Rarely does a day come along at Wimbledon like this one. Brilliant sunshine and an Englishman playing equally brilliant tennis. But when it was over, the sun went down and so did the Englishman.
For almost four hours, Andrew Castle, a 22-year-old who played college tennis at Wichita State, had Mats Wilander on the run and an enthralled court one crowd rocking. Castle, ranked No. 285 in the world, had the No. 2 seed in the tournament talking to himself for three sets by serving superbly, volleying sharply and keeping the ball in play consistently.
But just when his rapt audience was beginning to think he could pull off the miracle, Castle ran out of energy. Like a battery that has been used for too many hours, he slowed a little, slowed a lot and, finally, in the fifth set, stopped completely.
"I was up two sets to one, feeling goose bumps all over," Castle said. "I knew he was sweating. I had him on the run really. But then it all got away. Very quickly."
Wilander, who never has had much luck here, finally got away, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (7-0), 6-4, 6-0.
His escape was similar to one pulled off later in the evening by fellow Swede Stefan Edberg. Edberg's predicament, however, was understandable because it came against Paul Annacone, a grass-court specialist who missed being seeded by one spot on the computer.
So, when he trailed, 2-1, in sets and found himself serving at 5-all, deuce in the fourth, Edberg looked to be in a serious jam.
"I was really struggling," he said. "But I got the one break I needed and then in the fifth set I just played out of my mind. I couldn't miss a ball."
The break came after he had held to lead, 6-5. He broke Annacone with three gorgeous winners -- the last one a backhand return down the line -- and then raced through the fifth set with an extraordinary display of shotmaking.
"I lost my concentration for five minutes and that was it," Annacone said. "Against a player of his caliber, you can't give him an opening because he'll jump on it." Edberg did jump on the opening and survived, 6-4, 6-7 (7-3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, in a match that lasted three hours.
Those two matches were the most intense. But they reflected the day's trend of seeds struggling, but -- with the exception of Zina Garrison, a 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 loser to England's Anne Hobbs -- escaping. Chris Evert Lloyd, leading Pam Casale, 6-0, 4-1, and 40-0, handed Casale a set before recovering for a 6-0, 5-7, 6-1 victory.
"It got a little tedious out there," Evert said after playing two hours. "I was winning so easily I just sort of stopped playing for a while."
Hana Mandlikova, Helena Sukova, Carling Bassett and Kathy Jordan each won in straight sets. So did Baltimore's Elise Burgin, a 6-1, 7-5 winner over Ronni Reis. With her pal Pam Shriver gone, Burgin, ranked No. 31 in the world, has a good shot at reaching the quarterfinals. She isn't counting on anything, however.
"Last year I thought the draw was open and I lost to Jo Durie in the third round," she said. "I'm not counting on anything." Next, she meets Lori McNeil. It is not a bad draw.
Quite the opposite of Annacone's draw. A quarterfinalist here two years ago, Annacone is one of the most dangerous players in the world on grass. But the tournament committee seeded clay-court players Martin Jaite and Guillermo Vilas, both first-round losers, over Annacone.
Annacone and Edberg probably are among the top six grass court players in the world. That they would duel through five sets was hardly a surprise. That Castle, playing in the third Grand Prix tournament of his life, should push Wilander almost to the brink was a shock.
Castle is hardly your average English player. He spent a year at Seminole Junior College and then went to Wichita State. He is tall and blond and speaks American.
"The States are just different from here," he said. "You go to something like a Wichita State-Kansas basketball game, you see the kind of grit that college sports entails, it affects you. I love to compete."
Castle competed today. From the beginning it was apparent Wilander was struggling against Castle's high-kicking serve. It is not unusual for Wilander to struggle here. Last year he was bounced in the first round of the tournament by Slobodan Zivojinovic. In 1982, after winning the French Open, he lost to Brian Teacher.
But this would have topped all those losses. Castle played his first pro tournament at Queens Club two weeks ago -- as a wild card -- and when he reached the third round he caused a minor furor here since no Englishman had gotten that far at Queens since 1982. Today, he almost set off a national celebration.
"I didn't expect the match to be so tough," Wilander said. "I don't think I'm playing badly. I just felt like I couldn't really go through. I was struggling. I just couldn't go through the wall on his serve. He was getting to everything."
Wilander didn't break Castle until it was 3-all in the second set. But Castle broke back and Edberg had to win a tie breaker to keep from going two sets down. That should have been enough to put Wilander in control, especially since Castle showed his first sign of nerves by double faulting twice in the tie breaker. But it wasn't.
Wilander just wasn't Wilander. His razor-sharp ground strokes were flying all over the place. And, like at the French Open where he lost in the third round to Andrei Chesnokov, he was showing uncharacteristic bits of temper: a racket toss here, a slam there and an ongoing conversation with himself. He was, in a word, annoyed.
But the crowd had eyes only for Castle. By the middle of the third set, with Evert's Centre Court match ended, most of the All England Club members had traipsed to court one, hoping to see a memorable upset.
Castle tried. So did Wilander. Castle saved a set point at 5-6 when a Wilander backhand floated and Castle ripped a backhand volley. They went to the tie breaker again. Castle roared through, 7-0, and the place was pandemonium.
But what the crowd didn't know was that Castle was exhausted. "I didn't really know the rules," Castle said. "I thought maybe I could ask for a 10-minute break. I could have used it."
Wilander needed no breaks. He almost never tires. He gave up his spin serve in the fourth set, opting instead for hard and flat. That threw Castle. Still, Wilander blew five break points in the fourth game and was mumbling again. But a moment later he got the break he had to have, whipping a forehand return past Castle to lead, 3-2.
Finally, Wilander was rolling. He served out the set, shaking a fist after cracking a volley to end it, then quickly broke Castle to start the fifth with another rapped forehand. Wilander pumped again and then buried poor Castle in a flurry of winners. It was over quickly after that.
"I just died at the end," Castle said. "You know, playing five sets in practice isn't the same as playing five sets against some topspinning Swede."
But even in defeat, Castle left a hero, cheered by the English for a gallant effort.