Goran Ivanisevic squandered two match points in the fourth set, then outlasted Richard Krajicek 15-13 in a marathon fifth set today to reach the Wimbledon final.
Ivanisevic put on an animated display after winning 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (7-5), 15-13 in a match that lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes, with the final set alone going 1:19.He fell to his knees, tapped the grass with his hand and held his clenched fists in the air when Krajicek netted a backhand volley to end the match in the 28th game of the final set.
The Croatian ripped off his bandana, tossed two towels into the stands, clapped to the crowd and held up his left index finger in a No. 1 salute as he walked off the Centre Court.
Ivanisevic reached the final for the third time, having lost in the 1992 and 1994 championship matches. He has never won a Grand Slam title and came into this tournament after winning only one match in his five previous Slam events.
The 14th-seeded Croatian will face the winner of the second semifinal between defending champion Pete Sampras and Britain's Tim Henman.
The women's final is set for Saturday. The two finalists are among the oldest players on the tour - 30-year-old Nathalie Tauziat and 29-year-old Jana Novotna. Together, they represent the oldest Wimbledon finalists since Betty Stove and Virginia Wade in 1977.
"Sometimes it seems like the older the better," said Hingis, outplayed by Novotna in straight sets in Thursday's semifinals. "If you see Tauziat on the other side in the finals, it's amazing. I hope it's going to be like that with me also. The smarter, the cleverer, the better."
It's the second Grand Slam tournament in a row where the youngsters have been upstaged. At the French Open last month, the finalists were relative oldtimers Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (27) and Monica Seles (24).
Hingis, 17, was the only teenager to get as far as the Wimbledon semifinals. Kournikova, 17, missed the tournament with a thumb injury; Lucic, 16, lost in the second round; Serena Williams, 16, went out in the third, and Venus Williams, 18, departed in the quarters.
"It doesn't really matter how old you are," Novotna said. "The most important is how you feel. I have been working really hard."
Sampras, who hasn't dropped a set all tournament, is seeking his fifth title in six years, while Henman can become the first British player to reach the men's final since 1938.
Age seemed irrelevant Thursday as Novotna covered the court with ease in her 6-4, 6-4 victory over the defending champion, reversing a three-set defeat to a 16-year-old Hingis in last year's final.
"Even though I'm one year older than last year, I felt so much better," Novotna said. "I felt so much younger, really. I said to myself, `I may be old, but I'm still all over the court.' "
Novotna said it was natural for so much attention to be focused on the young players, but the veterans still have a key advantage.
"I said this tournament will come down to experience," she said. "Nathalie and me are playing very similar tennis. Our tennis is based on experience, and that's what we have shown in this championship."
Notovna also has another edge: royal support.
Five years ago, the world watched as Novotna sobbed on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent after blowing a 4-1 lead in the third set of the final against Steffi Graf.
Novotna resumed her bond with the duchess last year after losing in the final to Hingis. The two exchanged warm greetings and the duchess gave Novotna some special words of encouragement.
"Let's just hope what the Duchess of Kent said last year is right," Novotna said. "She said, `Third time lucky.' So here I am."
Novotna will be heavily favored against Tauziat, who beat unseeded Natasha Zvereva in three sets in the semis.
Tauziat is not only the first French women's finalist since Suzanne Lenglen in 1925, but also the lowest seed (No. 16) to get this far.
In 42 previous Grand Slam tournaments, Tauziat had never reached the semifinals.
"She's definitely a very, very dangerous opponent," Novotna said. "Even though on the list it would seem that, yes, maybe I should be the favorite, I see this as a very, very tough match. Believe me, it's not going to be easy to beat Nathalie Tauziat."
The two have split their eight previous matches. Tauziat won the last meeting on indoor carpet in Chicago last year.
Tauziat, who celebrated Thursday's victory by flopping onto her back at the baseline, seemed content just to be in the final.
"I have nothing to lose," she said. "For me, it's going to be a nice present to be there, to be on this Centre Court with any players, I don't care. If I play my best tennis, I think I can win."