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Experience has paid off for older semifinalists

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WIMBLEDON, England — The trademark ivy was stripped from the clubhouse facade, the number of seeded players was doubled and Pete Sampras lost.

Wimbledon was a tournament in transition at the traditional All England Club, where lineswomen still wear long green dresses and the walls surrounding Center Court haven't been blighted with ads.

On Wednesday, though, the old guys had their day. Friday's final four will have a familiar look.

Andre Agassi faces Patrick Rafter in the semifinals for the third consecutive year. Tim Henman, a losing semifinalist to Sampras in 1998 and 1999, plays Goran Ivanisevic, runner-up in 1992, 1994 and 1998.

"Experience is always an advantage, assuming you have your health and you still have your shots," Agassi said. "It's a very difficult thing to do, to go out there for the first time and to step up to the occasion and keep everything together."

All Wednesday's quarterfinal winners were older than their opponents.

Roger Federer, 19, dethroned seven-time champion Sampras two days earlier. But Henman, a 26-year-old Englishman surrounded by Union Jacks in the stands, beat Federer 7-5, 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-6 (6).

Lleyton Hewitt, 20 years old and seeded fifth, didn't survive the fourth round. Andy Roddick, 18, and touted as the next American star, lost to Ivanisevic in the third round.

Ivanisevic is playing like it's still 1998. He was runner-up that year to Sampras and ended it as the world's 12th-ranked player. This year, after enduring shoulder problems, he's ranked 125th and needed a wild-card invitation to play. He's the first wild-card player among the men and women to reach the semis since the system started in 1977.

"People should learn that with me you never know," he said. "I'm not surprised because I'm the guy who can wake up one day and beat anybody."

Ivanisevic, 29, beat fourth-seeded Marat Safin 7-6 (2), 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3). Ivanisevic pounded 30 aces past last year's 21-year-old U.S. Open champ.

"The way he's playing now, it's like he's back in the Top 10, really close to 1, 2 in the world," Safin said.