British favorite Henman advances

Monday, June 28, 2004

WIMBLEDON, England -- The sounds of People's Sunday rang through Centre Court.

Rhythmic clapping and stomping. Chants of "Hen-man! Hen-man!" Screams of "Come on, Tim!" And that was two hours before Tim Henman set foot on the grass.

Wearing T-shirts and shorts, adorned with red wigs and Union Jack bowler hats, the hoi polloi flocked to Wimbledon to snap up first-come, first-served tickets, relishing just the third time in 127 years that matches were played on the middle Sunday.

Buoyed by the support, Henman moved on in his career-long quest to give Britain its first male champion at the All England Club since 1936, reaching the round of 16 by beating No. 32 Hicham Arazi 7-6 (6), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

"When you walk out on the court, just the buzz and the excitement is incredible," the fifth-seeded Henman said. "I needed it at times."

When the one gate used Sunday opened at 9 a.m., most near the front of the 10,000-person queue bought seats in the main stadium generally taken by the blue blazer set.

The turnout of 22,155 left nearly 6,000 tickets unsold. That, along with extensive security checks at the entrance, made for an eerie quiet around the grounds when action began at 11 a.m. Front-row seats were available, and there weren't packs of people to wade through while walking from court to court.

Eager to play after Saturday's all-day rainout, the second of the tournament, defending champion Roger Federer and Thomas Johansson stepped out for the Centre Court opener five minutes early. The stadium was two-thirds full at the beginning of Federer's 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win -- and packed for Henman's match -- but it was desolate elsewhere.

Andy Roddick and Jennifer Capriati played to intimate gatherings.

"This whole week's been wacky. Why not today, too?" Roddick said after beating No. 26 Taylor Dent 6-3, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (1).

About 100 people were there for the start of No. 7 Capriati's 7-5, 6-1 victory over Nathalie Dechy.

Complete results of Sunday's matches in Scoreboard on Page 2B.

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