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Drama Pulls In the Brits

Henman tests nerves at Wimbledon before beating Philippoussis in a fourth-set tiebreaker. Neither Federer nor Roddick loses a set.

June 29, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — They played until dusk Monday, Tim Henman and Mark Philippoussis. They served aces, 22 each, and double faults, rushed the net to make brilliant volleys, sometimes only to steer easy sitters abruptly left and into the stands.

A wife, Lucy Henman, and a girlfriend, Delta Goodrem, pop singer and soap-opera actress, covered their faces with hands, with towels; bit lower lips, wiped sweat from their foreheads, stood to cheer, sighed in despair.

And as always during Wimbledon, at least during the last decade, a nation rose to cheer, sat to groan, rose to cheer again as native son Henman provided a late-night Wimbledon thrill fest.

After serving once for the match, after failing to win on four previous match points and with the likelihood of a fifth set being held off until today because it had grown dark, Henman conquered his nerves and Philippoussis' growing confidence to win their fourth-round match, 6-2, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5).

It was an extravagant ending to what had been an otherwise ordinary day of men's tennis.

Top-seeded and defending champion Roger Federer faced down the 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic and survived with all his grass-court streaks intact. Federer beat Karlovic, a 25-year-old from Croatia, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5). Federer, 22, has won 21 consecutive grass-court matches and has held serve for 89 consecutive games at Wimbledon since last year's quarterfinals.

Second-seeded Andy Roddick also hasn't lost a set here this year. His defeated opponent Monday, 90th-ranked German Alexander Popp, never provided a serious threat during Roddick's 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 win.

The two other Americans left in the men's draw didn't fare as well. Robbie Ginepri, seeded 27th, was no match for 10th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean's clever work, at the net and from the baseline, and the Frenchman won, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (4). And 29-year-old Vincent Spadea, who had made it as far as the fourth round here for the first time, fell meekly to 12th-seeded Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands, 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

And seventh-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon champion who lost in the first round last year, announced himself ready for a challenge after a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (3) victory over ninth-seeded Carlos Moya. Hewitt must play Federer next, a task Hewitt relishes.

"I believe I can beat him," Hewitt said, cheered on by his fiancee, Kim Clijsters, who didn't play here while recovering from wrist surgery. "He's the best player out there at the moment. He's going through the draw pretty convincingly. But I believe in my ability."

There was only one break of serve in Federer's match, and it, of course, belonged to Federer. Federer said it was "different" facing the serve of the tallest man in tennis, but he didn't seem troubled by it.

Roddick earned rousing applause from the Court 1 crowd and heard many female cries of, "I love you, Andy." Roddick, 21, plays Schalken in the quarterfinals. The two men strengthened their friendship during the Italian Open when Roddick helped Schalken and his wife escape from a hotel fire. Then the two aided others out of the burning building.

"This is a much better position to be in," Roddick said. "But it's weird how things work."

The way things worked Monday was that Henman and Philippoussis played the final singles match on the grounds and had all the attention. After winning the first two sets comfortably, Henman started pushing some volleys and Philippoussis began serving more aggressively. And behaving more aggressively.

When the chair umpire ruled a Henman serve an ace in the 12th game of the third set, Philippoussis, last year's finalist, exploded with an obscenity so loud that BBC television apologized to its family-hour viewers.

Henman is aiming to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, and he's in the quarterfinals for the eighth time in nine years. For the time being, though, Henman wanted to revel in this win.

"The atmosphere was incredible," he said. "I think we both played some great tennis."

Next up for Henman is another big-serving Croatian, 20-year-old Mario Ancic. Ancic had a restful day, profiting from the sore back of his Belgian opponent, Xavier Malisse, who retired while trailing, 7-5, 3-1.

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