1998 – 1999, Roland Garros
French Open, Paris
May 25-June 7, 1998; 128 Draw (16 seeded); Surface: Clay
Already after three days, the tournament was deprived of the best players of the 90s: Pete Sampras (his last reasonable chance to conquer Paris) and Andre Agassi. Thomas Muster wasn’t a serious threat on his beloved clay-courts anymore, it opened up the best opportunity for Marcelo Rios to get his maiden major title. He was a huge favorite, however, it was a time of Spanish emergence as a new tennis power. Spaniards had good players over 70s and 80s, but never so many in such a short period of time like in the late 90s; three of them advanced to semifinals at Roland Garros ’98 and Carlos Moya was the one who gained mastery among them. It was a tournament in which 18-year-old Marat Safin showed his tremendous potential for the first time.
First round: AP
Andre Agassi  arrived at the French Open trim and tanned, riding the crest of a comeback. He left as a first-round loser with a sore shoulder and doubts about his immediate future. Agassi, who injured his shoulder serving in the first set, had 82 unforced errors yesterday while losing to an 18-year-old Russian making his Grand Slam debut. He lost 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to Marat Safin, who is ranked 116th and had to win three qualifying matches just to make it into the French Open. Last month, Agassi beat Safin in straight sets in a Davis Cup match in Atlanta. “Something is obviously inflamed,” Agassi said, massaging an ice pack on his right shoulder. “Anything above my shoulder I started struggling with. I was letting those balls drop, trying to move him left, right, left, right. I just didn’t close out the points.” The first round’s biggest upset was pulled off by other qualifier Mariano Zabaleta, who ousted second-seeded Petr Korda in a five-set struggle that lasted until 9:14 p.m. on a cool evening. Korda, the Australian Open champion, rallied from a two-set deficit but tired in the final set and lost 6-0, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 to the 213th-ranked Zabaleta, who leaped for joy and changed into an Argentine soccer jersey to celebrate his shocking victory. Defending champion Gustavo Kuerten, the eighth seed, lost just four games (to Charles Auffray , who played his only Grand Slam match in career then) while advancing to a second-round match against Safin, who overpowered Agassi with his sharp ground-strokes. Agassi, who has won every Grand Slam event except the French Open, had never lost in the first round at Roland Garros. He was the tournament’s runner-up in 1990 and 1991. Agassi dropped to No.141 in the world last year, but lost 25 pounds (11 kg) while working his way back into shape in minor tournaments. He has won two tournaments this year while catapulting to the Top 20. He came into the match seeking his 500th professional victory, but struggled from the start. “There’s no way I’m going to ever start slicing somebody to try to beat them,” he said. “I’d slap myself if I started doing that.” For Safin, it doesn’t get easier. After beating a two-time French Open finalist, he meets defending champion Gustavo Kuerten. “It will be very tough,” Safin said. “I will try to win some games first and after I will see how I feel. I think I don’t have too much of a chance to beat him, but I hope to play a good match.” America’s Red Clay (Coral Springs) winner Andrew Ilie  continued his roll, winning his 12th consecutive match (8 at Coral Springs; 4th in Paris – he was a qualifier on both events) by whipping No. 38 Julian Alonso 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. As usual, the quirky Romania-born Australian was mumbling a lot to himself between points. What does he say? “Things like, `You’re a bum for missing that shot.’ I chastise myself a lot. I quite enjoy it,” Ilie said. “And I say some other things in Romanian, but we won’t translate those for the minute.” Ilie is coming back from a back injury. This is not his biggest win. He knocked down 14th-ranked Richard Krajicek at the 1996 French Open. He and Alonso played a tremendous first set, but the young Spaniard blinked first when they went into the second. “I feel really fit right now. I’m on a roll and I’m going to try to keep on top of it,” Ilie said. He was down 0/40 serving for the match and won five straight points to finish the match. Then he let go with a primal scream. Alonso, Hingis’ boyfriend at the time, got award for the “Newcomer of the Year” in 1997, but in 1998 fell apart – the loss to Ilie was his 7th in succession. Pete Sampras ignored the sweaty streaks of red clay coating his white socks. He pretended he was on a hard surface, or on the grass courts on which he’s nearly unbeatable. Sure, the balls felt heavy and the muddy court slowed his forays to the net. But Sampras, to whom clay has always felt like quicksand, stuck to his normal style. The result was a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory over golfing buddy Todd Martin, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident, in yesterday’s first round of the French Open, a tournament that annually bedevils Sampras and is the only Grand Slam title to elude him. Sampras has dominated tennis the past five years with powerful serves and sharp volleys. But those elements are least effective on clay, where stamina and persistence reign. He has won 10 Grand Slam titles, but has never made it past the semifinals of the French Open, where he is seeded No. 1 year after year, but often loses to much lower-ranked players. Yesterday, against a player who won a clay-court event last month in Barcelona, the top-seeded Sampras slammed serves at up to 127 mph and refused to sacrifice his volleying game. “It’s my only choice, to try to play the way I play on hard courts,” he said. “I’m not going to stay back and win this tournament. I know that I need to come in. Today, it was cold and windy. The balls were very heavy. The court was very muddy. But that’s just part of clay.” No. 4 Patrick Rafter came from two sets down against Sebastien Lareau of Canada to even the match, which was then called for darkness. On the following day Rafter easily took the decider to clinch a 6-7(5), 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win. There interesting occurrence in other 5-set match, on Centre Court, namely Cedric Pioline led 5:1* in the 5th set against Marcelo Filippini suffering cramps, when the Frenchman began to struggle with them as well! He lost three straight games, but finished the 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4 match serving the last game out to ‘love’ (match duration: 3 hours 40 minutes). Both players left the court limping… Brett Steven  snapped a 22-set winning streak of the main favorite, Marcelo Rios. The Chilean said after a 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory that his left knee and right shoulder bothered him. They’d met twice before and both matches Steven won with the same scoreline: 6-3, 6-3! Last year’s finalist, Sergi Bruguera  after a 2-6, 2-6, 3-6 loss to Hernan Gumy  said: “I’m losing everything, on and off court”. The former two-time champion had lost 22 out of 30 matches at the time!
A co-creator of the longest Grand Slam match (six day before losing that record), Todd Witsken, 34, once the No. 4 doubles player in the world, lost a 21-month battle with brain cancer and died Monday (first day of Roland Garros ’98) in Indianapolis, where he was director of the Indianapolis Tennis Center. A former star at the University of Southern California, Witsken won 11 doubles titles and, in his greatest singles match, beat Jimmy Connors in the third round at the 1986 U.S. Open. He reached 10 other doubles finals. “I knew him from the time he was on the Junior Davis Cup team,” said Weller Evans, executive vice president for player services for the ATP Tour. “I remember when I heard about the tumor. I was in Cincinnati and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. He had so much going for him. He was a good-looking guy, a tremendous athlete, had a beautiful wife and four great kids. Here’s a guy you’d look at and think he lived a charmed life. Then, to have it all turn around like this and end so abruptly, so prematurely.”
