LONDON, JUNE 29 -- On day one of the 101st Wimbledon championships, 40 American men players walked through the gates of the All England Club and passed the time watching it rain. One week later, the rain is gone. And so are 38 of the Americans.
Today, on a bright, sweltering day, they began falling early and kept right on going until dusk. Not that they went easily. Paul Annacone played more than three hours before losing to Guy Forget in five sets. Leif Shiras played for 4 hours 24 minutes before Peter Doohan finally beat him, 6-7 (8-6), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 12-10.
And Tim Mayotte, the most shocking loser of them all, played 3 1/2 hours, saved three match points and still fell to Mikael Pernfors, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.
Their defeats left two U.S. men in the round of 16: Johan Kriek, the South African who became a U.S. citizen five years ago, and 34-year-old Jimmy Connors, who beat Kelly Evernden, 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3.
Three weeks ago in Paris, when he was the only U.S. quarterfinalist, Connors said, "If the hopes of American tennis are riding on my shoulders, that's pretty damn hurtin'."
The pain only grew worse today.
While the top women were moving with monotonous routine to the round of 16 -- Martina Navratilova in two sets (50 minutes); Pam Shriver in two sets (53 minutes) and Chris Evert in two sets (57 minutes), the men chose today, with the temperature in the 80s and the humidity way up, for marathon tennis.
On paper, the biggest upset of the day was the most one-sided match of the day, Anders Jarryd routing fifth-seeded Miloslav Mecir, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. But Jarryd was a semifinalist here two years ago and Mecir is not comfortable on grass. "When he's playing well, he's almost impossible to beat," Jarryd said. "But on grass, he doesn't feel so good and sometimes it shows."
The Americans had no such excuse. All three of today's losers -- Annacone, Shiras and Mayotte -- would rate grass their best surface. Mayotte has built his career around Wimbledon, never failing to reach the final 16 in six previous visits.
There was no reason to believe that string would end this evening. For two sets, he all but blew Pernfors off the court, attacking constantly and never allowing the little Swede to get a rhythm.
This was a classic power-versus-finesse matchup. Pernfors is 5 feet 8, weighs 145 pounds and, even on grass, stays back and slugs away with topspin from the base line. Mayotte, 6-3 and 185, is the classic grass-courter, coming in behind every serve, always looking for an opening to come in when receiving.
"I really wasn't used to playing that kind of a base-line match on grass," Mayotte said. "For two sets, though, I was in control; I was doing everything I wanted to. But when he won the third he got some momentum and I started to get tired."
When he lost the third set, Mayotte was in trouble. Even though it was almost 7 o'clock, the sun still was blazing. The heat and the pace were not going to bother Pernfors. They did bother Mayotte. "I still think I played better tennis," Mayotte said. "I just didn't have enough gas to finish him."
Pernfors is extremely hyper and emotional on the court. This may be a result of the four years he spent playing U.S. college tennis at the University of Georgia.
No point is easy with Pernfors. He runs balls down, digs shots out of the corner and turns the opponent's winners into winners of his own. He had Mayotte in trouble throughout the third and fourth sets and ended the fourth with a typical Pernfors' winner, a forehand down the line on what looked like an unreachable volley by Mayotte.
"The first two sets I was spaced out," said Pernfors. "I don't know what it was. But once I picked up my concentration level I really felt like I had a good chance to win. I certainly wasn't tired at the end."
Mayotte was. "You can't play in 60-degree weather for three weeks and then come out and have it be 80 degrees and humid and not be affected," he said. "I think my conditioning was good. But you can't prepare for something when it isn't around to prepare in."
Tired or not, Mayotte had chances in the last set. He broke in the first game, hitting a backhand that crawled over the tape to reach break point, converting by getting in to hit a winning backhand volley.
But Pernfors broke back to 3-3 when Mayotte double faulted to 15-40, then watched Pernfors unload a pretty backhand crosscourt. That was blown chance one. Number two came when Pernfors double faulted at break point to give Mayotte another break and a 4-3 lead. But Pernfors then played two extraordinary games, breaking Mayotte at love with four sensational winners, then holding with two service winners, a backhand pass and an ace.
Serving, down 4-5, Mayotte threw in another double fault to go down 15-40. Double match point. Mayotte took a deep breath. The crowd at Court 1 was wild, even as the shadows lengthened. Mayotte missed a first serve. His second serve looped in and Pernfors teed off. But Mayotte lunged for the volley and punched a winner.
