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Serena Steps Lightly

Wimbledon: Williams avoids pitfalls to easily advance. Henman gets through in five sets.

July 02, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England --Whether it was the windy weather, a long rain delay or a rejuvenated Chanda Rubin, the start of the second week presented all sorts of trap doors for one of the Wimbledon favorites, second-seeded Serena Williams.

Williams, the reigning French Open champion, successfully avoided the traps on a potentially manic Monday. The trap almost turned out to be the fast-moving tarp, carried by the Centre Court grounds crew, which came close to enveloping the 20-year-old.

"I almost got ran over," said Williams, who beat Rubin, 6-3, 6-3, in the fourth round. "But I survived. I'm a survivor. I made it to another day."

Williams has been all business. But she watched the World Cup final on Sunday with Boris Becker and some of his friends, and boxer Lennox Lewis caused a measure of commotion when he showed up for one of Venus' matches last week, and hung out with Serena at Wimbledon.

"Every time he walks out there ... I can tell he's going to win because he's really focused and he has the look in his eyes," Serena said of Lewis. "Like I saw on TV before he fought Mike [Tyson], he looked much more focused than Tyson did."

Williams took it another step and incorporated a tennis lesson.

"If you lose your focus in boxing, you could be knocked out," she said. "I think maybe also in tennis before you know it, you could be down 5-0."

Boxing metaphors were easy to come by all around the grounds, especially where British fans were concerned. An ailing Tim Henman, seeded fourth, needed smelling salts and attention from the trainer primarily because of an unsettled stomach. But, Henman fought on and overcame being down a service break in the fourth and fifth sets, defeating Michel Kratochvil of Switzerland, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, in 4 hours 13 minutes in the fourth round.

"It wasn't looking pretty," acknowledged Henman, who said he felt worse and grew more tired during the long rain delay, which lasted nearly two hours.

The fans again played a pivotal role, not unlike the one they assumed in Henman's 3-hour 28-minute victory Saturday over Wayne Ferreira. "I don't know. I was just saying to [coach] Larry [Stefanki] I can't quite understand how I won the match," Henman said. "At two sets to one and 2-1 down in the fourth, I was out of there. Somehow the good old crowd got me going again."

Said Kratochvil, who had never won a match at Wimbledon before this year: "The more they screamed, I had to smile for myself. They were all going for Tim. It's great. But the whole screaming comes to you as well, and builds you up. Even if they scream for Tim, that was lifting me on my toes as well."

The arrival of a second British player in the final eight was delayed by darkness and Xavier Malisse of Belgium. Malisse and Greg Rusedski, who split the first four sets, will resume their match today. Because of the weather delays and long matches, the fourth-round match between Mark Philippoussis of Australia and former champion Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands did not start and also is scheduled today.

Monday was a proud day for South America as three of its players--Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador, David Nalbandian of Argentina and Brazil's Andre Sa--reached the quarterfinals. It assured that South America will have a Wimbledon men's singles semifinalist for only the second time. The first was Peru's Alex Olmedo, who beat Rod Laver in the 1959 final.

Unusually, men's doubles took center stage when the Czech team of Martin Damm and Cyril Suk beat Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and Amir Hadad of Israel, 6-1, 7-6 (5), 6-4, in the third round. Qureshi and Hadad drew even more than the expected attention when Pakistani sports officials condemned Qureshi for partnering with an Israeli, in an interview with the news agency Agence France-Presse.

The players said Monday they have mostly received support and were excited to have done so well.

"I never even thought it was going to become such a big thing," Qureshi said. "Actually, we're not here to change anything; politicians and governments do that. We're just here to play and game and enjoy it. But if everybody takes it a positive way, yeah, I'll take it. Why not?"

Said Hadad: "When he asked me to play, we didn't think it was going to get so big. There are some people that might want to make some headlines, say bad things about this. But I see it only positive that two guys from different nationalities can play together."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Wimbledon Glance

Attendance: 38,764. Last year on Day 7, 41,236.

Seeded winners, men: No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 4 Tim Henman.

Seeded winners, women: No. 1 Venus Williams, No. 2 Serena Williams, No. 4 Monica Seles, No. 6 Justine Henin, No. 9 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova.

Seeded losers, men: None.

Seeded losers, women: No. 7 Jelena Dokic to No. 11 Hantuchova, No. 12 Elena Dementieva to No. 6 Henin, No. 16 Lisa Raymond to No. 1 Venus Williams.

Today's featured matches: Venus Williams (1) vs. Elena Likhovtseva, Russia; Seles (4) vs. Henin (6), Belgium; Xavier Malisse (27), Belgium, vs. Greg Rusedski (23), Britain, comp. of susp. match; Mark Philippoussis, Australia vs. Richard Krajicek, Netherlands.

TV: 8 a.m., TNT; 10 a.m., Ch. 4; TNT, 1 p.m. All delayed.

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