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England's Hopes Dashed With Henman's Loss

Wimbledon: Native son is swept aside by Aussie Hewitt. Malisse-Nalbandian semifinal is suspended.

July 06, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England — Well, they didn't burst into "God Save the Queen" at Centre Court after Tim Henman lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the Wimbledon semifinals Friday.

Henman really didn't stand much of a chance against the precise passing shots of the top-seeded Aussie. Hewitt survived a rain delay, a partisan crowd and the usual brave effort from his opponent, but had few worries, beating No. 4 Henman, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5.

Hewitt's level of shot-making and retrieving was phenomenal. The U.S. Open champion will be playing in his second Grand Slam final, and his opponent is undetermined. The semifinal between Xavier Malisse of Belgium and David Nalbandian of Argentina was suspended after four sets because of darkness.

The Argentine won the first two sets, 7-6 (2), 6-4, and Malisse responded by taking the next two, 6-1, 6-2. After dropping the first set, Malisse left the court for nearly 10 minutes for medical attention. He held his chest and officials said he felt dizzy and breathless. Belgian reporters said the player has had heart palpitations in the past.

Nalbandian appeared annoyed by the long delay and made a sarcastic remark about leaving the court to go have his own medical test for a few minutes.

British fans had hoped for more drama in Henman's match. This was his fourth Wimbledon semifinal, and at 27, the Brit's title chances are dwindling. In six matches he has never beaten Hewitt, winning only two sets.

"Well, as the score line suggests, not a lot did work, did it?" Henman said. "I certainly tried different tactics, different variations. The bottom line is he's the better player. And it's my job to go away and keep improving my game."

The crowd did its best to keep optimistic, and exploded with noise and frenzied flag-waving when Henman broke Hewitt to make it 5-5 in the third set, his last gasp. Henman was broken in the next game, and Hewitt held, serving a 116-mph ace on his second match point.

"The crowd was great," said Hewitt, who will try to become the first Australian to win Wimbledon since Pat Cash in 1987. "Obviously, I've played in some hostile arenas in Davis Cup matches. This was fine. It was loud at times when Tim got out of his chair, jogging from the changeover. That's a good atmosphere to play in."

*

After his second-round loss to George Bastl, seven-time champion Pete Sampras had an MRI exam at a local hospital, he told a Times reporter. The Daily Mail had received information that Sampras had been tested at Atkinson Morley hospital in Wimbledon. The hospital specializes in neurological medicine, but Sampras said that the scan was not of that nature. He would not offer specifics, however.

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