Second round: Rob Gloster
This time, it was more than simply another crushing loss for Pete Sampras on the clay courts that annually haunt him. It was his worst Grand Slam upset of the 1990s. Sampras’ recurring Parisian nightmare was caused this year by Ramon Delgado, a Paraguayan ranked 97th in the world. He defeated the world’s top player 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4 yesterday in the second round of the French Open on a soggy afternoon that included three long rain delays. Delgado was the lowest-ranked opponent to defeat Sampras in a Grand Slam tournament since 1989, when the 18-year-old Sampras lost to 244th-ranked Todd Woodbridge in the first round at Wimbledon. Delgado knelt at the net after his victory, then ran to friends in the stands to get a Paraguayan flag. He waved it triumphantly as Sampras solemnly packed his rackets and walked away. “This is a dream,” Delgado said. “I worked all my life for a victory like this.” Sampras has won 10 Grand Slam titles and dominated tennis the past five years, but he has never won at Roland Garros. Year after year, he comes in as the top seed and leaves in utter frustration. “It is disappointing. I put so much emphasis on the majors, especially this one,” said Sampras, who will lose his No. 1 ranking if third-seeded Marcelo Rios makes the French Open semifinals. “Each year you feel like it is a missed opportunity.” Sampras was leading 4:1* in the first set when rain stopped play. But he sagged when the players returned, losing the first set in a tiebreaker and then struggling to catch up the rest of the match. Always uncomfortable on the soft surface, Sampras stumbled and fell while trying to reach a shot in the second set and ended up covered with red clay. In the 3rd set Sampras’ serve was broken twice as Delgado took a 4:1 lead. Sampras broke back for 4:2 – only his second break of the match – and held for 4:3. But he never held another break point as Delgado powered through his final two service games. They met four weeks earlier in Atlanta’s quarterfinals, and Sampras needed two tie-breaks to prevail. Gustavo Kuerten, the surprise winner of the French Open last year, had his reign ended today by a qualifier making an even more improbable run through the early rounds of the tournament. Marat Safin, a Russian ranked 116th in the world who is making his Grand Slam debut, defeated the eighth seed 3-6, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the second round winning the last three games of the match. Kuerten, a Brazilian who was ranked 66th when he made a shocking run to the title last year, was unable to handle the power of his 18-year-old opponent, who slammed 18 aces. Safin, who defeated Andre Agassi in the first round Tuesday, had two aces in the final game as he ousted Kuerten. ”He was a little nervous in the last set. He was the defending champion trying to defend his title,” Safin said. ”I played better today, with more confidence (than against Agassi). I was more relaxed.” The elimination of Kuerten meant No. 3 Marcelo Rios was the only one of the top nine men left in the tournament. Michael Chang advanced today when his opponents retired in the middle of the 3rd set because of injury. Chang, the only survivor among the dozen American men that began the tournament, reached the third round when John Van Lottum of the Netherlands retired in the third set. Chang, winner of this tournament in 1989 and seeded 11th, was leading 7-5, 6-2, 3-0 when Van Lottum was unable to continue because of a strained buttock he originally hurt in the first round. Jan-Michael Gambill, the only other American to make it to the fifth day of the tournament, was eliminated in a second-round match that began Thursday night but was halted (at 4-all in the 3rd set) because of darkness – Gambill lost to Daniel Vacek 4-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-7(0). Among the other U.S. losers have been top-seeded Pete Sampras, two-time champion Jim Courier and two-time finalist Agassi. This is the first time since the open era of tennis began in 1968 that only one American has made it to the third round of the French Open. The worst previous showing was 1970 when two Americans made it past the second round at Roland Garros. ”I think the French Open has been a tournament that’s been a little bit frustrating for American players, particularly on the men’s