Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Showers put damper on the matches

WIMBLEDON Continued suspension of a face off between Tim Henman of England and Sebastien Grosjean of Spain added to the tournament's thrill

AP , WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND

France's Sebastien Grosjean returns to Britain's Tim Henman during their quarter-final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

No Englishman has won Wimbledon since 1936, so British fans are accustomed to waiting. And they did a lot of it Wednesday.

The first two men's quarterfinal matches, including one involving England's Tim Henman, were stopped four times because of rain and then finally suspended for the day.

No. 13-seeded Sebastien Grosjean led No. 10 Henman 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-3, 1-2. Unseeded Mark Philippoussis rallied and was serving with a two-point lead over Alexander Popp 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 2-2, 30-0.

Three delays totaled nearly four hours before the matches resumed Wednesday evening, but drizzle and darkness again halted play for the night.

The other quarterfinals were postponed until Thursday. No. 5 Andy Roddick is scheduled to play unseeded Jonas Bjorkman, and No. 4 Roger Federer will play No. 8 Sjeng Schalken.

The women's semifinals are also Thursday. Defending champion Serena Williams will play French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, who pulled an upset in their semifinal match at Paris four weeks ago. Two-time champion Venus Williams will face Kim Clijsters.

Philippoussis, who tied a tournament record with 46 aces in his fourth-round upset of Andre Agassi, had 26 against the 2.01m Popp when play was stopped. Philippoussis is trying to overcome a two-set deficit for the fourth time in his career.

Henman and Grosjean played a roller-coaster first set twice interrupted by rain. Henman rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the opening set and held four set points in the tiebreaker but couldn't convert them. Three consecutive passing shots for winners helped Grosjean break serve en route to a 4-1 lead. Then came a one-hour delay.

When play resumed, Henman lost his serve again to make it 5-1. Then came more rain.

Sunshine broke through, and the Centre Court crowd roared. Then Henman mounted a comeback, and the cheers became even louder. He broke serve twice, the second time by winning four consecutive points.

When he held serve for 5-5, fans waved Union Jacks.

In the tiebreaker, Henman served leading 6-3.

But Grosjean saved three consecutive set points when Henman floated a volley long, dumped a difficult volley in the net and hit a backhand wide.

Henman had another set point at 8-7 but put a backhand in the net. Grosjean hit a lunging volley for a winner, then called a forehand crosscourt for another winner and the set. It took 2 hours, 36 minutes, delays included.

Henman lost his serve in the next game, then broke in the second and eighth games to win the second set and even the match. But he lost his serve twice more in the third set, and Grosjean served it out at love.

On the women's side, the best of Belgium -- Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne -- will try to prevent another all-Williams final at Wimbledon.

"For Kim and me, it's going to be very difficult, for sure," Henin-Hardenne said.

Serena beat Venus in last year's final -- and in four of the past five Grand Slam finals. The lone exception was at the French Open four weeks ago, where Henin-Hardenne earned her first major title by beating Clijsters.

Serena has been ranked No. 1 for the past year, but the Belgians are second and third and gaining on her. If she loses Thursday, Clijsters will become No. 1 for the first time.

"It's hard to keep up with the Belgian girls," Williams said with a grin. "They're playing every week and winning all the time. I don't play every week, but I might have to start."

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