Thursday, July 06, 2006

Surprise Semi-Finalists at Wimbledon [J. Mark English]

Steven Wine, Forbes, Associated Press --

Basking in the crowd's roar, the oldest Wimbledon men's semifinalist since Jimmy Connors stretched out his arms and wrapped them around himself, sharing a hug with the stadium as he embraced the moment. Jonas Bjorkman found it hard to believe.
"Obviously, I didn't think this was going to happen at this stage of my career," the 34-year-old Swede said. "I was just so excited after I won match point. I realized what I've achieved, something that I never thought I would do again."
Bjorkman advanced by beating No. 14-seeded Radek Stepanek 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4, and he's not Wimbledon's only improbable semifinalist. Also playing Friday will be Marcos Baghdatis, who won a tour-level match on grass for the first time only last month and beat 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-2 on Wednesday.
And then there's three-time defending champion Roger Federer, who reached his ninth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Mario Ancic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Ancic upset Federer in the first round in 2002. Federer has since won an Open-era record 46 consecutive matches on grass, including 26 in a row at Wimbledon. Federer's latest lawn-court gem ranked with his best. He'll next face the unseeded Bjorkman.
"If I keep up this sort of performance, I don't see myself losing," Federer said. "But it's the Wimbledon semifinals, and I don't want to underestimate anybody."
Bjorkman has been easy to overlook. His record for the year was 2-10 less than three weeks ago, and he arrived at the All England Club ranked 59th.