side, because the depth is so great here and so many players are in such great shape and they know the surface so well,” Chang said. ”Generally speaking, the U.S. players grow up on hard courts. I would suggest that for most Europeans, most South Americans, they really grow up on clay. Naturally, they’re a little bit more comfortable on this surface. It takes them a lot less time to adjust to it.” Also advancing to the third round today were two Spaniards, No. 14 Alex Corretja and No. 16 Alberto Berasategui. But No. 4 Patrick Rafter was ousted 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 by fellow Australian and friend Jason Stoltenberg, leaving Rios the only survivor among the top seven men’s seeds. Rafter, the defending U.S. Open champion, yelled ”No, no, no!” at himself and stormed around the court as he blew opportunities in the third set. He slammed his racket to the clay several times in disgust. ”I was very frustrated. I wasn’t winning games easily on my serve,” Rafter said. ‘‘But I couldn’t have lost to a better bloke, I’m very happy for Jason.” Thursday, sixth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1996 French Open champion from Russia, became the latest shell-shocked contender to sink into the bog on center court. The erratic Kafelnikov pumped out 80 unforced errors and seemed on the verge of becoming unhinged in the final set of his 4-6, 7-6(10), 7-6(4), 6-1 collapse against 19th-ranked Thomas Enqvist of Sweden, who had never won at Roland Garros until this year and had never before performed in the main stadium. “I can’t explain what’s going on, I just have to take it like a man; but when your confidence is gone, it’s difficult to beat any opponent,” Kafelnikov said. He was serving at 5:4 in the 2nd set, but squandered two points, two more in the tie-break and then lost a 3:1 lead in the third. Andrew Ilie won his seventh straight ATP Tour match and 13th in a row, counting qualifying matches, by whipping Michael Tillstrom 6-7(9), 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. The losses hurt, especially early-round losses in a tournament he once dominated. Still, Jim Courier would much rather be playing than sitting at home. “It’s frustrating to lose,” Courier said. But then he added, “I’d rather be here than injured and at home like I was at the Australian.” Courier, who won the 1991 and 1992 French Open titles and lost in the 1993 final, went out meekly in the second round Wednesday, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, against 109th-ranked Jens Knippschild. “It’s always painful to lose,” Courier said. “I understand the guy played well today. I can’t take anything away from him. He took me out of my game with the way he played.” Now ranked 30th in the world, Courier has fond memories of the early 1990s, when he also won two Australian Opens. “I still hold that feeling, that I’m capable of winning,” he said. “Until I lose that feeling, I’ll be around.” He was around two more years… Carlos Moya  defeated Jose Imaz-Ruiz 6-4, 7-6(14), 6-2 winning the longest tie-break in the Roland Garros history. It’s weird that Imaz-Ruiz , who played just 9 matches at the main level in his career, four weeks earlier was involved in other very long tie-break, beating Marzio Martelli 4-6, 7-6(13), 7-5 in Munich. Mark Philippoussis lost second major in a row being defeated 7-9 in the 5th set. The Australian in three consecutive sets was two games away to overcome Bohdan Ulihrach, but the Czech every time was able to hold his serve staying in front, and notched a 3-6, 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-4, 9-7 victory despite winning 18 points less!
Third round: Lisa Dillman
Marcelo Rios, who could overtake Sampras as the No. 1 player in the world if he makes the semifinals, became the first man to reach the fourth round. He was leading 6-1, 3-3 when Wayne Ferreira twisted his right ankle and was unable to continue. Ferreira was running for a shot along the baseline when his right foot appeared to get stuck on the clay. He twisted his ankle, grimacing as he fell on his back. The South African originally hurt the ankle while practicing between rounds at last year’s French Open and had surgery on it to remove fluid in October. He was taken to a hospital after the match for X-rays, and the extent of today’s injury was not immediately clear. The surprise of the men’s