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Two matches to go

Capriati beats Serena Williams to advance to the semis.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 4, 2001

WIMBLEDON, England -- Jennifer Capriati slipped on a brown patch of grass and went sprawling as the ball bounced past on a critical point. She got back up, grabbed her racket and angrily slammed it to the turf.

Capriati's pursuit of a Grand Slam sweep nearly ended Tuesday with a stumble in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She blew the first set, double faulted in the clutch, yelled at herself and struggled to contain her annoyance regarding Serena Williams' latest malady.

But Capriati revived her career by learning how to cope with adversity, and two points from a straight-set defeat she staged another comeback to beat Williams 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 6-3.

"Never say die," Capriati said. "It makes it that much sweeter to actually come back and win a match like that."

Williams became uncharacteristically emotional discussing the defeat. She said she was weakened by a previously undisclosed stomach virus, which sent her trotting off the court briefly during the third set when she became ill.

"I honestly think I have bad luck. I went home after the French Open, and I worked really hard, only to have this setback," Williams said, her voice breaking and tears welling in her eyes. "It was pretty disappointing, as you can see."

Capriati, bothered by a sore buttock and mindful of Williams' tendency to blame defeats on health problems, offered no sympathy.

"Every time I play her, I'm pretty much used to something going on there," Capriati said. "I think I know the truth inside. I think most people do."

By winning her 19th consecutive Grand Slam match, Capriati reached the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time since 1991, when she was 15. She kept alive her bid for a sweep this year of all four major tournaments, which has been achieved by two men and three women, most recently Steffi Graf in 1988.

Capriati won the Australian Open in January and the French Open last month. The U.S. Open completes the slam season in September.

Her next hurdle is 19-year-old Justine Henin, who advanced by routing 1994 champion Conchita Martinez 6-1, 6-0.

The other semifinal Thursday is an all-American rematch of last year's final between Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport. Both looked impressive Tuesday, with Venus Williams, the defending champion, beating Nathalie Tauziat 7-5, 6-1 and Davenport sweeping French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters 6-1, 6-2.

The lineup for today's men's quarterfinals was completed when Tim Henman rallied to defeat Todd Martin 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. The match was suspended Monday after three sets because of darkness.

The interval proved to be a break for Henman on two counts. It allowed him to rest a sore back, which felt better Tuesday, and to break Martin's momentum.

Asked whether he would have won if the match could have been completed Monday night, Henman answered, "Who knows?"

"We'll never know that," he said. "Certainly, what momentum was there was with Todd at that stage. But I still felt like I had a good chance."

Martin wasn't bitter, although he was disappointed that he had been unable to finish what he'd started on the day he started it.

"I would never say it's unfair," he said. "However, it definitely affected the result of the match. In basketball, in football, you name it, any sport that's got a timeout, they call timeout to stop the momentum, and it lasts a minute, a minute and a half. For us, we've got a 19-, 20-hour timeout. You know, a lot can change over that period of time, and we saw that it did."

Henman plays Roger Federer, who upset No. 1 Pete Sampras on Monday, in today's quarterfinals. In other matches, Andre Agassi plays Nicolas Escude, Pat Rafter plays Thomas Enqvist and Marat Safin plays Goran Ivanisevic.

Capriati-Williams lived up to its billing as the day's showcase match. The Floridians waged a seesaw slugfest, with almost every game close as the quality of play swung wildly from awful to spectacular.

Serving for the first set at 5-4, Capriati double faulted three times, failed to convert three set points and lost the game. Her untimely tumble to the grass gave Williams a pivotal gift point for a 4-3 lead in the tiebreaker.

"I should have won the first set," Capriati said.

As the match moved into its second hour on a warm, sunny day, Williams began to clutch her stomach, and with a 3-2 lead in the second set she took a medical timeout and swigged Pepto-Bismol.

Williams said she had been nauseated and struggling to keep food down since Saturday. She described herself as a hypochondriac, which she defined incorrectly as "someone that is prone to get sick, prone to get hurt and injured. That's me."

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