Vitas Gerulaitis, who lost to him in the first round at the French Open. "He's got a good attitude. He knows he's a good player but he's not arrogant about his game like a lot of young players are."
Gerulaitis, twice a semifinalist here, will take on McEnroe's longtime doubles partner, Peter Fleming. Gerulaitis, 31, should handle Fleming, 30. He could even win a second match, but the third round will match him with Wilander.
Other first-round matches that could be interesting include 10th-seeded Aaron Krickstein, playing his first professional match on grass, against big-serving Bud Schultz; Henrik Sundstrom playing tough Greg Holmes; Paul Annacone, a quarterfinalist here last year, taking on McLean, Va., product Dan Goldie; and John Lloyd, still this country's hero at age 30, playing Wolfgang Popp.
If the men's seeds were to hold -- and they never do here -- McEnroe would face a fourth-round match against ninth-seeded Johan Kriek, a quarterfinal against Kevin Curren and a semifinal against Connors.
Second-seeded Ivan Lendl, who is to play Mel Purcell on Monday, is seeded to play No. 13 Elliot Teltscher in the fourth round, although Teltscher, having not played here in five years, could easily lose to Lloyd in the second round.
After that, barring upsets, Lendl would play Tim Mayotte (three times a quarterfinalist, once a semifinalist here) in a difficult quarterfinal, then would face Wilander in the semifinals.
On the women's side, Martina Navratilova, in spite of her loss in the memorable French final to Chris Evert Lloyd, is overwhelmingly favored to win her sixth championship and fourth in a row. Although Evert's victory two weeks ago in Paris moved her past Navratilova on the women's computer for the first time in three years, they are joint No. 1 seeds here.
Evert was to play Mary Lou Piatek on Tuesday, but has asked for a one-day postponement because of a sore neck. She has the tougher grass court players in her half of the draw: No. 6 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, No. 3 Hana Mandlikova and No. 7 Helena Sukova. The latter two are seeded to play in one quarterfinal.
Navratilova, who will play lanky back-courter Lisa Bonder, has two potentially tough matches en route to the final. In the quarterfinals, she is likely to play doubles partner Pam Shriver (if Shriver can beat 16-year-old Steffi Graf) and in the semifinals she might face Kathy Jordan.
Jordan, who skipped the French Open, probably would have to beat fourth-seeded Manuela Maleeva in the fourth round and Garrison or Gabriela Sabatini in the quarterfinals to reach Navratilova. On this surface, she is capable of that.
But the big question is: Can anyone beat McEnroe or Navratilova? He has made the last five men's finals, winning three. She has made five of the last seven, winning all five.