WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Now Roger Federer has a taste of what Rafael Nadal and plenty of others have been going through at this wettest of Wimbledons.
Off for nearly a week, four-time reigning champion Federer finally returned to the court Thursday for his quarterfinal against 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. After 37 minutes and less than a set, drizzles forced them to stop – and more than three hours later, everyone was sent home for the day.
“Unfortunately,” came the evening announcement over loudspeakers around the All England Club, “the rain in the air and the fading light mean that it’s now unrealistic for us to resume.”
What’s still not entirely clear is how realistic it is that Wimbledon will finish by Sunday, although organizers are optimistic about the singles tournaments. That’s because all remaining men’s fourth-round matches were completed Thursday – with No. 2 Nadal, No. 4 Novak Djokovic, No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis winning – as were the two remaining women’s quarterfinals – with three-time champion Venus Williams and No. 6 Ana Ivanovic advancing.
“Consequently, we should be able to finish the singles … on time,” tournament referee Andrew Jarrett said at day’s end.
Still, the schedule already is a jumble, thanks to rain on nine of the grass-court Grand Slam’s 10 days. Today’s forecast calls for more showers.
The women’s semifinals – Williams vs. Ivanovic, and No. 1 Justine Henin vs. No. 18 Marion Bartoli – are slated for today, a day later than usual. The men’s quarterfinals also are on today’s program, two days later than they were supposed to be. And instead of the women’s final getting its customary moment in the spotlight as the only singles match Saturday, it will share the day with the men’s semifinals.
Weather permitting, of course.
“It’s boring, I guess. That’s the way it is,” said Baghdatis, a 2006 Wimbledon semifinalist who beat No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3. “We have to find a way to get through. That’s life. That’s what I did.”
No one has had it worse, or complained aloud more, than 2006 runner-up Nadal and Djokovic, who would be forced to play on seven consecutive days if either made it to a Sunday men’s final.
Both played third-round matches that stretched from Monday to Wednesday, both were back out there for the fourth round Thursday, and both won again.
Djokovic defeated 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (8), 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (5), then renewed an earlier complaint that the tournament took the traditional day off on the middle Sunday.
“Even though they knew the conditions were really bad, they knew the conditions were going to be bad, they didn’t play on Sunday,” he said, “which is not understandable for me and the other players.”
Three-time French Open champion Nadal dug himself a two-set deficit against No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny before coming all the way back for a 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory.
“After the first two sets, the next three sets, maybe I played my best game on grass in my life,” Nadal said.
It probably helped that, after the third set, Youzhny put a towel down on the grass and rested on his stomach while a trainer massaged his bothersome lower back. The Russian was limited somewhat the rest of the way, and Nadal picked up early breaks in each of the last three sets.
“Against Nadal,” Youzhny summed things up, “it’s very tough to beat him if you are not moving good.”
In the fourth set, some raindrops began to fall, and the chair umpire climbed down to run the back of his hand through the grass, checking if it was too slick to play. On several other courts, matches were suspended, but this one continued, and one had to think that Nadal was probably prepared to plead to play even if it were snowing. After all, his third-round victory finished more than 90 hours after he and his opponent first stepped on court to warm up.
On the other hand, as Nadal put it Thursday, “Anyway, if it rains one month, (I’m) going to be motivated 100 percent, no?”
His quarterfinal opponent is Berdych, who ended the run of 35-year-old Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-0, 6-7 (6), 6-0.
Bjorkman earned only three break points the entire match, and all came while he was up 3-2 in the third set. On the third, Berdych hit a serve that Bjorkman was sure was a fault, but the chair umpire didn’t agree. That launched an argument that lingered into the next changeover, and at match’s end, Bjorkman didn’t shake hands with the official.
“A horrendous call,” the Swede said. “That’s just unfortunate.”
Now Nadal, Berdych, Djokovic and Baghdatis – all in the bottom half of the draw – are essentially caught up with Federer, Ferrero, Andy Roddick and Richard Gasquet on the top half.
No. 3 Roddick and No. 12 Gasquet went on court to warm up for their quarterfinal Thursday afternoon but never began the match. At least Federer did get some competition in; he went 138 hours, 58 minutes without playing a point, from the end of his third-round victory over Marat Safin on Friday evening to the fault he opened with against Ferrero.
In between, Federer’s fourth-round foe withdrew with a torn stomach muscle, then rain pushed back his quarterfinal, which was tied 5-5 with Federer serving at deuce when Thursday’s showers came.
“I refuse to hit indoors,” Federer said during his time off. “If it rains, I just don’t play.”