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Palmer plays today in men's doubles final

By DARRELL FRY and Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 7, 2001

WIMBLEDON, England -- Tampa's Jared Palmer plays in one of the featured matches on Centre Court today.

Palmer, who has battled an assortment of injuries over the years, and partner Donald Johnson take on Jiri Novak and David Rikl in the men's doubles final.

Palmer and Johnson have struggled in just about every match, going to four or five sets in each round. As the fourth seed, they are slight underdogs to Novak and Rikl, seeded third.

Johnson and Palmer, who have played together for four months, are trying to become the first all-U.S. team to win the men's doubles title at Wimbledon since Rick Leach and Jim Pugh in 1990.

Novak and Rikl are the fourth all-Czech pairing to play in a Grand Slam doubles final in the Open era, and the first at Wimbledon. None of the previous three pairs won. At the French Open last month, Czechs Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner lost to Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes in the final.

The match comes after the resumption of the Tim Henman-Goran Ivanisevic semifinal and the women's singles final between Venus Williams and Justine Henin.

NO FEAR: With all due respect to Ivanisevic and Henman, Patrick Rafter likes his chances in Sunday's final.

With seven-time champion Pete Sampras gone, Rafter believes he has a better shot this year than last, when he lost to Sampras in the final.

"I guess you feel like you're more of a contender now," Rafter said of himself. "With Pete, you might be 40 on, 60 off. Now you're definitely a 50-50 opportunity. That's always a nice feeling going into the final."

MOVING ON UP: Jennifer Capriati lost her chance to win Wimbledon and the Grand Slam this year with her semifinal loss to Henin, but she could have something to cheer about at the end of the weekend. After slumping to as low as No. 267 in the rankings, the 25-year-old will ascend to a career high when the updated list is released Monday. She could be as high as No. 2, behind Martina Hingis. For that to happen, defending champion Williams, now ranked No. 2, must lose to Henin today. Even if Williams wins, though, Capriati will rise to a career-high No. 3. Lindsay Davenport, who lost to Williams in a semifinal, will drop from No. 3 to No. 4 whatever happens in the final.

ONE FLEW OVER CENTRE COURT: Jack Nicholson, in attendance with Lara Flynn Boyle, wandered around the All England Club before going to Centre Court to watch Rafter's victory. Nicholson and Boyle did some shopping and carried bags full of Wimbledon merchandise. BRITISH SKIES: The tournament uncharacteristically has seen virtually no rain this year, but that could change today. The London forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of afternoon showers, which could become heavy.

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