The rain continued, with occasional showers diluting the tears spent both on and off the court. England’s one remaining hope in the men’s competition, Tim Henman, seemed to be cruising until joining his fellow countrymen in Portugal in an untimely quarter-final exit. This time around it was not the umpire but an unseeded big-serving Croat, Mario Ancic, who silenced the ‘Hen-mania’ on centre court. A straight sets 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 win for the 20-year old 6’ 5” surprise packet meant that English hopes would have to wait at least another year.
Meanwhile, the No1 and No2 seeds, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, eased into the semi-finals with the aforementioned Ancic and No10 seed Sebastian Grosjean providing the cannon fodder. The latter tried, but was comprehensively outplayed by the Swiss World No.1, going down 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. Ancic had no intention of lying down and the much rain-interrupted encounter saw each player take a set before rain stopped play once more, with the matchfinely balanced in the third. But Roddick was not to be denied, taking the final two sets 7-5, 7-5.
In the final, Federer dropped the first set to his hard-hitting American rival, but came roaring back to successfully defend his title taking the match 4-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6-4. This is Federer’s third Grand Slam title and the Swiss is now unbeaten on grass in 24 games.
A glimpse of hope emerged for Britain in the shape of Miles Kasiri, who became the first Briton in 34 years to reach the junior final. He faced Gael Monfils, the winner of the Australian and French titles this year.
In the ladies event, two teenagers provided some refreshing alternatives to the old guard. Croatia’s Karolina Sprem, 19, made it to the quarter-final stage with some exciting tennis, while Russian beauty, Maria Sharapova, 17, became the first of her country to reach the final since 1974. The heir apparent of Kournikova in the glamour stakes, Sharapova is ranked 15 in the world, hails from the frozen wastes of Siberia, but has lived in Florida since she was seven. In between her studies and signing a modelling contract, the six foot blonde won the warm-up tournament in Birmingham. Last Saturday, she faced former World No1, Serena Williams, who had brushed her opponents aside, until almost slipping up against Amelie Mauresmo in the semis, coming through 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 after an almighty struggle.
Sharapova proved to be unfazed by her illustrious opponent, providing the biggest shock in women’s tennis since the open era began by overpowering the former champion 6-1, 6-4 in less than an hour. A new star has been born on the genteel lawns of SW19.
Martina Navratilova continued her love affair with Wimbledon by reaching the women’s doubles semi-final before bowing out – probably for the last time.
The 47-year-old has also had her Olympic starting place confirmed by the ITF, making her the oldest player ever to compete in tennis in the history of the modern games. Previous record-holders were Blanche Hilliard, 44, at the 1908 event in London and 46-year-old Australian Norman Brookes who competed in Paris in 1924.
Spain’s Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario will become another record-breaker by making Athens her fifth Olympics. The 32-year old former World No1 has won four medals in previous years and will take part in the doubles alongside Annabel Medina this time around.