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Sharapova, Mauresmo win as rain hampers Wimbledon

7/1/2007 - Tennis

WIMBLEDON, England -- Maria Sharapova just wanted it to end.

Raindrops were falling, her opponent was complaining, and
Sharapova suddenly encountered some trouble as she tried to close
out her third-round match at Wimbledon.

Showers wiped out most action at the All England Club on
Saturday, and it was drizzling when 2004 champion Sharapova finally
finished her 6-3, 6-3 victory despite the animated protests of No.
26-seeded Ai Sugiyama that it was too slick to play.

"I was starting to get agitated. I saw the rain in the middle
of the second set, and I knew, if it keeps going, obviously the
grass is going to get wet," Sharapova said. "I didn't want it to
be too dangerous to play out there. But it worked out well in the
end."

Well, for her, anyway.

There was, not surprisingly, a different take on things from
Sugiyama, whose best showing in 15 Wimbledon appearances ended with
a loss to Sharapova in the quarterfinals three years ago.

"It was very wet at the end," Sugiyama said. "Last two games
were really slippery."

In the only other singles match completed, defending champion
Amelie Mauresmo beat No. 28 Mara Santangelo of Italy 6-1, 6-2 in 57
minutes to reach the fourth round.

Seven singles matches were suspended in
progress. The two-week tournament traditionally takes the middle Sunday off, and
while rain-created backlogs in the past forced organizers to
schedule matches on that day -- most recently in 2004 -- the
referee's office announced Saturday that wouldn't be necessary this
year, even though five of six days so far have been interrupted.

So three-time champion Venus Williams could have not one but two
sleepless nights pondering her second-set struggles against
71st-ranked Akiko Morigami of Japan. Williams won the first set 6-2
but was trailing 1-4 in the next when play was halted. The winner
meets Sharapova for a quarterfinal berth.

In other matches carried over to Monday, French Open runner-up
Ana Ivanovic, No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 11 Nadia Petrova, No.
12 Elena Dementieva and No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova each was up a set.

"These kind of days, you don't [want] to burn too much energy,
because you could [be] ready to play at 1 [p.m.], but go on the
court at 7 at night," Mauresmo said. "If you spend the whole day
stressed out, thinking, 'I'm going to go in five minutes,' this
could be a very long day and you could be exhausted in the end."

While the starts of her match and Sharapova's were delayed about
two hours, and action on smaller courts was pushed back twice as
long, rain sent umbrella-toting spectators scurrying to souvenir
shops. With no competition, a family of five ducks -- a mother and
her ducklings -- hung out at Court 5 until an animal care
organization was summoned to move them to a sanctuary south of
London.

Fans were kept abreast of the meteorological outlook by
announcements over loudspeakers around the grounds. After one
update, the disembodied voice intoned: "We appreciate your
patience on this frustrating day." When play was called off for
the day at 6:55 p.m., the voice closed by noting: "Once again, we
share your frustration with the British weather."

Sugiyama was rather disappointed by the way things wrapped up
against Sharapova on Court 1.

With Sharapova serving at 5-3, 40-love, she wasted her first
match point by double-faulting. Still one point from victory, the
reigning U.S. Open champion ended an 11-stroke exchange by hitting
a backhand that a line judge called long. Chair umpire Lynn Welch
overruled -- and a replay showed the ball was clearly in.

"It's the third call that the guy, you know, got wrong,"
Sharapova said. "You look at him, and he's wearing sunglasses. He
loses all credibility at that point."

Before they replayed the point, Sugiyama complained to Welch
that the match should be suspended. Welch climbed down to check the
turf, then ordered that they continue.

Eager to finish, Sharapova blew another chance by putting a
forehand into the net, but converted her third match point with a
forehand that gave her a 30-8 edge in winners. As the tarp was
pulled over the court, Sharapova hopped out of harm's way, and
Sugiyama resumed her discussion with Welch.

"It's her decision," Sugiyama said later. "I couldn't really
refuse to play."

Asked to consider what it might have been like to be in
Sugiyama's shoes in that situation, Sharapova replied, "I try not
to step in anyone's shoes, because I'm usually not their size."

The 6-foot-2 Russian served as well as she has all tournament,
reaching 114 mph and winning 34 of 47 points on her serve. It was a
strong sign of improvement in her troublesome right shoulder, which
needs about 2 1/2 hours of treatment each day, including acupuncture,
massage and ice.

"You name it, I do it," Sharapova said.

Mauresmo's serve was right on target, too: She hit 11 aces.
Playing serve-and-volley tennis more than half the time, she won
the point on 10 of 11 trips to the net in the first set.

"For me," Santangelo said, "she and [No. 1 Justine] Henin are
the ones who can aim for the title."