tournament, 18-year-old qualifier Marat Safin, who might easily pass for the son of Ivan Drago, the evil boxer from Rocky IV, used his superior hitting power to dispose of Daniel Vacek by 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. “I’m tired, first two five-setters, today four sets. I’m very tired” said the young Russian. At least Carl Chang wasn’t sitting in the seats at Court Central for hours after another disappointing performance by his brother, Michael Chang. Carl was the sad symbol of his brother’s futile attempt to win another Grand Slam title last year at the U.S. Open, a solitary figure in the stands after Michael lost to Patrick Rafter in the semifinals. This time, the 11th-seeded Chang didn’t even make it out of the third round of the French Open, losing, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4, to unseeded Francisco Clavet of Spain on Saturday. He was the final American male to depart here, the worst performance for the U.S. men in any Grand Slam event in the open era. Certainly, it will be remembered as a lost opportunity for Chang. Clavet is ranked 37th in the world, one of the lesser members of the daunting Spanish Armada here. And, more so, the likes of third-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile, who is perhaps the hottest clay-court performer this season, former champion Thomas Muster of Austria and serious Spanish threats 12th-seeded Carlos Moya, No. 13 Albert Costa and No. 15 Felix Mantilla are in the opposite half of the draw, away from Chang. “It’s always disappointing to lose in a place that means so much to you,” said Chang, who won here in 1989 at age 17. “As far as the disappointment meter, I don’t see it as all that high on the scale.” A couple of key points hurt Chang in the second-set tiebreaker – an easy overhead knocked long and a loose forehand sailed wide – and let Clavet back in the match. Later, when Chang really needed to dig deep in his usual fashion, his body let him down. His left thigh started cramping and he needed treatment from the trainer before Clavet served for the third set at 5:2. “I’m more disappointed in my physical condition than anything else,” Chang said. “I felt I was OK. Why things didn’t work out is a mystery to me. Maybe I was trying to get back too quickly (from a knee injury) and play some matches.” Chang was not the only seeded men’s player to be ousted Saturday. No. 10 Richard Krajicek fell to Frenchman Cedric Pioline, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5, in another third-round match. For lovers of clay-court tennis, the place to be Sunday was on Court 1 for the resumption of the match between Argentina’s Hernan Gumy and Spain’s Alex Corretja, the 14th seed. The two had battled from the baseline for nearly four hours on Saturday when rain forced them to stop for the night (set point for Corretja at 5:4 for him). They finally finished the 5-hour, 31-minute match Sunday afternoon. Corretja won 6-1, 5-7, 6-7(4), 7-5, 9-7 in a match that featured long, intense rallies during which the players groaned and grunted and slid all over the court. Gumy rallied from 5:1 down in the fifth set, saving two match points before knotting the set at 5-all. The two players then stayed on serve until Corretja broke Gumy’s serve in the 16th and last game of the set. “For me, it wasn’t too long,” Gumy said, “I played it in two days. I played like four hours yesterday and another couple of hours today.” A Grand Slam record for the longest match was broken – nine years before Greg Holmes beat Todd Witsken after 5:28 hrs at Wimbledon. Gumy had played a marathon also one round earlier as he ousted Gianluca Pozzi 11-9 in the 5th set after 4 hours, 33 minutes. American men are not the only ones who were shut out of the fourth round at Roland Garros this year. This is just the second French Open since Bjorn Borg first played in Paris in 1973 that no Swedish man made the final 16. The only other time was 1977, when Borg did not play in the tournament. Jens Knippschild  joined Safin as the second qualifier in the last 16. The German, who had easily beaten Carlos Costa and Jim Courier, was a favorite against Johan Van Herck , but lost ten games in a row and found himself two-sets-to-love down and 1:3 in the 3rd set. The Belgian slipped the lead away, and Knippschild triumphed 2-6, 0-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-2.
