Aces wild in first men's semifinal In second, Brit Henman is center of attention against No. 1 Sampras

Wimbledon

July 03, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- So, here's the forecast for today's men's semifinals at Wimbledon: tennis thunder followed by British lightning.

No. 14-seed Goran Ivanisevic and No. 9 Richard Krajicek, two big-serving bashers who never pass up the chance to score an ace, will meet in one semifinal.

And the other match will pit local favorite Tim Henman, the No. 12 seed and great British hope, in an against-all-odds confrontation with No. 1 seed and four-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras.

The matches provide a study in contrasts and temperaments.

Ivanisevic is hot-headed, unpredictable and wonderfully talented. He has been to two Wimbledon finals, lost both, and suffered a few career crises but has righted himself with his powerful left-handed serve.

"My matches are like horror thrillers, and you can't predict anything," Ivanisevic said. "Even I don't know the end of the movie."

At this Wimbledon, he has played beautifully and patiently, showing uncommon poise and serving power. Yet Ivanisevic knows a secret.

"We know how to hit returns," he said. "The one who hits more returns is going to win the match."

Krajicek is stolid and workmanlike. He serves fast, covers well but doesn't bring a lot of charisma to the game.

He is introspective and realistic about what can happen on the court. Krajicek's pre-tournament favorite was Ivanisevic, who holds an 8-2 lifetime advantage against him.

"He's going to be dangerous," Krajicek said. "When he's loose, he's one of the better hitters on the tour. There's a reason that people always tip him to be such a great player and to win Grand Slams. And he hasn't won yet.

"But when he's losing and starts swinging, he's very, very dangerous, and I think he's showing that at the moment."

Henman is playing with poise and confidence. He has endured the pressure of being the first British man to play in the Wimbledon semifinals since Roger Taylor in 1973. And he is bidding to become the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon.

"When I've had good times in my career and I've played really well, I think my feet stay firmly on the ground," Henman said. "I'm just going to get on with it and keep working hard."

But Henman realizes who he is up against -- Sampras.

"Obviously, you're aware that he's the best grass court player in the world at the moment," Henman said. "I think the way he has come through his five matches has been pretty effortless. I know that it's going to be my toughest test so far. Having said that, with the way I'm playing, I definitely feel I've got a good chance."

Even as he chases Bjorn Borg's modern record of five Wimbledon men's titles, Sampras is taking nothing for granted, despite two career victories over Henman. Sampras and Henman are friends who respect each other's ability.

Even though the crowd will be with Henman, Sampras is confident that he can win.

Besides, he wants to have some fun in an uncharacteristically rowdy atmosphere at Centre Court.

"It's going to be exciting out there," Sampras said. "I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we can play at a high level, so it's worthy of a good final -- I mean, a good semifinal."

Featured matches

Today's men's semifinals

Pete Sampras (1), U.S., vs. Tim Henman (12), Britain

Richard Krajicek (9), Netherlands, vs. Goran Ivanisevic (14), Croatia

Tomorrow's women's final

Jana Novotna (3), Czech Republic, vs. Nathalie Tauziat (16), France

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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