Ferrero's failure continues upset parade

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England -- Now appearing in the Upset Spotlight at Wild Wimbledon, where nearly anyone, it seems, can be a star for a day: Jeff Morrison.

He's ranked 98th, hadn't won a Grand Slam match 'til this week, and left West Virginia to pursue a career in tennis instead of the family trade -- waste water and sewage treatment.

Morrison subtracted yet another top-10 player from the second round Thursday, serving and volleying to near perfection in a 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory over French Open finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero.

It came 24 hours after -- though not on the same scale as -- losses by Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Marat Safin to players ranked lower than 50th. For the first time, just three men seeded 1-10 reached Wimbledon's third round.

''The depth in men's tennis is great, and what happened yesterday showed that. You see guys going on big courts and beating seeded players,'' Morrison said. ''It makes you realize you can achieve the same thing.''

Seven seeded men were sidelined Thursday, including No. 10 Guillermo Canas, who blew six match points in losing 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5, 10-8 to Feliciano Lopez.

Putting a momentary stop to the tournament's topsy-turvy nature were No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 4 Tim Henman, who stayed on course for a semifinal showdown.

Two-time women's champion Venus Williams won in straight sets, as did 2001 finalist Justine Henin and Monica Seles. But No. 5 Kim Clijsters bowed out to Elena Likhovtseva 7-6 (5), 6-2.

Williams and sister Serena paired to win a first-round doubles match in straight sets.

The 23-year-old Morrison lost in qualifying last week and got into the main draw when Tommy Haas withdrew because his parents were in a motorcycle accident.

Success on this stage can be fleeting: Mario Ancic, the 18-year-old protege of Goran Ivanisevic, beat No. 7 Roger Federer in the first round but lost to Jan Vacek on Thursday.

That, perhaps, is why Morrison made sure he soaked up every sound, sight and smell at Centre Court.

''I was looking around a lot, just saying, 'Oh my gosh, here I am. Who would have ever thought that I would be here?''' he said. ''The first 30 minutes of the match, I was a little awestruck.''

And why not? Morrison played just four hours a week until he was a junior in high school, when he left Huntington, W.Va., to join a tennis academy in South Carolina.

''I definitely knew I couldn't be the player I wanted to be staying in Huntington,'' Morrison said.

After the match ended when Ferrero's forehand sailed long, Morrison sat in his chair and put his head back, reveling. Ferrero packed quickly, stopped beside Morrison and gestured toward the locker room door, as though to say, ''Hey, are you coming?''

Morrison never played on a grass court until last year but looked like an expert against No. 9 Ferrero. His volleys enjoyed joystick-controlled precision and his serve had great movement.

There was a juncture, though, when the match seemed to be slipping away.

Leading 5-1 in the second set, he lost four straight games, the last ending when he slammed a sitter well wide.

Morrison slumped against the net for a minute, his head on the tape, his arms and racket draped over it, looking like a marionette with no one to pull the strings.

Exasperated? Nope -- he smiled when he lifted his head.

''I'm my best when I act like did out there today. I felt like I was still up a set, at 5-all,'' he said. ''I find that smiling is a great way to relieve stress.''

He broke right back, served out the set at love with a 122 mph ace, and then won the tiebreaker with six of the last seven points.

''For me, six months ago, six weeks ago, I would have never fathomed beating a top 10 player on a Grand Slam court,'' said Morrison, who defeated James Blake to win the 1999 NCAA singles title as a sophomore at Florida. ''It's so exciting.''

He's two victories away from a quarterfinal against U.S. Open champion Hewitt, who was animated as always and didn't lose serve once while topping Gregory Carraz 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-2. ''Tiger Tim,'' as Henman is known, enthralled a packed and prodding Centre Court crowd by beating Scott Draper 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, totaling 50 winners to just 18 errors.

Yells of ''C'mon, Tim!'' filled pauses between points, and fans did the wave during changeovers. The Union Jack and red-and-white England colors were everywhere: flagsticks, T-shirts, 2-foot-high jester's hats, even capes tied around necks. Henman himself was anything but staid, hopping excitedly after many crisp volleys, and even smacking a hand against his racket in a clapping motion to incite the fans.

''When I was down a set, things weren't looking pretty. I needed a lift and I certainly got it,'' he said. ''I know how advantageous, how positive they can be. And I'm going to use everything I can.''

Henman has played two qualifiers -- Draper had lost 11 straight first-round Grand Slam matches before Tuesday -- and now can't face a seeded player until the final four.

He's been a semifinalist three of the past four years, but that's not enough for a country yearning for the first British men's champion since Fred Perry in 1936.

The banner headline on the front page of Thursday's Daily Mirror tabloid said it all: ''No pressure Timbo, but choke now and we'll never forgive you.''

Notes: Yevgeny Kafelnikov is the other top-10 man left. ... Of the 14 U.S. men entered, only Morrison, No. 11 Andy Roddick and Taylor Dent still are playing.



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