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Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK

Sampras ends Henman hopes

Henman played some stunning volleys

Defending champion Pete Sampras ended British hopes by beating Tim Henman 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the final.

Sue Thearl reports on Henman's brave defeat
Despite some inspired play by Henman, Sampras showed cool consistency to keep his challenge for a fifth title alive.

He will play Goran Ivanisevic in Sunday's final. The big-serving Croatian beat ninth seed Richard Krajicek in a marathon match, eventually taking the final set 15-13.

After the match Henman told of his disappointment but was optimistic about the future.

He said: "I've always believed I can beat the best players and even though I didn't beat Pete today, that experience will be invaluable. I've seven or eight more years of playing this tournament if I stay injury-free.

"I think I've a good chance in each of those years and I'll continue to give it 100%."

He added: "The atmosphere was great and once I was able to get into the match, that was when the crowd were able to get behind me and they were putting him under a lot of pressure."

Sampras, who often trains with Henman, paid tribute to his opponent and predicted that he would one day win the coveted title.

He said: "I don't see any holes in his game. There aren't too many all-court players today and Tim's one of the guys who has that."

He added: "He does everything very well and the difference between us today was probably the second serve. He'll break through and win this one year."

Big reception for Henman

Henman, ranked 18th in the world but seeded 12th becuase of his liking for the grass surface, came out to huge applause on Centre Court as many waved flags or held up banners of support.

He was aiming to become the first British player in the men's final since Bunny Austin in 1938.

He is also under pressure to lift his nation's sporting gloom after England's exit from the World Cup and their poor form in the Test match against South Africa.

Early in the game he showed that his serve was as strong as it had been in beating Petr Korda in Wednesday's quarter-final.

But Sampras's passing shots were working well as he broke early and then again to claim the first set 6-3.

Henman takes second set

In the third game of the second set Henman started to turn the pressure back on the American top seed, earning three break point opportunities.

Sampras saved the first with an ace, but hit a crosscourt shot wide on the second to fall behind 2-1.

Henman held his serve in the next game before breaking again with intelligent shot selection and some powerful returns.

Despite being broken himself in the next game, Henman held on give himself the momentum with a 6-4 set.

[ image: Sampras's show his relief at winning the match]
Sampras's show his relief at winning the match
The third set began evenly, as both players hit fast, deep serves and accurate volleys to hold their own games.

In the sixth game Sampras earned a break point but a composed Henman hit a great volley to stay level.

At 6-5 Sampras converted his third set point when Henman hit a volley into the net to take a crucial lead in the match.

In the fourth set it was clear that the pressure was beginning to tell on Henman. He soon lost a game on serve and struggled to win points on Sampras's serve.

Henman pushed Sampras as hard as anyone at Wimbledon for several years, but the American used his experience to hold firm and win his final service game to love.

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