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Sisters still dominant

Henman keeps hopes of Great Britain alive

Posted: Tuesday, July 02, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams rushed to grab her racket bag and was nearly trampled by the grounds crew pulling a tarp across Centre Court as rain finally fell at Wimbledon.

It was the only time either Slammin' Sister was pushed around Monday.

''I almost got ran over, but I survived,'' Serena said. ''I made it to another day.''

After a 1-hour, 50-minute rain delay in the second set, the No. 2-seeded Williams wrapped up a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Chanda Rubin to reach the quarterfinals. Older sister Venus, ranked No. 1 and the two-time defending champion, pounded Lisa Raymond 6-1, 6-2.

They are now two victories each from the third all-Williams Grand Slam final in 10 months.

''It's very important not to get overconfident, because everyone wants to beat a Williams right now,'' Serena said. ''We're the top players.''

On the fortnight's first wet day, with 35 mph winds and temperatures dropping into the 50s, Tim Henman barely kept up his quest to give Britain its first Wimbledon men's title in 66 years. He needed smelling salts, loud crowd support and all of his opponent's 17 double faults to advance despite an upset stomach.

Down a break in both the fourth and fifth sets, Henman battled past a faltering Michel Kratochvil 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

''I can't quite figure out how I won. I was feeling pretty tired,'' the fourth-seeded Henman said. ''I'm just so happy to still be alive.''

His potential semifinal opponent, top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, was superb yet again. The U.S. Open champion made it to the quarters at the All England Club for the first time by beating Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 for a fourth straight-set victory.

Three of 16 scheduled singles matches didn't finish. Jennifer Capriati split two sets with 38th-ranked Eleni Daniilidou, and Greg Rusedski -- the other British hope -- was headed to a fifth set against Xavier Malisse before play was called because of darkness.

The men's quarters set so far: Hewitt vs. No. 18 Sjeng Schalken, Henman vs. Andre Sa of Brazil, and No. 22 Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador vs. No. 28 David Nalbandian of Argentina.

The women's pairings: Venus Williams vs. Russian qualifier Elena Likhovtseva, Serena Williams vs. No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova, and Monica Seles vs. 2001 runner-up Justine Henin.

No. 9 Amelie Mauresmo stopped the run of 134th-ranked qualifier Laura Granville of Chicago 6-2, 6-2, and will meet the Capriati-Daniilidou winner.

Wearing a sparkling silver tiara, Serena lorded over each point against Rubin. Dictating play from the baseline, Williams had 35 winners to Rubin's eight, but also 19 errors to Rubin's seven.

This wasn't against some also-ran. Rubin can hit quite hard herself. She once was ranked No. 6, and won a grass-court tuneup in Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon started.

But the French Open champion drove balls deep with a thud of a step and an ''Uh!'' of a grunt, moving into each stroke so much that she often finished points several feet in from the baseline -- and not because she was headed to the net to volley.

Indeed, neither Williams plays classic grass-court tennis, rarely venturing to the net, except to pound a short shot by an overwhelmed opponent. They certainly are effective, though, with power off both wings and speedy serves.

''I'd like to serve and volley more, I suppose, on the grass,'' Venus said after needing just 47 minutes to dismiss the 16th-seeded Raymond, more noted for doubles play. ''But I think my game is at the baseline. That's where I was taught.''

She's won 18 straight matches at Wimbledon, last losing in the 1999 quarterfinals to Steffi Graf in three sets.

Asked if the seven-time Wimbledon champ was the best player she ever faced on the surface, Williams said: ''I can't say that.

''I didn't consider Steffi a grass-court player. I considered her a champion, sure. She never really came, never served and volleyed. I don't think that was exactly grass-court tennis.''

Henman, a classic grass-courter, was repeatedly in serious trouble against Kratochvil. Each time, the 45th-ranked Swiss player buckled.

Kratochvil served for the first set at 5-4, but had three double faults to lose that game and had another in the ensuing tiebreaker.

Rain interrupted with Henman up 4-1 in the third set, and he dropped five straight games after play resumed. Then came the first of five changeover visits by the trainer, three for Henman -- who needed smelling salts and leg massages -- and two for Kratochvil -- who was treated for a cut on his right knee.

Kratochvil went up a break in the fourth set, then gave it right back in the next game with four unforced errors. In the fifth set, as the match stretched beyond four hours, Kratochvil went up 2-0, but again handed the break back with two double faults.

''I had him where I wanted,'' said Kratochvil, who hadn't won a Wimbledon match until last week. ''You know, my serve is just not my biggest weapon.''

When Henman finally pulled it out on his second match point -- a return dumped into the net -- he tilted his head back and sighed.

So did most in the flag-waving crowd of 11,500 at Court 1.

Notes: It's the first time that three South Americans are in the men's final eight in the Open era (since 1968). ... Nalbandian is the first Argentine in the quarterfinals since Guillermo Vilas in 1976; Lapentti is the first Ecuadorian since Andres Gomez in '84.



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