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Hewitt Tries Tough Way

Wimbledon men: Australian wastes chance to sweep, but ends up sweating out five-set victory.

July 05, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England — So, what's 1 hour and 52 minutes between the first and last match point, anyway?

For Australia's top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, it must have felt like an eternity. His Wimbledon aspirations were slipping away against, of all people, 18th-seeded Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. Hewitt should have been in the comfort of the dressing room after having four match points at 6-5 in the third set.

"It turned into a dogfight," Hewitt said.

Schalken started to break down Hewitt's forehand and connected often with his sublime one-handed backhand, winning the third-set tiebreaker, taking the fourth set and fighting off break points at will. Twice, in the fifth set he broke Hewitt to edge ahead. Twice, Hewitt responded by breaking back in the next game.

Whether it's a self-created crisis or genuine on-court battle, Hewitt thrives on these situations. He fought off a break point in the 11th game of the fifth set and won it with his fifth and final match point when Schalken hit a forehand wide. Hewitt won the 3-hour 51-minute quarterfinal against Schalken, 6-2, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 1-6, 7-5, and hit 20 aces.

Waiting for him in today's semifinals is fourth-seeded Tim Henman of Great Britain. Henman beat the unheralded and No. 90-ranked Andre Sa of Brazil, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, making a relatively simple assignment more difficult than necessary.

If anything should bring Hewitt's spirit back, it is Henman. For him, it is the ultimate us-against-them scenario, just the way he likes it. One feisty Aussie vs. the hope of a nation. Besides, he has never lost to Henman in five matches.

"I have the feeling if I start pumping fists or if the crowd gets really against Lleyton, he will get better," Schalken said. "If you try to make him angry, or if you're against him, then he will go even more for every shot."

Two newcomers playing in their first Grand Slam semifinal are in the other match--Xavier Malisse of Belgium and David Nalbandian of Argentina. Malisse defeated Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7, as Krajicek's lack of match play in the last 20 months became evident. Krajicek's body slowly wore down after too many five-set matches.

"Somehow I've pulled out matches in the past that I was struggling physically," he said.

Krajicek's serve kept him alive often, but it finally gave way in the 15th game of the fifth set, when he double-faulted on break point, netting his second serve. Malisse said he was able to serve it out by pretending it was the first game of the fifth set.

"I was expecting to lose second or third round," he said. "Every round now after that I win is a bonus. I'll be the same tomorrow. Today was the same."

In the other quarterfinal, Nalbandian defeated Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, and will try to become the first player to reach a Wimbledon final in his debut. He is only the second man in the Open era, which started in 1968, to reach the semifinals in his debut, joining John McEnroe, who did it in 1977.

This is Nalbandian's first grass-court event on the tour, but he did get to the semifinals as a junior at Wimbledon in 1999. He was defaulted from that semifinal for arriving late.

"I think I'm going to sleep here," Nalbandian said, joking.

McEnroe, too, was once defaulted for a doubles match at the U.S. Open when he arrived late. Nalbandian was asked if he had anything else in common with McEnroe.

"No," he said. "I think John is a great, great player. I think I have a long way to be like him."

Inclement weather earlier in the week created a backlog in the schedule, and four men's quarterfinal matches and the women's semifinals were played Thursday. Lapentti was upset at being relegated to Court 2, calling it stunning and disappointing.

"I'm saying it's not nice," he said.

"Just because we're being South Americans, nobody expected us to play quarterfinals here. Well, maybe they're still upset we [Ecuador] beat them [Great Britain] in Davis Cup a couple of years ago."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Wimbledon Glance

A brief look at what happened Thursday, the 10th day of the Wimbledon tennis championships:

Weather: Dry and mostly sunny. High temperature was 70.

Attendance: 33,560, a record for the second Thursday. Last year on the 10th day it was 30,120.

Women's semifinal winners: Two-time defending champion Venus Williams and Serena Williams. The sisters will meet in their third final in the last four Grand Slam tournaments.

Men's quarterfinal winners: No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 4 Tim Henman, No. 27 Xavier Malisse, No. 28 David Nalbandian.

Statistic of the day: 1 hour 52 minutes: The time between Hewitt's first and fifth match points in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 1-6, 7-5 victory over No. 18 Sjeng Schalken.

Quote of the day: "Today I was immaculate."--Serena Williams, after beating No. 9 Amelie Mauresmo, 6-2, 6-1, in 55 minutes to reach her first Wimbledon final.

Today's featured matches:

Men--Tim Henman (4), Britain vs. Lleyton Hewitt (1), Australia; Xavier Malisse (27), Belgium vs. David Nalbandian (28), Argentina

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