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Henman Does His Best to Give England a Lift

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even though Petr Korda was the one with an injured left ankle in his quarterfinal match, he was not cast in heroic terms here Wednesday.

This is England. And Korda is from the Czech Republic.

Tim Henman had to be the hero for a rattled country. Brave, plucky Tim, and all that, pulling the nation back from the brink with his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the third-seeded Korda, making Henman the first British male to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since Roger Taylor in 1973.

At least for a few minutes, the focus shifted back to tennis in England in the aftermath of the loss to Argentina in the World Cup on Tuesday.

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“It was a huge disappointment for everyone,” Henman said. “I didn’t want to continue that trend, and so I was keen to win.”

Henman is a friendly sort, and modest, so he wasn’t willing to second the notion his victory would boost morale in England. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “That’s the best I can do.”

His showing was impressive against the Australian Open champion; the 12th-seeded Henman did not face a break point on his serve. But the semifinal task ahead of Henman is formidable: top-seeded Pete Sampras, the defending champion.

Sampras was ruthlessly efficient against big-serving Mark Philippoussis of Australia, winning, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4, and not losing his serve once.

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“There’s not a lot to talk about [today],” Sampras said. “I was serving well. At this level, as hard as we’re hitting the ball on a court this quick, it’s going to come down to a couple of points.”

Although Sampras has had a mixed 1998, he said he expected to regain his footing on the Wimbledon grass.

Clearly, Sampras is in a comfort zone at Wimbledon. He won in 1993, ’94, ’95 and ’97, and is 37-1 here in that span, his only loss coming to Richard Krajicek in the 1996 quarterfinals.

In Wednesday’s other quarterfinal matches, the ninth-seeded Krajicek, of the Netherlands, ended the run of Wimbledon rookie Davide Sanguinetti of Italy, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

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Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion, will play two-time finalist Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia in the other semifinal. The 14th-seeded Ivanisevic defeated Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands, 7-6 (12-10), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6).

Ivanisevic was asked what it would mean to him if Croatia won the World Cup and he won Wimbledon.

“Geez, I don’t know,” he said. “It would be great. I think the whole country will be drunk for the rest of the year, including me and the rest of the team. I would put rackets in the closet and just come next year.”


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