Sanchez Vicario waits for Graf or Date

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The Independent Online
After more twists than a murder mystery, Wimbledon finally conformed to type late last night when at least one character who was expected to reach the women's final did so. In a tournament of surprises that itself was almost a shock.

The identity of who Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will meet tomorrow remained unclear, however, as Steffi Graf, the defending champion, was called off Centre Court last night having shared the first two sets with Japan's Kimiko Date. They will come back today.

Ever since Monica Seles was removed from the plot in the second round, the woman most likely to emerge from the bottom half of the draw was the fourth seed, Sanchez Vicario. She duly reached her second successive final by beating Meredith McGrath 6-2, 6-1 in 1hr 01min.

The scoreline did not flatter the Spaniard, who soon established a 5- 1 lead and who was helped further by an injury to McGrath in the second set. The unseeded American pulled a thigh muscle in her right leg in the second set and was obviously in pain by the end.

Sanchez Vicario ended the match playing the cruel conquistador, forcing her opponent to move around the court when she was barely able to hobble. The end, one point won by the American in the final two games, was mercifully quick.

Even so, McGrath, ranked 27th in the world and playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final, was anxious not to attach the blame to her disability. "I don't want to pin the loss on the injury," she said. "Arantxa went out there with her A game. She was hitting the ball deep and passing me, basically, at will. I don't know even if I was 100 per cent healthy I'd have done the job."

McGrath, who lives in Switzerland and is keen on climbing, compared her reaching the semis to her hobby. "The thing with this Wimbledon climb is that I just went match by match so I didn't realise I was going up such a big mountain until I got there. Then it got very steep. There was a little oxygen deprivation."

For Sanchez Vicario, the key was her beginning. "I have not been starting matches well," she said, "but today I was really focused from the first games. I was warm and my legs were moving well. I was pretty aggressive."

Graf, who is attempting to win her seventh title, also began in sprightly fashion and was 4-0 up within 11 minutes. Date, the 12th seed, looked about to be overwhelmed but she dragged the German into a baseline battle.

The first set, won 6-2 by Graf, was stretched out to 27 minutes but Date had gained encouragement and her retrieving skills and her boundless energy became the predominant forces in the second. From 2-0 down she won six games in a row and it was Graf who was relieved when the match was suspended because of bad light.

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