The nation was left holding its breath once more last night as Tim Henman's epic Wimbledon semi-final against the Croatian Goran Ivanisevic dragged into a third day today after rain restricted them to only 51 minutes of play. The men are tied at two sets all, with Ivanisevic leading 3-2 in the fifth and final set.
The weather also ended any hope of staging the women's singles final yesterday, which was due to follow the conclusion of Henman-Ivanisevic. That match between the holder Venus Williams of the United States and the Belgian Justine Henin was also rescheduled for today, with the men's final postponed until tomorrow. That will give either Henman or Ivanisevic the chance to recover before taking on Pat Rafter of Australia, who by then will have been waiting for three days.
Play yesterday was due to begin at 1pm, but it was 5.39pm before a ball was struck. Henman led by two sets to one and 2-1 in the fourth set and looked as if he only need pick up where he had left off on Friday to complete victory and become the first Briton in the men's final since Bunny Austin in 1936. But Ivanisevic had improved, and he took the fourth set on a tie-break. In the sixth game of the fifth set, with everything going with serve, the rain returned, and put Henmania on hold.
Among those who had waited patiently on the Centre Court through the drizzly afternoon was the former US president Bill Clinton. So instead of Cliff Richard regaling the crowd with song, Mr Clinton enlivened proceedings by giving an impromptu interview to the BBC, which was broadcast over the public address. "You know, it's England," he said. "It has to rain sometime."
The wet weather came after the championships had enjoyed 11 days of virtually unbroken sunshine.Reuse content