Tennis: Rock and a hard place hit Enqvist

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The Independent Online
THE RAIN stopped, the gale subsided, and play began after a 31- hour delay at the Samsung Open yesterday, even though the BBC had packed their cameras and left.

But, although the elements were kinder as the semi-finals moved towards twilight, there was another hazard. Thomas Enqvist, the top seed, had Stefan Koubek at 3-4, 0-30 on the Centre Court, when Thin Lizzie came blaring from two speakers in a garden backing on to the West Hampshire Club.

Enqvist, a finalist at the Australian Open in January, could not believe his ears, but he tried to block out the noise and created three break points. He hit a backhand over the baseline on the first opportunity, netted a backhand on the second, and Koubek saved the third with a forehand drive.

A group of spectators joined stewards in locating the noisy neighbour, and Younes El Aynaoui, who was warming up for the second semi-final against Adrian Voinbea on Court No 2, walked off the court to investigate.

Eventually, the would-be member of the tennis abatement society was persuaded to turn off the music, but not before Enqvist had dropped serve for 3- 5. Koubek held to win the set, 6-3, after 32 minutes.

The 22-year-old from Austria is a blond left-hander, though not as muscular or explosive as his compatriot Thomas Muster, the former French Open champion. Earlier this year, however, Koubek confirmed his potential by defeating Muster to reach the quarter-finals of the ATP Tour event at St Poelten.

Enqvist regained his composure in the second set, but found Koubek a gritty opponent, particularly when it came to saving break points. Enqvist was unable to convert one in the second game, five at 2-1, and another at 3-2. Koubek saved two set points when serving at 2-5, but Enqvist took his third set point with a smash.

Play had reached 5-5 on serve in the final set when the light was too bad to continue. On Court Two, Voinea was leading El Aynaoui, 6-3, 4-2, as the darkness closed in. Play is due to resume at 10.30am today, with the final this afternoon.