Eighteen-year-old American Alexandra Stevenson is on a hunt for Tony Gwynn. Last year the San Diego Padres slugger told her that if she beat a top 30 player, he'd give her one of his bats from the World Series. In tournaments over the past three weeks, she has beaten two top 30 players, and today at Wimbledon she defeated Belorussian Olga Barabanschikova, 6-2, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, to advance to the third round.
So Stevenson figures Gwynn owes her at least one bat, maybe even two.
"I called him up through the Padres, and he said I had to win a few more," she said, smiling. "I'll get it."
Stevenson will have many more opportunities to pile up accomplishments to impress Gwynn; she announced today that she will turn down a scholarship offer from UCLA and turn professional. A San Diego native and the daughter of sports journalist Samantha Stevenson, Alexandra has been around professional athletes her entire life and is eager to join the WTA Tour full-time.
Having childhood friends Venus and Serena Williams already on Tour also has whet her appetite for competitive play. Serena, who defaulted from this tournament before it began, called to give Stevenson advice before her match today. Stevenson got into trouble at the end of the second set, but she never lost confidence.
"I just kept saying, `Next match point I'll get her, next match point,' and then I lost the set and it was, `Oh, next set then,' " she said. Venus and Serena "have been through a lot, and they've told me it's tough out here. The girls here are tough, but they've shown me that I can be a player."
Raymond on the Rise
Lisa Raymond's upset of No. 7 seed Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, a two-time finalist here, provided the 37th-ranked American with a major shot of confidence. Raymond, who won 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 today, lost in the first round here last year.
"It was psychologically very big for me because I played her twice last year, and both times I was up a set and a break in the second set, and I wasn't able to finish," she said. "Today I just told myself to believe, and I did it. I knew I just had to hang in there." . . .
Rockville native Paul Goldstein will play Daniel Nestor in the third round Friday. Goldstein has already knocked off No. 16 seed Felix Mantilla; if he defeats Nestor he would play Pete Sampras in the fourth round. . . .
Steffi Graf and 40-year-old John McEnroe will start their campaign for the mixed doubles title Friday. Graf, the French Open champion, is also competing in the singles earlier in the day. . . . The tournament's all-time attendance record was broken today when 40,312 people crowded the grounds of the All England club. The previous record was 39,813, set in 1986.
CAPTION: Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker beats fellow German Nicolas Kiefer in straight sets.