Men's semis suspended due to rain

Updated: July 2, 2004, 6:58 PM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- Yawn.

A day after a pair of enthralling, three-set women's semifinals enlivened Wimbledon, unrelenting rain and uneven matchups conspired to produce a dreary Friday on which neither men's semifinal was completed.

When play was stopped at 7:15 p.m., defending champion and top-seeded Roger Federer held a 6-2, 6-3, 4-3 edge against No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean. No. 2 Andy Roddick led 63rd-ranked Mario Ancic 6-4, 4-3, 30-40 in the other semifinal, originally slated to follow Federer-Grosjean on Centre Court but moved to Court 1 in hopes of getting it in.

At 8 p.m., when tournament officials decided to call it a day, Roddick scurried to a car waiting for him right outside the club's gate.

The semifinals will resume at noon Saturday, which also features the women's final between two-time defending champion Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

"I've just been enjoying the moment," said the 17-year-old Sharapova, the third-youngest women's finalist in tournament history. "Every time I think about it -- that I'm in the final -- it's an amazing feeling, like it gives me goose bumps."

She earned her way into the title match by coming back from a set and 3-1 down to beat 1999 champion Lindsay Davenport 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 Thursday. Williams erased the exact same deficit to beat Amelie Mauresmo 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, reaching her first Grand Slam final since Aug. 1 knee surgery.

"I still have those competitive juices and the desire," Williams said Friday. "That's something you wonder if you will still have, of course. Still have it."

This may be all new to Sharapova, but Williams has grown accustomed to playing in major finals: Saturday's will be her eighth. And Williams has grown accustomed to facing her older sister Venus. Each of Serena's last six Slam finals were all-in-the-family affairs, dating to the 2001 U.S. Open.

"I definitely wish she was here," Serena said. "And I definitely wish that I'd be ready to fight her in the final."

The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that packs the men's semifinals and women's final into one day, billing it as Super Saturday. The best alliterative nickname around these parts is, of course, Wet Wimbledon. And this has been among the rainiest fortnights on record. Two days were completely washed out last week, forcing play on the middle Sunday for only the third time in 127 years.

Organizers scrambled again Friday, postponing the women's doubles semifinals and shifting players from one court to another. Defending doubles champion Jonas Bjorkman yawned as he walked through the players' restaurant, waiting to find out when -- and where -- his semifinal would begin.

Nearby, people dozed on couches in the players' lounge while TVs showed Jimmy Connors playing John McEnroe in the 1982 Wimbledon final, the last time the Nos. 1 and 2 seeded men met for the title.

Federer and Roddick appeared headed for another such showdown, although there were few fireworks Friday. The conditions didn't help. Courts were slippery and choppy; Roddick twice tamped down patches of turf the way a golfer fixes a divot. The wind made balls dance and ruffled players' shirts and shorts.

Roddick didn't manage his first ace until his eighth service game, because the 6-foot-5 Ancic repeatedly used his reach to block back serves topping 140 mph. When Roddick did record a 145 mph ace, Ancic questioned the call.

Roddick followed with a double-fault, then added two more aces to lead 4-2 in the second set. About 10 minutes later, Roddick put a backhand into the net, giving the Croat a break point.

That's when play was halted. Roddick put his palms up as if to ask, "Really? Why now?" Fans booed. They were cheering loudly 68 minutes earlier, when the chair umpire announced: "Prepare to play, please."

Roddick broke once in each set, including to 5-4 in the first. That game ended with a spectacular exchange: Roddick hit three backhands that Ancic blocked with reflex backhand volleys, then Roddick smacked a fourth backhand for a passing winner.

In the next game, Roddick saved two break points, then closed the set with a forehand winner from 3 feet behind the baseline. He rocked back and yelled, "Whoa!"

Another forehand passing shot put Roddick up a break at 3-2 in the second set; he has yet to lose a set.

Grosjean didn't lose a set until facing Federer, who was just too good Friday from the first point, played at 1:03 p.m., to the last. It took more than six hours to squeeze in 1½ hours of tennis, with the players twice coming out to warm up before being sent back to the locker room during a 4-hour, 42-minute rain delay.

That came after 23 minutes of play, with Federer up a break and serving at 3-2, 40-30. The tarps went on, then off, then on, then off, and fans kept occupied by doing the occasional wave. A ball boy helped while away the time by singing a cappella.

Federer dropped just four points on his serve in the second set -- two on double-faults -- and drew applause from Grosjean for a brilliant forehand passing shot.

There wasn't much else to get excited about Friday.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press