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Rain stalls Federer's run

Venus Williams strides into the semifinals of Wimbledon as it is Roger Federer's turn to get bogged down in the rain.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, London
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2007 06:43 PM IST

Venus Williams strode into the semi-finals of Wimbledon on Thursday when it was world number one Roger Federer's turn to get bogged down in the rain.

Schedulers let out a collective sigh of relief when the four outstanding men's fourth round ties were completed, lessening the chances of a Monday finale but drizzle returned to halt Federer's quarter-final against Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The Swiss four-times champion sat out the mayhem of the past four days thanks to a fourth-round walkover against Tommy Haas and had not struck a ball in anger for nearly a week.

Even the best player in the world, however, cannot walk on water and he was sent dashing for cover at 5-5 in the first set before play was abandoned.

Andy Roddick's last eight meeting with Frenchman Richard Gasquet did not even get on court meaning show court fans on Friday can look forward to all four men's quarter-finals and the women's semi-finals.

"At the moment we can finish on Sunday and that is what we plan to do, but obviously that can change," under-fire tournament referee Andrew Jarrett said.

Amid all the doom and gloom Williams earlier proclaimed that she, in fact, was a big fan of the rain.

The American, three times a champion here, made a mockery of her 23rd seeding with a 6-3 6-4 defeat of fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, a day after wiping the floor with Maria Sharapova.

"Rain is good for me," she said. "I feel like I achieve clarity actually when it rains.

"The longer I have to sit and wait the clearer my game becomes to me."

Bubbly Serb

Her focus will now be on bubbly Serb Ana Ivanovic after she saved three match points in overcoming fellow teenager Nicole Vaidisova 4-6 6-2 7-5 in the last quarter-final.

The 19-year-old French Open runner-up is the darling of the WTA Tour at the moment and endeared herself to the fans on her first appearance on Centre Court.

"I still probably haven't realised what happened," she said. "It was an unbelievable match."

In the men's fourth round there were comfortable wins for Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and Czech Tomas Berdych but second seed Rafael Nadal was forced to go the distance again while Novak Djokovic took more than four hours to squeeze past 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 7-6 4-6 7-6.

It looked like the mental and physical energy spent beating Robin Soderling in a third round slog spanning three rainy days had taken its toll on Nadal when Russian Mikhail Youzhny came out firing on Court Two to build a two-set lead.

Youzhny, who beat Nadal in last year's U.S. Open, was hampered by a back injury after losing the third set and Nadal steamed to a 4-6 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory.

"After the first two sets maybe I played the best game on grass in my life," said Nadal.

The irrepressible Spaniard is back in action on Friday against Berdych after the Czech reached his first grand slam quarter-final by beating 35-year-old Swede Jonas Bjorkman 6-4 6-0 6-7 6-0.

At one stage in the third set Bjorkman blew up at umpire James Keothavong after an overrule on a Berdych serve, branding him "absolutely useless".

Cypriot Baghdatis was all smiles with a merry band of fans out on Court 13 while beating Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 7-6 6-3.

Beating Djokovic will be a tall order, however, after the 20-year-old from Belgrade again showed his mettle to win three tiebreaks against the dogged Hewitt. Crucially he nicked the first one after saving three set points.

"If it had gone to a fifth it would have been one of the longest matches in the history of tennis," joked Djokovic, whose main worry is a sore lower back that required treatment.

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