Match point two. Again Mayotte came in and again he came up with a strong volley. Safe for a moment, Mayotte double faulted again. Match point three. This time, Pernfors got the return at Mayotte's feet, but Mayotte scooped it crosscourt for a miraculous winner.
By now, Mayotte had won the crowd. A moment later, when he somehow twisted his body for an impossible backhand volley to get to game point, the customers screeched. Even Pernfors clapped. Mayotte sighed, served an ace and it was 5-5. "I thought I might have a chance then," Mayotte said. "But he was just too tough."
Indeed. Pernfors held easily and, when Mayotte double faulted to match point again, Mayotte wasn't about to escape a fourth time. He attacked one last time, but Pernfors' whistling forehand hit the frame of his racket and bounced into the net. Mayotte's Wimbledon was over.
By contrast, Shiras had never been this far at Wimbledon. He came here as a qualifier, ranked No. 166 in the world. Three years ago he reached the final at Queen's but since then hasn't done anything even mildly comparable.
This was a major opportunity for him. Doohan, two days after his shocking victory over Becker, was ripe to be had. For two sets, Shiras had him. He was serving well, Doohan wasn't. In the first-set tie breaker, Shiras saved four set points and Doohan double faulted on set point.
Doohan is a celebrity now and they were packed into every nook and cranny of Court 14 to get a look at him. It looked as if it would be a quick one. But with Shiras serving at 3-4 in the third, two strange points turned the match around.
At deuce, Shiras hit an excellent volley and Doohan put up a weak lob. But the ball ticked the net coming down, changed direction and Shiras netted it. On break point, Doohan sent up another lob. Shiras sighted it, aimed and hit the ball into the fence.
"It was just windy," he said. "The first one was just weird, the second one I had trouble with the wind. It certainly helped him, though."
Doohan held for the third set and broke early to win the fourth. Shiras broke to lead by 3-1 in the fifth. Doohan broke right back. On and on they went, neither player even threatening to break.
"We were like fighters in the 15th round," Shiras said. "We were both tired, looking for one last opening to get in a punch that would matter."
Doohan finally got it, breaking at love in the 21st game, the last shot a scorching backhand return. Normally so placid, he shrieked with joy as the ball passed Shiras. A moment later he had the match, easily serving it out.
For Doohan, it was a wonderful victory, coming from way behind, not quitting and proving the Becker match was more than one fluke day. For Shiras, it was a devastating disappointment after being so close to his most significant victory.
If the Americans have it bad, today Jeremy Bates, the last Briton, male or female, left in singles, lost in straight sets to Slobodan Zivojinovic. Bates' defeat meant that no one from the host country, male or female, reached the round of 16. It also marked the 14th straight year that no Englishman has reached the quarterfinals. TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES Centre Court
Gabriela Sabatini (6), Argentina, vs. Natalia Zvereva, Soviet Union; Andres Gomez (8), Ecuador, vs. Henri Leconte (9), France; Jimmy Connors (7), Sanibel Harbor, Fla., vs. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden. Court 1
Jakob Hlasek, Switzerland, vs. Stefan Edberg (4), Sweden; Johan Kriek, Naples, Fla., vs. Ivan Lendl (2), Czechoslovakia; Martina Navratilova (1), Fort Worth, vs. Gigi Fernandez, Puerto Rico. Court 2
Chris Evert (3), Boca Raton, Fla., vs. Rosalyn Fairbank, South Africa; Peter Doohan, Australia, vs. Slobodan Zivojinovic, Yugoslavia; Jana Novotna, Czechoslovakia, vs. Steffi Graf (2), West Germany. Court 3
Anders Jarryd, Sweden, vs. Alexander Volkov, Soviet Union; Raffaella Reggi (15), Italy, vs. Helena Sukova (4), Czechoslovakia. Court 4
Mary Joe Fernandez, Miami, vs. Dianne Balestrat, Australia. Court 13
Pat Cash (11), Australia, vs. Guy Forget, France; Pam Shriver (5), Lutherville, Md., vs. Sylvia Hanika (16), West Germany. Court 14
Catarina Lindqvist (11), Sweden, vs. Claudia Kohde-Kilsch (8), West Germany; Mats Wilander (3), Sweden, vs. Emilio Sanchez (14), Spain.