At Wimbledon, nail-biting time arrives

2nd week: classic tales of suspense

July 03, 2000|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- Will the Williams sisters take over Wimbledon?

Is Mark Philippoussis tough enough to knock off a British star en route to becoming the new grass-court king?

And can Pete Sampras overcome injury to make history?

These are the questions that may dominate Wimbledon, which resumes today on grass courts growing ever more scarred after an opening week of fair weather and stormy tennis.

Great tournaments, like great matches, build slowly. This Wimbledon is no exception, as the sport's most important stage is left to the game's captivating stars who have taken their appointed places in a draw narrowing in focus and tension.

You want drama? It's everywhere.

Take a look at the top of the women's draw.

There, No. 1-seeded Martina Hingis, who meets No. 11 Anke Huber in today's round of 16, faces the daunting prospect of having to beat the Williams sisters to get to the final.

Lying in wait for Hingis in a potential quarterfinal is No. 5 Venus Williams, with No. 8 Serena Williams due up in the semifinals.

The Williams sisters -- who themselves could meet in the semifinals -- have been a revelation at this year's Wimbledon, using their power and savvy to come to grips with the grass-court game.

"It was my No. 1 goal to win Wimbledon now," Serena Williams said. "I like the grass. It suits my game. I have a fast-paced game. I have a nice serve. I can serve and volley. I can stay at the baseline. I have an overall game. I think this is the surface for me."

Venus Williams has shown she has recovered from a wrist injury that left her sidelined for months and prompted Internet chat that she might quit.

"I read it on the Internet first, said, `Oh, wow, something else,' " Venus Williams said. "My life has been a saga."

Still searching for a Grand Slam title to match her sister's victory at the U.S. Open, Venus Williams has apparently come to realize that Wimbledon offers her a special opportunity. While a parade of past champions gathered on Centre Court Saturday, Venus Williams was at practice.

"I thought to myself, `If I had just been serious and I had won this tournament, I could have been out there, too,' " she said. "But it's too late."

Reigning champion Lindsay Davenport made the parade and stayed in the tournament. Slowed by a back injury earlier this year, she has steadily improved at this year's championships, and faces an intriguing fourth-round match today against one-time teen star Jennifer Capriati.

Reunited with her father as coach and displaying new-found eagerness, Capriati is trying to regain the glory of her first Wimbledon, in 1991, when she reached the semifinals.

She said her main objective is to "fulfill myself in the tennis. Money and all that doesn't really matter to me."

No. 10 men's seed Philippoussis is another player who has missed opportunities during his career. With his big serves and reach, he has long lived with the tag of potential Wimbledon champion. He nearly sent Sampras out of last year's tournament, when he was up a set, but sustained a leg injury and was forced to retire from the quarterfinal match.

On Saturday, he displayed heart and fire in outlasting Sjeng Schalken in a five-set, 5-hour, 5-minute epic.

With a new tennis brain trust, which includes Boris Becker, and a new attitude, Philippoussis has played riveting tennis here. But today, he'll have to deal with hometown favorite, eighth-seeded Tim Henman, a two-time semifinalist bidding to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

The top of the draw is Sampras and a not-so-magnificent seven that includes one other seed (No. 9 Thomas Enqvist), a bright young American hope (Jan-Michael Gambill) and an aging Italian left-hander (Gianluca Pozzi).

Today, Jonas Bjorkman takes on Sampras, for whom tennis has literally become a pain. With tendinitis in his left shin, he has ditched practice for the trainer's room.

"I'm going to give it whatever I have, do the best I can," Sampras said. "I don't know if that's going to be good enough."

One thing is certain, Sampras said: "I'm here to complete the tournament, win or lose."

Feature matches

(Seeds in parentheses) Today's men's singles

Pete Sampras (1), United States, vs. Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden.

Tim Henman (8), Britain, vs. Mark Philippoussis (10), Australia.

David Prinosil, Germany, vs. Andre Agassi (2), United States.

Thomas Johansson, Sweden, vs. Patrick Rafter (12), Australia

Today's women's singles

Jennifer Capriati, United States, vs. Lindsay Davenport (2), United States.

Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Anke Huber (11), Germany.

Monica Seles (6), United States, vs. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (9), Spain.

Sabine Appelmans, Belgium, vs. Venus Williams (5), United States.

Tamarine Tanasugarn, Thailand, vs. Serena Williams (8), United States.

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