Longest Grand Slam matches of the XX Century (5-hour mark):
1991 – Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12 – 5 hours 11 minutes (3R)
1990 – Pete Sampras d. Tim Mayotte 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 4-6, 7-5, 12-10 – 4 hours 59 minutes (1R)
1998 – Alex Corretja d. Hernan Gumy 6-1, 5-7, 6-7(4), 7-5, 9-7 – 5 hours 31 minutes (3R)
1994 – Ronald Agenor d. David Prinosil 6-7(4), 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 14-12 – 5 hours (2R)
1989 – Greg Holmes d. Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 14-12 – 5 hours 28 minutes (2R)
1989 – Scott Warner d. Matt Anger 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(2), 3-6, 28-26 – 5 hours 22 minutes (qualifying round)
1969 – Pancho Gonzales d. Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 – 5 hours 12 minutes (1R)
1992 – Stefan Edberg d. Michael Chang 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4 – 5 hours 26 minutes (SF)
1993 – Richard Krajicek d. Todd Martin 6-7(4), 4-6, 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-4 – 5 hours 11 minutes (3R)
1992 – Ivan Lendl d. Boris Becker 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 – 5 hours 1 minute (4R)
Fourth round: Amy Shipley
One win from reaching No. 1 and three matches from sending half the population of Chile rocking into a week-long party. And if Marcelo Rios is excited, you won’t find it written on his scruffy, expressionless face. He sat at an interview table after battering down No. 13 Albert Costa in four sets, shrugging occasionally at questions and showing none of the emotion that poured out of the stands Sunday during his two-hour and 38-minute victory on the Court Central. “This is a tough match. Mentally, I think it’s tough to go against Costa. He’s a great player. You have to fight long matches,” said Rios, looking no more thrilled than if he’d received an invitation from the IRS to drop by for a chat. The 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 triumph sent the pony-tailed No. 3 seed into the quarterfinals against No. 12 Carlos Moya, who defeated qualifier Jens Knippschild 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. In the other round-of-16 matches, No. 15 Felix Mantilla, the bottle-blond Spaniard, ended the run of Ramon Delgado, who had taken out Pete Sampras in the second round, and Thomas Muster, showing the grinding power that won the French Open in 1995, out-gutted Fernando Meligeni 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Costa, who had not lost a set at the French, began with great confidence. He got his second break when Rios made three volley mistakes and double-faulted to give Costa a 4:3 lead. The wiry Spaniard forced a forehand error on set point for the early edge. He was up 3:1 and 4:2 in the second when Rios decided to move inside the baseline and take Costa’s shots early, and the tactic paid off. “I started playing too far behind the baseline. He was moving me around. I think after he broke me I realized if I step a little more into the court, I will find more chances, play shorter points,” said Rios. He rallied back to win the second and then the third, closing it out with one of the those classic photo-op Rios backhands scissored feet off the ground, racket finishing high over his left shoulder. By the fourth set, which began at 6:45, the sky had almost completely clouded over and drips of rain prompted dozens of fans to pop open their umbrellas and forage for their jackets. The match never stopped, except for the appearances of Bill Norris to work on Rios’ tightening muscles. Rios broke in the critical seventh game when Costa made an error that was so egregious he slapped his forehead with his left hand. He faded quickly after that. Their match was highly anticipated since the beginning of the tournament, Costa had won Hamburg that year, Rios won Rome thanks to a walkover from… Costa. In a common opinion a winner of their clash should win the whole thing. Marat Safin‘s forehand sailed long, Cedric Pioline‘s arms reached skyward in celebration, and Safin spiked his racket into the soft red clay, which sent it spinning in a dizzy rebound. That’s how the improbable and captivating run of the 18-year-old Russian reached its conclusion at the French Open on Monday night, halted by a 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 fourth-round loss. Safin, ranked 116th in the world and forced to play three qualifying matches to squeeze into the draw, found himself overwhelmed for the first time in nearly two weeks on these famous red clay courts – having defeated Andre Agassi, defending champion Gustavo Kuerten and Daniel Vacek to get here. Safin fell under attack not just from the Frenchman Pioline, ranked 17th and a finalist at Wimbledon last year but also from the 14,000 impassioned and partial fans, who seemed to grow more patriotic as the evening wore on. If that wasn’t enough, Safin said he was distracted by the presence of both Ronaldo, the world-famous Brazilian soccer player, and the popular Anna Kournikova, a