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Serena buries Henin to reach Wimbledon final

Swinging so hard she lost an ear-ring, Serena Williams won her rematch against Justine Henin-Hardenne and advanced on Thursday to the Wimbledon final.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2003 21:39 IST

Swinging so hard she lost an earring, Serena Williams won her rematch against Justine Henin-Hardenne and advanced on Thursday to the Wimbledon final.

With the 6-3, 6-2 victory, Williams avenged her traumatic lost to Henin-Hardenne in the French Open semifinals four weeks ago. French fans jeered Williams and cheered her mistakes, but the Centre Court crowd at Wimbledon had only applause for the defending champion.

She'll play for another title on Saturday against her sister Venus or Kim Clijsters, who were scheduled to meet later Thursday.

If Williams needed any other motivation against Henin-Hardenne, there was this: A loss would have ended her one-year reign atop the rankings, with Clijsters overtaking her for No. 1.

The start of the first semifinal was delayed 2 hours by rain, but when play finally began, Williams was ready. She came out hitting so ferociously that by the second game the huge hoop earring on her left ear was gone — albeit only temporarily.

The force of her strokes sometimes sent her airborne, and several times she let out a jubilant shriek after winning a point. Despite Williams' aggressiveness, her play was remarkably error-free.

The rallies were often long and vigorous, as the speedy Henin-Hardenne kept chasing down shots that would elude most players.

But Williams' power took a toll. One long exchange early in the second set left Henin-Hardenne panting, and she then double faulted to lose the game.

And when Henin-Hardenne tried coming to the net, Williams repeatedly passed her, often on the run.

French fans booed Williams when she brusquely shook hands with Henin-Hardenne following their match in Paris. This time Williams greeted the Belgian at the net with a grin, a firm handshake and a conciliatory pat on the shoulder.

In Henin-Hardenne's first two service game, Williams had six break points and converted two as she took a 4-0 lead. They played 22 minutes before Henin-Hardenne won a game. Then she won two more to make it 4-3.

When Williams slammed a winner to finish off one 18-stroke exchange, she screamed, "C'mon!" She let out an emotional yelp when she broke for a 5-3 lead, then held serve, closing out the set when Henin-Hardenne sailed an errant forehand to end a 13-shot rally.

Williams fell into a love-40 hole serving in the second game of the final set, then dug out by winning five consecutive points, the last with a leaping overhead winner again accompanied by a yelp.

She easily held serve from there and broke for a 5-2 lead, screaming "Yes!" as Henin-Hardenne's lob flew long on break point.

Partly cloudy skies were a welcome change after rain prevented any matches from being completed Wednesday.

Mark Philippoussis endured rain delays and erased a two-set deficit Wednesday before dampness and darkness forced the suspension of his quarterfinal match against Alexander Popp. The unseeded Philippoussis was serving and holding a two-point lead, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 2-2, 30-0.

No. 10-seeded Tim Henman, trying to become the first Englishman to win Wimbledon since 1936, trailed No. 13 Sebastien Grosjean 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-3, 1-2. Henman rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the opening set and held four set points in the tiebreaker but couldn't convert them.

Outside Centre Court, on the terrace nicknamed Henman Hill, thousands of fans followed Henman's match — and the delays — on a huge television screen.

"We had thunder and lightning at one point, and the British don't move," said Bill Henry of Bath. "We just sat there and suffered. Watching Henman, we're suffering anyway."

Still, fans wanted to see the finish. The Centre Court crowd groaned when tournament referee Alan Mills halted play for the final time.

"It's too slippery, and there's fading light," Mills told the chair umpire and players. "That's it for tonight."

The unseeded Philippoussis, who tied a tournament record with 46 aces in his fourth-round upset of Andre Agassi, had 26 against Popp when play was stopped. Philippoussis is trying to overcome a two-set deficit for the fourth time in his career.

The other quarterfinals were postponed until Thursday. No. 5 Andy Roddick was scheduled to play unseeded Jonas Bjorkman, and No. 4 Roger Federer was to play No. 8 Sjeng Schalken.

The postponement was a break for Schalken, giving him an extra day to recover from an infection in his left foot. "I'm really glad that we play in England," Schalken said.

"I'm very happy it rained today, because today I would have had to play with injections. My foot is getting better for sure."

First Published: Jul 03, 2003 20:56 IST