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Bartoli and Gasquet rock Wimbledon

By Pritha Sarkar 07/07/2007 06:33:17 AM Comments (0)

A little-known Frenchwoman and an underachieving Frenchman shook Wimbledon.

Marion Bartoli had barely registered on the tennis scale before but that did not stop her from destroying world number one Justine Henin's Wimbledon dream.

The 18th seed played the match of her life to humble a shell-shocked Henin 1-6 7-5 6-1 and march into her first grand slam final against Venus Williams.

Richard Gasquet completed an unbelievable day for French tennis less than 90 minutes later when he knocked out third seed Andy Roddick 4-6 4-6 7-6 7-6 8-6 in the men's quarter-finals.

As Bartoli sealed the Henin's fate and lapped up the applause from 13,000 cheering fans, the forlorn Belgian had to cope with her earliest exit from a grand slam since 2005.

"I'm so excited... it's a dream come true," said Bartoli.

The result was the biggest upset in the sport since Jelena Dokic defeated then world number one Martina Hingis in the first round at Wimbledon in 1999.

When Henin arrived at the All England Club, her run to the final had almost been a forgone conclusion, with the real race being to see who would face her in the showpiece match.

But a player who had won only four matches at Wimbledon before this year dashed Henin's hopes of capturing the only grand slam trophy missing from her collection.

"I don't understand what happened," a glum Henin said.

"Today it was like she could close her eyes and play unbelievable tennis."

Williams also showed her appetite for humbling higher ranked opponents by beating sixth-seeded Serb Ana Ivanovic 6-2 6-4.

The 31st-ranked American has also gobbled up second seed Maria Sharapova and fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova this week and with Henin's exit, she will be the overwhelming favourite to win her fourth title here.

Gasquet had been expected to hit the big time ever since his face was splashed across the cover of a French tennis magazine as a nine-year-old.

It took him another 12 years to make the breakthrough and reach his first grand slam semi-final. The 12th seed's reward for toppling the American was a date with the all-conquering Roger Federer.

"It's an incredible day for me and an incredible (day) for French tennis," said Gasquet.

Blinking back tears, Roddick added: "When you put your blood, sweat and tears into something... and it doesn't work out, it's not easy. I'm feeling pretty crappy right now."

Federer had enjoyed an unexpected six-day holiday after his fourth round opponent Tommy Haas withdrew injured.

Perhaps feeling a little rusty, he dropped his first set of these championships but that did not stop the Swiss from streaking to a 7-6 3-6 6-1 6-3 win over Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Federer is now only two matches away from matching Bjorn Borg's feat of five successive Wimbledon crowns.

After days of unrelenting rain Federer and Rafael Nadal continued to play catch up and stood only one match away from a final collision.

A merciless Nadal flexed his well toned muscles for a 7-6 6-4 6-2 quarter-final victory over Czech Tomas Berdych.

Triple French Open champion Nadal, who did not finish his third round three-day marathon until Wednesday, became the first man to book his place in the semis.

He must have been rubbing his hands in glee as his semi-final opponent, Novak Djokovic, was engaged in an exhausting five-hour thriller before eventually subduing Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 7-6 7-6 6-7 4-6 7-5.

Berdych ran into a little trouble as soon as he walked on to Centre Court as one of the logos on his baseball cap was deemed to breach tournament rules on overt sponsorship.

The umpire took care of the problem by scratching off the offending mark but it turned out to the least of 21-year-old's worries and he was easily outclassed by Nadal.

If there was a prize for endurance, Serbian Djokovic, who set up a repetition of last month's French Open semi-final against Nadal, would already have walked away with it.

Not only has the fourth seed been on court for nearly 17 hours during his five matches to date at these championships, he has also won eight sets in tiebreaks.

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