Final American exits in 4th round

U.S. shut out of quarterfinals for first time since 1911

Wimbledon

July 04, 2006|By CHARLES BRICKER | CHARLES BRICKER,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

WIMBLEDON, England -- Shenay Perry yesterday had to deal with the nervousness of being on a show court, playing No. 7 seed Elena Dementieva with a throbbing knee and knowing she was the last American left in either Wimbledon draw.

"Yesterday, I didn't really pay attention," she said of her unsought celebrity status as the final U.S. player standing at Wimbledon. And then, she added: "I think it got to me a little bit. I didn't handle it as well as I would have liked."

It was the first time the United States was shut out of the Wimbledon singles quarterfinals in nearly a century. At least one U.S. player had reached the men's or women's quarterfinals at every Wimbledon since 1911, when zero women from the country and three men entered the tournament. This year, nine men and 14 women from the United States were in the singles draws, including Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams.

This is also the first time at any Grand Slam tournament since the 1976 Australian Open that no U.S. man or woman reached the quarterfinals.

Even before Perry walked onto Court 3, where she would lose the last 10 games in a 6-2, 6-0 pasting, USTA coach Ola Malmqvist sensed she wasn't ready for this fourth-round match.

She connected for an early overhead, but her signature aggressiveness was so absent she hit only one ground-stroke winner in the match.

"If I could explain how nervous I was, I don't think anyone could feel how I felt on court. I think it's easier looking in saying I wasn't aggressive. But, to me, I know I can play to my potential. Today wasn't there," she said. "She played really well and there's not too much I can do about it."

Already out of the doubles, Perry is going home today to find some relief, however temporary, from the osteochondritis in her knee, and get ready for the U.S. hardcourt circuit leading up to the U.S. Open.

The knee is a Catch-22. An operation, she said, would mean a year off tour and there's no guarantee, doctors have told her, that it would cure her problem. If she rests, the knee gets better, but she loses her match toughness.

She began the tournament at No. 62 and she'll get a major bounce from this fourth-round finish, pushing her into top 50 for the first time.

In other matches, Amelie Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Maria Sharapova whisked into the quarterfinals of a wide-open women's Wimbledon.

By the end of a hot, historic and rancorous day, the only thing wide-open in the men's tournament was the festering unpleasantness between five-set loser Dmitry Tursunov and chair umpire Fergus Murphy.

"Maybe it's something personal now because I've argued with him during my matches," the big, blond, California-based Russian huffed. "But I think he's terrible. He never makes an overrule and then, as you saw, gives me a point penalty at 8-7.

"Four hours on court doesn't seem to be reason enough for him to be more lenient. You know, if the guy's an idiot, the guy's an idiot. I'm going to let him know that I feel that."

And evidently he did. At the end of this 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (6), 9-7 loss to the swift Finn Jarkko Nieminen, Tursunov first walked past Murphy's chair, as if declining to shake his hand.

Then, he abruptly turned and extended his hand and, when Murphy took it, Tursunov pulled downward before letting go, then shook a finger in Murphy's face.

There had been a great number of calls questioned by both players in this fourth-round odyssey and when Tursunov was broken at 7-8 in the final set, so was his calmness. He slammed a ball that struck the umpire's chair.

It was Murphy's judgment, said Tursunov, that he was trying to hit him with the ball and so, when the players moved into position to start the final game, the Irish umpire, who has achieved gold card status, declared 15-love.

Nieminen looked perplexed. "What could I do?" he asked rhetorically. His victory thrust him into his second Grand Slam quarterfinal after making the last eight at the 2005 U.S. Open, and he'll now play No. 2 Rafael Nadal for a spot in the semifinals.

Top-seeded Roger Federer, not impressed with his performance against sore-shouldered Tomas Berdych, won, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, to lead a tide that also brought in No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 7 Mario Ancic, No. 14 Radek Stepanek, Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis and Jonas Bjorkman, who defeated his doubles partner, Max Mirnyi, in five sets.

The men will take today off as the women get down to the last four and the top seeds all are playing well enough to raise the trophy Saturday.

Sharapova's 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 victory over Flavia Pennetta produced the first lost set by any of the top four seeds, but that doesn't diminish her chances.

As the 2004 Wimbledon winner, that's her edge among the quarterfinalists. She'll next play Dementieva.

Henin-Hardenne, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Daniela Hantuchova, has had a dream draw with none of her four wins exceeding 65 minutes in duration.

Charles Bricker writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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