Tennis: Sampras and Ivanisevic struggle

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The Independent Online
The tales of the unexpected continued yesterday. When play was suspended overnight, Pete Sampras, the No 1 seed and men's singles champion for the past three years, and Goran Ivanisevic, the only other seed in the top half of the draw, were both involved in uphill struggles from two sets down.

Ivanisevic, the runner-up to Andre Agassi in 1992 and Sampras in 1994, had already saved a match point when serving at 4-5 in the third set of his quarter-final against the Australian Jason Stoltenberg, ranked No 46 in the world. The fourth-seeded Croat salvaged the situation with a backhand volley off a second service return, and went on to win a third set tie-break, 7-3, which left the score poised in Stoltenberg's favour, 6-3, 7-6, 6-7.

Sampras trailed Richard Krajicek, 5-7, 6-7, with the scores level at 1-1 in the third set. The Dutchman, unseeded though ranked No 13, had out-played the American for the majority of their time on court on a day distupted by rain.

All the half-forgotten sights have become familiar again, such as dismantling the net posts and running the tarpaulin. For the first time for four years, the All England Club's ground staff has been in action more often than the players - one poor chap was trapped under the covers and had to be taken off on a stretcher - and the weather outlook is not promising.

There is so little scope for manoeuvre when rain disrupts the championships at this stage that the organisers may have to consider the implications of finishing the tournament next week.

Yesterday the crowds who had gathered to see Tim Henman become the first Briton to play in the quarter-final of the men's singles for 23 years were frustrated. The 21-year-old from Oxford is now due to play Todd Martin, the No 13 seed, on the Centre Court at 11am this morning. Sampras will then resume against Krajicek, after which will come the women's semi-finals between Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Meredith McGrath, and Steffi Graf and Kimiko Date.

Ivanisevic and Stoltenberg will return to Court No 1 after the quarter- final between MaliVai Washington and Alex Radulescu.

Although yesterday's play on the Centre Court and Court No 1 started at 12.35pm, only half an hour late, the players were back in the locker rooms after 20 minutes. At this stage, Sampras and Krajicek were level at 2-2 in the opening set - the Dutchman having saved five break points in the third game, which lasted 12 minutes - and Stoltenberg led Ivanisevic 5-3 and was about to serve for the first set. When play resumed, at 4.36pm, Krajicek gained the initiative against Sampras, breaking the three-times champion to 7-5 to take the opening set and forcing the American to save two break points in the second game of the second set.

Ivanisevic, having lost the opening set, 6-3, led 6-5 on serve in the second set when rain interrupted the proceedings for a second time, after 32 minutes. Stoltenberg was only one game from the semi-finals after play resumed again, after an hour and 40 minutes. Krajicek, though also two sets up against Sampras, had a longer way to go, at least in theory, and play was halted at 1-1 in the third set.

The voice of Chris Gorringe, the club's chief executive, rarely heard over the PA system during the sunny and dry fortnights which blessed the tournament in 1993, 1994 and 1995, has become a familiar sound again, advising spectators of the latest news from the London Weather Centre.

The last year that Wimbledon became a mecca for umbrellas was 1992, when the tournament was extended to the third Monday. That was when 7,798 specators were admitted free to watch the mixed doubles final and the conclusion of the men's doubles and the junior doubles events.

In 1991, there was play on the middle Sunday for the first time ever following the wettest first week on record. The opening Monday was rained off and only 52 out of 240 scheduled matches were completed in the nine hours and 15 minutes play available by Thursday evening.

The tournament was completed on schedule.

n Greg Rusedski has withdrawn from Britain's Davis Cup match in Ghana, which starts a week tomorrow, because of a back injury. His place in the team will be taken by Luke Milligan, the 19-year-old from Middlesex who advanced to the third round at Wimbledon, losing to Tim Henman.

More reports, page 30