news: Wimbledon

WEEK TWO of the All England Championships finally saw the arrival of the by now traditional sustained periods of rain. It was all too much for the record Russian presence in the quarter-finals of the women’s draw, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Myskina and Nadia Petrova, all succumbing while defending champion, Maria Sharapova, was left alone to fly the flag. She came up against a determined Venus Williams, absent from the top of the women’s game since winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. The American played her best tennis for a long time to stun Sharapova 7-6, 6-1, setting up a final against compatriot and No. 1 seed, Lindsay Davenport, who overcame Amelie Mauresmo’s spirited challenge 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. Williams’ bid for a third title seemed to be all but over at 4-6, 5-6, but the gritty New Yorker once again dug deep to first level the match in a second set tie breaker, and then take the third 9-7. At two hours and 45 minutes, this was the longest women’s final ever and probably one of the best to grace the centre court.

In the men’s draw, world No. 1 and winner of this tournament the past two years, Roger Federer, continued his relentless march towards a third successive crown, a feat last achieved by Pete Sampras 10 years ago. Gonzalez was dispatched 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 in the quarters, before the Swiss hit top form to blow away Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in their semi-final. Facing him in a repeat of the 2004 title showdown was Queen’s champion Andy Roddick. The American had survived a marathon 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 encounter with Sebastian Grosjean before overcoming Thomas Johansson by virtue of two tight tie breakers that just went his way. He already wore the look of a man doomed as he squared up to the imperious Swiss, giving up the first set 2-6. The second went to a tie break: Federer 7-2. Rain interrupted play before he went on to claim his third title 6-4.

At this rate, Federer looks unbeatable for many years to come, unless clay court king, Rafael Nadal, can adapt his game to other surfaces. American hopes of regaining dominance of the men’s game rest with 15-year-old Donald Young. The 5ft. 9in. junior world No. 1 from Chicago only lost out at the semi-final stage of the boys competition, which was won by French 18-year-old Jeremy Chardy, who blew away Holland’s Robin Haase 6-4, 6-3.