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Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Wimbledon Notebook: Federer becomes instant hero in Switzerland

July 4, 2001

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Roger Federer, the 19-year-old who ousted seven-time champion Pete Sampras from the tournament, is getting the royal treatment back home in Switzerland.

"Federer is one of the big guys now," said the mass-circulation daily Blick in a front page headline Tuesday.

Federer's Centre Court debut at the All England Club was a childhood dream come true and went perfectly except for one thing the teen-ager forgot the traditional bow to the Royal Box.

Federer comes from the picturesque northern Swiss city of Basel. "Sensational Federer breaks the Sampras spell," said his home town daily Basler Zeitung, devoting three pages to its rising star.

This isn't the first time he has made headlines this year. In February, he led Switzerland over the United States in a Davis Cup match.

Most Swiss newspapers carried a photograph on the front page of Federer dropping to his knees to celebrate and then rolling on his side.

But the Lausanne daily Le Matin appeared to sound a note of caution. "Federer hasn't won Wimbledon yet," it said in an editorial. "The road to the final is still a long one."

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Adios Conchita: Former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez would like to forget Tuesday's quarterfinal, a 6-1, 6-0 hammering by Belgian 19-year-old Justine Henin.

"I think it was one of the worst days of my life ... playing tennis," she said. "You know, nothing was working for me. I mean, she played well but I didn't do much out there."

"I don't feel humiliated. I feel mad with myself. But you have these days. There's nothing I can do now just move on.

One of Martinez's problems on the serve was her ball toss, which hardly gets higher than a foot above her shoulders.

"I've been trying to rectify that for almost a year now," she said. "I've been serving pretty good in the other matches, so it's frustrating when you get out there and the ball toss doesn't go."

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Bad tennis: British tennis is so bad that the government is stepping in with plans to improve things.

Fred Perry in 1936 is the last British man to win Wimbledon, and the last woman champion was Virginia Wade in 1977. Tim Henman is the only surviving player. All of the British women were out early last week.

Britain's new sports minister, Richard Caborn, is promising about $1.12 million in new funding to state and private schools to promote the game.

"There are 140,000 youngsters playing competitively in France and only 18,000 here," he said. "If we don't build the base you don't get the success."

Richard Williams, the father of Serena and defending Wimbledon champion Venus, has criticized British tennis authorities for doing little to break the elite image of the game in Britain and attract players from "the other side of the tracks."

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Good for tennis: Venus and Serena Williams may be controversial, but Lindsay Davenport believes they are good for tennis.

"They've been probably the best thing that's happened to tennis," she said. "I mean, everything that they say or even that dad (Richard) says ... you guys have a heart attack about and write it all over the place."

"They give us so much exposure. They create all this drama for the sport. ... I think people are so intrigued by it that it's still helping the women's game tremendously."

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Wheelchair Wimbledon: Wheelchair tennis players will get their first chance Saturday to play at Wimbledon.

Four of Britian's top players will give a demonstration Saturday on Court 14, one of the outside courts at the All England Club. Britain has six of the top 20 players in the world rankings.

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Love Russia: Tennis is growing in Russia, according to U.S. Open champion Marat Safin, who reached the quarterfinals by beating Arnaud Clement 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.

"We are doing well because we finally have the possibilities to play, the facilities to practice in Russia," he said. "We have coaches, balls, rackets. We can do whatever we want and it is great. Once the players had no money for them at all, no racket contracts. We had to play with rackets we didn't like and that is very hard to do.

"Then Yevgeny Kafelnikov won the French Open in Paris and it changed everything in Russia. Everybody started playing tennis. Everybody enjoyed it and the money is now there."

Safin, by the way, lives in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

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