Wimbledon Underdog Popps Out Of Nowhere




WIMBLEDON, England -- Britain's only remaining hope at Wimbledon is a German.


Surprise quarterfinalist Alexander Popp holds both British and German passports and lives in Germany. He lived in obscurity before making a big splash in his Wimbledon debut.


Popp, 23, advanced to the final eight by beating Marc Rosset 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1 Monday. A few hours later, eighth-seeded Tim Henman, long touted as the best bet to end England's drought at Wimbledon, lost to marathon man Mark Philippoussis 6-1, 5-7, 6-7 (11-9), 6-3, 6-4.


Popp was joined in Wednesday's quarterfinals by three other surprising survivors f Jan-Michael Gambill, Byron Black and qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov, all unseeded. Only Black has been a Grand Slam quarterfinalist before, and that was five years ago.


Four favorites remain, too. Top-seeded Pete Sampras and No. 2 Andre Agassi are two rounds from a rematch of last year's final, and Philippoussis and No. 12 Patrick Rafter are considered threats to win their first Wimbledon title.


In the men's quarterfinals Wednesday, Sampras will face fellow American Gambill, Agassi will play Philippoussis, Black will meet Voltchkov and Popp will take on Rafter.


"It'll be fun playing him," Popp said. "For me it's great, this tournament. I just know all these guys from television."


Somehow, even standing 2 meters, Popp has managed to go largely unnoticed f until now. He's playing in his first grass-court tournament and earned his first victory in a Grand Slam match in the opening round. The late-bloomer is ranked 114th, an improvement of 300 places since January 1999.


"Maybe some of the people think I'm trying to get into British tennis," Popp said. "I'm not really doing that."


But Popp said he would consider playing for the British Davis Cup team if asked, though he's not sure he's ready.


"I want to prove that I'm good enough to play and beat the great guys before I really go into playing for a country," he said.


Agassi swept qualifier David Prinosil 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Black defeated Gianluca Pozzi 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-4.


Gambill beat No. 9 Thomas Enqvist 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Voltchkov, ranked No. 237, sidelined Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-0).


And Philippoussis, who won the longest fifth set at Wimbledon in the open era Saturday, survived another five-setter against Henman, 6-1, 5-7, 6-7 (11-9), 6-3, 6-4.