On a classic English day -- grim, cold and rainy -- they played just enough tennis at Wimbledon to make an Englishman a hero.
On the court that his wife has called home for 14 years, John Lloyd put his countrymen through three hours of anxiety before producing a stirring victory just when he appeared about to be going down to a devastating defeat.
After blowing a two-set lead and falling behind in the fifth set, Lloyd -- following a rain-delay talking to from "my missus," Chris Evert Lloyd -- stormed back to beat 13th-seeded Eliot Teltscher, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 7-5.
Evert followed her husband on to Centre Court and also won, although hers was a much tamer 6-3, 6-0 decision over Susan Mascarin.
Beating Teltscher, who had not played here in eight years, hardly is a major upset. But after Lloyd, who has a history of near-misses against good players, had thrown away his big lead and faced down Teltscher, who was serving for the match, the Centre Court crowd was ecstatic.
"The support I got was wonderful," Lloyd said. "At the end there, when I would miss a shot, I would hear everybody groan and I would feel as if everyone in the place had missed the shot, too. But it was good to win, especially after getting myself in such a ridiculous position, two points from losing."
Lloyd's victory was easily the highlight of yet another rain-interrupted day at the All England Club. The first round finally was completed on the fifth day of the championships, but with another three hours lost to rain, the tournament remains way behind schedule.
Thirteen was an unlucky number today. Other than Teltscher, the only seeded player to lose was Carling Bassett, No. 13 in the women's draw, who lost shockingly to South African Renee Uys, 0-6, 7-6 (14-12), 6-3.
The rest of the program, witnessed by a huge crowd of 37,121, produced no other upsets, but some wonderful tennis. Among the men, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Joakim Nystrom, Kevin Curren, Johan Kriek, Yannick Noah, Stefan Edberg and Tim Mayotte were winners.
Evert and Martina Navratilova, who also won in straight sets, led six seeded women into the third round. The only struggler in the group that included Zina Garrison, Bonnie Gadusek, Gabriela Sabatini and Steffi Graf, was Graf, who had to play a second-set tie breaker before beating Andrea Temesvari.
Temesvari has slid from a high of No. 7 on the women's computer to No. 18. This spring, Temesvari, who is 19, has lost in the first round of the French Open and the second round here, joining the group of teen-age women who seem to get bored with the game after being stars at 15.
McEnroe had some difficult moments during a 7-6 (7-1), 6-1, 7-6 (7-1) victory over Nduka Odizor, the Nigerian who two years ago beat Guillermo Vilas here and reached the round of 16. Bothered by the fidgety Court 1 crowd, McEnroe asked for quiet a couple of times -- yelling, "shut up" -- and played inconsistently except in the tie breakers.
"If I keep playing like this I don't think I'll win the tournament," he said. "I'm just not concentrating that well out there, especially early in matches. I hope I get better as the tournament goes on."
Connors had an easy time in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Kelly Evernden, and Mayotte also won in straight sets, against Ken Flach. For the others, the going was notably tougher. Noah dropped the first set to Eddie Edwards before coming back to win and Edberg, after botching a two-set lead, had to go 9-7 in the fifth set before beating Tim Wilkison.
Wilkison, who tumbled into the stands chasing a ball, ended the match with blood on his socks and his legs from a cut, but kept running down seemingly ungettable balls to baffle Edberg, who undoubtedly thought the match was over after winning the first two sets.
The easiest winner of the day was Boris Becker, the 17-year-old West German. He routed Matt Anger, 6-0, 6-1, 6-3, and plays Nystrom in the third round.
Three seeded players didn't get to finish their matches when the rain came near dusk. One was No. 2 Ivan Lendl, who split sets with Mike Leach before play stopped. Another was No. 5 Anders Jarryd, who led Scott Davis two sets to one before play was stopped. And last, and perhaps least, was No. 6 Pat Cash.
Cash, who had to play five sets to get past Todd Nelson in the first round, trailed Chile's Ricardo Acuna, 6-7 (4-7), 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7), 3-5 before play was stopped with Acuna poised to serve for the match.
Acuna had the crowd on his side as Cash flounced around the court, muttering often and yelling obscenities on several occasions.
But after falling behind, he played some superb tennis to climb back into the match. In the fourth-set tie breaker, after blowing two set points, Cash cracked two winners, one on each side, both crosscourt, to win the set.
He served a horrendous game to start the fifth set and put himself in a hole once more. He was still trying to dig out when the skies opened up yet again.
Rain might have delayed Cash's demise. It probably prevented Lloyd's. Teltscher doesn't like to play on grass and he doesn't serve very well but he is a clever, gritty player. After Lloyd played flawlessly for two sets, he began unraveling slowly as Teltscher began firing passing shots past him.
"I know a lot of people were making me a favorite because Eliot hasn't played grass," Lloyd said. "But you don't make the top 10 four years in a row being a mug. I just seemed to lose confidence out there a bit and on grass a match can go very quick. I started fretting out there about blowing a big lead when the rain came."
The rain began with Teltscher leading the fifth set, 3-2, up a service break. Lloyd retreated inside where he was greeted by his wife, who was waiting to play next. "She told me it wasn't lost yet, to keep going at it and not to be so down, which I was. Then my brother David talked to me and then (coach) Bob Brett talked to me. It helped me enormously, no doubt about it."
Teltscher did reach 5-4 after the rain, but serving for the match faced a juiced-up Lloyd, who hit out on every service return, keeping Teltscher completely off-balance. When Lloyd broke, setting up an overhead with a gorgeous lob, the usually staid English went slightly bananas.
"Crowds here are like the States," Teltscher said. "They usually don't get behind their people. Actually, I thought it was good that they got behind John the way they did. I think that's what they should do. I was just trying to play my game."
By now, his game wasn't good enough. Pumped up and charging on every point, Lloyd held serve to lead, 6-5. He then broke Teltscher for the match by playing four brilliant points: he hit a perfect lob, cracked a backhand return, reflexed a forehand volley and ended the match with a gorgeous forehand return that caught Teltscher flatfooted.
"The last couple of games I just felt like everything I hit was going in," Lloyd said. "It would have been a terrible loss. As it is, it's a very satisfying win."
It was certainly satisfying for the British, who have sat in the rain all week and watched one countryman after another -- nine in all -- lose in the first round. Of the men, only Lloyd, now in the third round, survived the first. That is why, as he and Teltscher left, the audience screamed its delight.
"It's certainly something of a burden being the only guy left," Lloyd said. "I've always put a lot of pressure on myself to do well here, I think we all do. I'm still adjusting to it even now. Winning like this today is very gratifying."