Philippoussis reaches final in imposing fashion

Mark Philippoussis put two years of injury hell behind him on Friday, beating Sebastien Grosjean to reach the men's singles final.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2003 19:27 IST

Mark Philippoussis of Australia put two years of injury hell behind him on Friday, beating France's Sebastien Grosjean 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-3 to reach the men's singles final at Wimbledon for the first time in his career.

The 26-year-old from Melbourne won in just 1hr 56min and now meets either US fifth seed Andy Roddick or Swiss fourth seed Roger Federer in Sunday's trophy match.

Philippoussis, the eighth Australian man to reach the final in the Open Era and looking to succeed compatriot Lleyton Hewitt as champion, spent almost three months in a wheelchair two seasons ago and missed all of the 2001 season as well as almost half of last season.

Having endured that living hell the world number 48 said he could hardly realise what he had achieved after a forehand winner closed matters out on his third match point.

"I am not really feeling much. Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet. But I'm feeling pretty good," Philippoussis told BBC television.

"The only thing I was looking for was just to stay healthy. There was no way I was thinking about the second week. I was just thinking about playing good, solid grasscourt tennis.

"It feels like I've been away for six years," he said of his injury nightmare.

"I don't think Sebastien played his best tennis today and I took advantage of that - I tried to keep the pressure on," said the Australian.

Queen's Club finalist Grosjean, only the third Frenchman to reach the last four at Wimbledon in the Open era dating back to 1968, fired way long on a big Philippoussis serve on the opening point - a sign of things to come.

Five straight games flashed by without a point against either man's serve and a tiebreak swiftly materialised.

The 13th seed Grosjean, who ended the aspirations of Britain's perennial nearly man Tim Henman in the quarters, then fired into the net as Philippoussis took the set in 46min on his first set point after taking three straight points against his rival's serve to recover from a minibreak against him at 2-3.

In the second set, the burly Aussie made a dream start with a break in the opening game on his second break point - but he then had to stave off Grosjean's first break point of the match in the fourth game before a seventh ace took him out to 3-1, despite some lower-powered serves.

Grosjean produced only his second ace in saving a break point to hold for 2-4 but in Philippoussis, nicknamed Scud for his massive serve which has produced 164 aces in his six matches to date, he was meeting a player desperate to keep an appointment with destiny.

Philippoussis, US Open runner-up in 1998, led Pete Sampras, who was then in his prime, by a set in the 1999 quarter-finals but then had to withdraw with a cartilege tear in his left knee.

That injury required surgery and a further operation came in January 2000 before a renewed bout in March 2001.

But over the past fortnight he has once again shown himself to be a major threat and finally ended his Wimbledon last eight hoodoo by seeing off German Alexander Popp in a marathon five-setter to make his first semi after quarter-final exits in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Grosjean aced his way out of trouble to hold for 3-4 but then blasted wide on set point in his next service game and slumped into his chair.

The third set went with serve to 3-3 before Grosjean eked out only his second break point of the entire match.

His opponent promptly aced away the danger and held before romping through the final two games.

Whereas Grosjean made the final, Philippoussis ironically was a first-round loser at Queen's Club - proving that warm-up form means little when a player has years of frustration to put behind him.

First Published: Jul 04, 2003 19:24 IST