Final day is twice as nice

THE sponsors' product was somewhat watered down yesterday when rain washed out the semi-finals of the Stella Artois tournament, leaving both matches, as well as the final, to be played today.

Under the rain-check system which operates if less than two hours' play is possible, disappointed spectators receive a full refund, at a cost to the organisers' insurers of pounds 220,000. "Reassuringly expensive" is probably not how they will regard it.

The real winners are those who bought tickets for today, which is already a sell-out. The two semi-finals will both start at 11am - Pete Sampras against Marc Goellner on the Centre Court and Boris Becker against Guy Forget on the No 1 Court - with the final not starting before 3.30pm.

Play was due to start at 1.30pm yesterday with the match between Sampras and Goellner, but drizzle kept the players off the court. It stopped for long enough for them to emerge for a knock-up about an hour later before heavier rain closed in, and although it stopped for a while, an abandonment looked inevitable long before the official announcement came at 6.15pm.

There was little doubt which semi-finalist was, initially at any rate, least bothered by the weather - the Frenchman Forget, who was able to watch his countrymen in the rugby World Cup when he might have been otherwise engaged against Becker. Although as it turned out, he might have preferred to be on the court.

The final of the junior event was played before the rain came and featured Jamie Delgado, the 18-year-old from near Maidenhead who has lived with the burden of being a great British hopeful since his early teens.

He had not dropped a set in his three previous matches, but his defence of the title he won last year came to an abrupt halt against a Mexican, Alejandro Hernandez, the potency of whose serve and groundstrokes was the main factor in a 6-1 6-1 victory. "It was disappointing, but overall I've played pretty well this week," Delgado said. Next stop is the qualifying competition for Wimbledon. "On grass it's unpredictable, but if I get a good draw I could do something."

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