Rainy-day women go on as expected

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- No surprises here. It finally rained at Wimbledon, significantly enough to postpone play for more than three hours yesterday. All three favorites who finished their quarterfinal matches yesterday were winners.

What were you expecting, a dry two weeks at the All England Club?


And who were you expecting to see, Nathalie Tauziat in the semifinals at Wimbledon?

Form held, both from the skies and on the courts. Three of the top four seeds -- No. 1 Monica Seles, No. 2 Steffi Graf and No. 4 Martina Navratilova -- moved on to tomorrow's semifinals with relative ease.


Third seed Gabriela Sabatini, a finalist here against Graf last year, will have to wait until today to finish her match with No. 6 Jennifer Capriati. The two split sets, when play was suspended at 9 p.m. with Sabatini serving for the match at 5-3.

"It was what everybody was thinking," Graf, the three-time and defending champion, said after beating unseeded Natalia Zvereva of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-1. "I thought we [the top seeds] would win, and I thought Sabatini and Capriati would have a good match."

After a shaky start by Capriati, 16, it turned into a very good match, perhaps the best that has been played in the women's draw this year. It was called after Capriati complained twice of being unable to see the ball.

"Can you see?" asked an angry Stefano Capriati, the player's father, talking to reporters outside his box after the match was called. "I thought the match should have been called after the second set, but I'm not the umpire."

The elder Capriati's opinion was backed up by several courtside photographers, one of whom said they stopped shooting because of a lack of light after the second set. The match will be resumed this afternoon after the men's quarterfinal between Pete Sampras and defending champion Michael Stich.

Tauziat wasn't upset about not seeing the ball, but she was about not being able to hear it. During a 6-1, 6-3 victory for Seles, Tauziat griped to chair umpire David Crymble about her opponent's now-famous grunting. Crymble admonished Seles, but did not penalize her.

Seles would not talk about the incident later, but said: "Everybody is thinking that all the players are going to complain, so as I said, going back to the grunting, it's part of my game and, I mean, I haven't any problems with it."

Tauziat did.


"My complaint was, as the match advanced, she screamed a lot, a lot, a lot," said Tauziat, who challenged Seles only a little, a little, a little. "I couldn't listen to the ball when she hit the ball. The more the point is long, the more she was screaming."

Having opponents grunt wasn't Graf's problem yesterday. Having unwanted visitors ringing the doorbell at the house she is renting here has become one. So were pictures in one local tabloid identifying a male companion as Graf's new boyfriend.

When she was asked last night whether the man in the picture washer boyfriend, Graf attacked the question as if it were a short lob. She also was not pleased with the reporter's putting the address of the house in the story.

"He's not my boyfriend. He's just a friend who came over to watch the tennis," Graf said sharply.

As for unwanted visitors, Graf said: "It's not right for people to ring your bell at 11 o'clock at night. They're coming in the garden. They're sleeping in the garden. It's not right for a journalist to do that."

Meanwhile, nine-time champion Martina Navratilova quietly goes about her business. She is forgotten by the tabloids, forgotten by the bettors and forgotten by just about everybody who gives her little chance of stopping Seles -- backhands or grunts.


Navratilova had what is becoming her typical letdown here: This time, it came in the second set of a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) victory over 12th seed Katerina Maleeva of Bulgaria. Navratilova served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, only to be broken and forced into the tiebreaker.

"You don't go into a match thinking you're going to win, 6-3, 6-2," Navratilova said a bit testily afterward. "It just doesn't happen. If you do, you're in trouble. You're in the future, you know. You can't control how she plays."

Asked about her semifinal matchup against Seles, Navratilova said: "Well, she's No. 1, she's playing very well, hitting the ball really hard. You know, I've got nothing to lose. I'm the underdog here. I'm where I wanted to be and have an opportunity to test how good she really is."