Wimbledon `97: Familiar faces head for final

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The Independent Online
Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, who were once to Wimbledon's women's doubles title what cream is to strawberries made it to the semi-finals yesterday to encourage thoughts of a fourth championship.

The top seeds, winners in 1992, 1993 and 1994 and who collected six successive Grand Slam titles in the early 90s, defeated Mary Joe Fernandez and Lisa Raymond 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, but the woman who faced them in all three of their successful finals will not be around to resist them.

Jana Novotna withdrew from the event yesterday as a precaution for today's singles final. The Czech, with Lindsay Davenport the third seeds, has a slight strain of the right hamstring and decided to pull out at the quarter-final stage, allowing the 12th-seeded Sabine Appelmans and Miriam Oremans a walkover.

Hannah Collin, who at 15 is the girl most likely to lead British women's tennis beyond the millennium, moved into the last eight of the 18 and under Girls Championship with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Japan's Rika Fujiwara.

Home interest in the Boys' singles ended in a familiar manner, however, when the top seed, Germany's Daniel Elsner, defeated Adrian Barnes 6-2 6-1. Shades of Michael Stich and Tim Henman.

In Germany, there was a widespread sense of shock to the news that Boris Becker has played his last Wimbledon. "Becker was the heart of our tennis," one newspaper wrote. "Boris was passion, excitement, fascination."

Becker said on German television that he was relieved to have put the decision behind him and now planned to concentrate on his family.

"Now I'd like to have a bigger family," he said. "Three, four children - however, it's not all up to me." Becker and his wife, Barbara, have a three-year-old son, Noah.

Becker said that he had been preparing his announcement since being defeated in the first round at the Australian Open in January.

"My wife knew I want to quit since the Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne," he said. "Then I told her: `Girl, now we have to show that we can somehow make it over the next six months to Wimbledon, because I can't go on like this.' "

Mark Petchey, who reached the third round at Wimbledon before losing to Boris Becker, heads the entry list for the Challenger tournament starting at Bristol on Monday. Five other British players - Nick Weal, a surprise finalist last year, Danny Sapsford, Luke Milligan, Jamie Delgado and Colin Beecher - are all in the main draw.