Rain delay leaves Raymond on brink of success

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The Independent Online

A thunderstorm at Edgbaston yesterday delayed the progress of the defending champion, Lisa Raymond, into the semi-finals of the DFS Classic.

The American led Russia's Elena Likhovtseva 7-6, 3-1 when the torrential rain which had been threatening for much of the morning finally arrived and sent the Priory Club spectators scurrying for cover. Raymond's progress this week has been less than serene, squeezing through the last round against another Russian, Anatasia Myskina, after a close second set tie-break. Yesterday she seemed determined to do things the hard way again, dropping serve in the third game of the match and having her opponent to thank for three double-faults in the sixth game to regain parity.

But Likhovtseva, No 32 in the world, can be as self-destructive as her compatriot Anna Kournikova. She had thrown away a double break in the final set against Lindsay Davenport in the second round of Wimbledon last year, and yesterday another double fault at 5-5 in the first set tie-break gave Raymond the chance to wrest the advantage.

The big serve which gave Raymond the set was heralded by the first lightning bolt of the afternoon. The Russian double-faulted again to hand Raymond an immediate break in the second set and she was broken for a second time to go 3-0 down. Likhovtseva did gain a sliver of hope by breaking back before the heavens opened.

Jennifer Capriati, the Australian and French Open champion, withdrew from the Den Bosch tournament in the Netherlands on Friday citing exhaustion, but she still expects to be fit for Wimbledon. The American would have been the top seed for the grass-court event which starts on Monday. The new No 1 seed is Kim Clijsters of Belgium.

* Marcelo Rios has pulled out of this year's Wimbledon championships for personal reasons. Alexander Popp, the German who was a surprise quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last year, has also withdrawn with a virus. The loss of Gustavo Kuerten, last year's world No 1, was confirmed yesterday because of a leg injury. Arnaud di Pasquale, of France, will also miss the championships because of a back injury. The American Brie Rippner has pulled out of the women's event because of injury.

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