Last of U.S. men falls at Wimbledon

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England -- Finally, a bit of intrigue in the women's draw at Wimbledon: Venus Williams trailing by a set.

Not only that, but the two-time defending champion was limping slightly and playing erratically against a fired-up opponent.

And then -- quicker than you could say, ''Who's Maureen Drake?'' -- Williams won 16 of 17 points to take control against the 110th-ranked Canadian journeywoman and win 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 Saturday.

That put Williams into the fourth round along with six other Americans: her sister Serena, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles (who also dropped the first set before rallying Saturday), Lisa Raymond, Chanda Rubin, and qualifier Laura Granville.

Plus, seven of Nos. 1-9 made the round of 16. Ho hum.

It's been far different for the men: A startling 18 of the top 21 won't be around when play resumes Monday, including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.

And when 98th-ranked Jeff Morrison lost to No. 18 Sjeng Schalken 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-0, it marked the first time since 1922 that no American man reached the fourth round at the All England Club.

''I didn't even know until this morning when somebody said, 'Hey, you're the last American.' Didn't even dawn on me,'' Morrison said. ''It was unfortunate what happened to the Americans here this week, this tournament. But I didn't feel any undue pressure.''

Still headed for a semifinal showdown in the only big-name matchup still possible: No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 4 Tim Henman.

Hewitt had just four errors while dismissing Julian Knowle 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 for his third straight-set victory. Henman -- trying to give Britain its first Wimbledon men's champ since 1936 -- benefited from a questionable overrule and battled by Wayne Ferreira 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-1.

With Ferreira serving up 4-1 in the third-set tiebreaker, he hit a forehand to the corner that both linesmen ruled in. But with Henman gesturing that the ball landed out, Portuguese chair umpire Jorge Dias gave him the point. Replays appeared to show the shot, on the far side of the court from Dias, caught a line.

Henman had questioned calls throughout, and Ferreira felt he was robbed.

''It was a total intimidation thing,'' he said. ''I don't think it's right for an umpire to overrule at that stage of a match.''

There was plenty of other drama at a Centre Court where, surprisingly, the South Africans rooting for Ferreira made just as much noise as the locals pulling for ''Our Tim.''

Henman needed five set points to take the first stanza, and needed a total of seven in the third.

At 5-5 in that same tiebreaker (which lasted 15 minutes), Ferreira double faulted, and smacked a ball out of the arena, drawing boos.

Still, he saved set points at 6-5 with a backhand return winner, at 7-6 with a crosscourt forehand pass, and at 8-7 with another brilliant backhand return.

Then Ferreira wilted. A long backhand was followed by a forehand volley into the net, ending the tiebreaker -- and, effectively, the match.

Williams' match didn't really get started until the first set ended.

Bothered by a sore left knee (''It's just hard at my height on the grass; I have to bend a lot,'' the 6-foot Williams said), she looked a step slow, failing to get to shots she normally does.

Drake did her part to make things interesting, slugging well off both wings and jumping to a 3-0 lead while wearing black wraparound sunglasses even though shade covered most of the court.

''I was playing too passive, a little too tentative,'' said Williams, 0-2 against Serena and 38-3 vs. everyone else this year. ''I was a little disappointed with myself.''

With Williams down 6-5 but serving, Drake got to set point on an 18-stroke rally by hitting a series of shots that spun wider and wider to Williams' backhand until the No. 1-ranked player dumped one in the net.

The next point opened with a return that looked long but was allowed to stand, and ended with Drake's winning crosscourt volley.

She jumped high, celebrating as though the match were won, and waved her arms above her head to incite the already loud fans.

Williams went to the chair umpire and pointed to the baseline, wondering about the non-call on the return. Then she shook her head, dropped her racket on the ground beside her changeover chair, and sat with her legs crossed.

A different player came out for the second set, conjuring winners from all angles (she had a 26-7 edge in that department the rest of the way) and slamming seven aces and service winners at up to 118 mph. The last two sets took just 42 minutes.

''I wasn't ready to go home. I wasn't ready to give it up just yet,'' said Williams, winner of four of the last eight majors. ''If I didn't lift my level of game, I could be on the airplane tomorrow.''

After pairing with her sister to win a second-round doubles match in straight sets, Williams was asked about women getting less prize money than men at Wimbledon -- an issue raised this week by Britain's cabinet minister in charge of sports.

''It's always hard to change minds,'' Williams said. ''But in my opinion, it's unacceptable in the workplace. Outside of tennis, it's against the law.''

And then, with a laugh, she offered a unique solution:

Pay equally and have the men play best-of-three sets, too.



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