Fans were treated to the longest women’s match in Grand Slam histor
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Fans were treated to the longest women’s match in Grand Slam history and shocked by a British player kicked out in disgrace.
Tim Henman, playing a doubles match with Jeremy Bates, became the first player disqualified from Wimbledon in the Open era when he slammed a ball which hit a ball girl in the head.
The incident took place during a tiebreaker in the fourth set of the first-round match Wednesday evening against American Jeff Tarango and Sweden’s Henrik Holm.
After Tarango hit a net-cord winner, Henman whacked a ball in anger. The ball hit the girl, 16-year-old Caroline Hall, squarely in the side of the head as she was running to retrieve another ball.
``With the speed of the ball, it could have killed the girl,″ Tarango said.
The girl fell to the ground, then got up and walked back to her position in tears.
A doctor and tournament referee Alan Mills were summoned to court 14 by Australian umpire Wayne McKewen, who announced that Henman had been defaulted for a code violation.
``The rules precisely state that a player must be in control of his actions on court and in such cases there is no choice but to default automatically on the basis of unsportsmanlike conduct,″ a Wimbledon statement said.
The girl, who was not seriously hurt, returned to Wimbledon today to receive an apology from Henman. He presented her with a bouquet of flowers, put his arm around her and kissed her several times for the benefit of photographers.
Hall said her head was still sore and a doctor had advised her to rest for a few days.
``I know it was a complete accident″ she said. ``Tim has said `sorry’ but I had already forgiven him because I know he didn’t mean the ball to hit me. There’s no hard feelings.″
Henman was close to tears Wednesday night when he explained what happened.
``It was a complete accident,″ he said, ``but I’m responsible for my actions.″
``There was no one in line with the ball before I was about to hit it,″ he said. ``As I hit it, she ran straight out in front of me, so I’m the responsible party.″
It was only the third time in the Open era that a player has been disqualified from a Grand Slam event. John McEnroe was defaulted from the Australian Open in 1990 for verbally abusing officials, while Germany’s Karsten Arries was kicked out of the French Open three weeks ago for throwing a racket that struck a line judge in the leg.
The disqualification came at the end of a day that saw Chanda Rubin beat Patricia Hy-Boulais by the record score of 6-7 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 17-15, in 3 hours, 45 minutes.
The 58 games broke the record for the most games in a women’s Grand Slam singles match. The previous record was 56 games, set in 1972 when Kerry Melville beat Pam Teegarden, 9-7, 4-6, 16-14, in the French Open semifinals.
The 32 games in the third set a Wimbledon record for most games in a set, topping the previous mark of 26 games _ reached six times previously.
``It got to the stage where I knew I still wanted to win the match but I couldn’t always remember why,″ Rubin said. ``I just kept thinking: keep fighting, somebody’s got to win and hopefully, it will be you.″
In today’s early matches, seventh-seeded Lindsay Davenport overpowered Argentina’s Florencia Labat, 6-1, 6-1.
Top-seeded Andre Agassi was scheduled for a second-round match on Centre Court against Patrick McEnroe. In other men’s matches, No. 3 Boris Becker was up against Swedish doubles specialist Jan Apell, and No. 5 Michael Chang faced Petr Korda.
Women’s top seed Steffi Graf, seeking her sixth Wimbledon victory, was set to play Amanda Coetzer.