fourth-round loser Monday who joined Ronaldo in the stands. “I never saw Ronaldo like this,” said Safin, who turned around to stare at Ronaldo and offer a thumbs-up between games. “He’s never been so close to me.” Safin, who more than doubled his 1998 winnings ($38,350) with his round-of-16 reward of 272,000 francs (about $46,101), spent much of the match visibly furious at himself for his mistakes and concentration lapses. Displaying his disgust by throwing his racket more than a half-dozen times, talking to himself, gesturing and moaning, Safin looked very much the immature player that he is. The winner of three men’s tour matches before this tournament, Safin seemed distracted by just about everything but, apparently, his opponent. Asked after the match, what most impressed him about 11 years older Pioline, Safin said: “Nothing. He’s a normal player. It’s nothing special.” Pioline offered far more praise to Safin, a Moscow native in his first Grand Slam, saying: “He’s young, but he looks very good. It was very tough playing against him because he was hitting a lot of winners, playing very close to the line. I broke (his serve) only (four) times – that’s not so much in a five-set match on clay. The experience was the advantage today. I managed better the tired points than he did.” Safin led 4:3* in the 4th set when Pioline’s experience began to overrule. In other men’s fourth-round action, Spain’s Alex Corretja defeated Jason Stoltenberg, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; Belgium’s Filip Dewulf downed Francisco Clavet, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3; and Moroccan Hicham Arazi defeated Alberto Berasategui, 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. “I would like to beat him but not to have revenge,” says Corretja, 24 on his next opponent – Dewulf. “I just know that my friend (Clavet) lost.” Corretja says the Spaniards’ affection for one another is real and rewarding. “We travel with our coaches and make a good team; that’s why we have success,” he says. “We’re not jealous. We’re just trying to support each other.” Mantilla meets former champion Muster of Austria and Moya clashes with No. 3 Rios of Chile today in the quarterfinals. Muster is 2-0 against Mantilla, Rios 1-0 against Moya. “Mantilla and Moya have been playing pretty good,” Corretja says. “I didn’t play that well, but I’m (here) anyway. If you are in the quarterfinals, you have to look further and concentrate on your game and see if you can improve.’‘ Corretja outlasted Argentina’s Hernan Gumy on Sunday in the longest match (5 hours, 31 minutes) recorded at a grand slam event. “Many people were thinking I will go down after my match with Gumy,” Corretja says. “I didn’t have much time to recover, but still I came to the court (against Stoltenberg). My legs were a little bit heavy, (and) I was slow at the beginning, but then I find my way.” If he loses his way against Dewulf and doesn’t move on, Corretja believes Mantilla, 23, or Moya, 21, will. “I have two more friends in quarterfinals,” he says. “We have to see if we can go further, and we can make some history in Spanish tennis.”
Quarterfinals: Jocelyn Noveck
Marcelo Rios was tantalizingly close to regaining the No. 1 ranking in tennis. All he had to do was reach the semifinals at the French Open. One problem: Carlos Moya. The Spaniard used all his weapons Tuesday to defeat Rios 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. He spoiled not only the Chilean’s chance for the French title – one he was in excellent position to win – but also his chance to reclaim the No. 1 spot he took from Pete Sampras for a month. “I wasn’t thinking about it,” Rios said. “I was thinking about the match.” But his fans certainly were thinking about it. With every point he won, they waved a giant Chilean flag. “Viva Chile!” they chanted during changeovers. Rios has been the tour’s dominant player this season, with five titles and a 36-4 record (Moya snapped his 14-match winning streak). His baseline game is suited to clay, and he hits his ground-strokes with great power, often jumping on one foot to whack the ball. He overtook Sampras on March 30, and became the first South American to reach No. 1 since the computerized rankings started in 1973. Sampras recaptured the No. 1 spot a month later, but Rios was confident for Paris. And many favored him to win, even before the early exits of Sampras and No. 2 Petr Korda. “This to me is Rios’ tournament to win or lose,” John McEnroe said before the tournament. But French Open is often a favorite’s curse. Last year, Alex Corretja refused to name a favorite, explaining that if he did so, that person would lose. Moya, the No. 12 seed, has been ranked as high as fifth, but is now 12th and aiming to return to the top 10. He became the talk of tennis at last year’s Australian Open – for both his dashing looks and talent. He upset defending champion Boris Becker in the first round, then went straight through to the final, where he lost to Sampras. But except for that tournament, the 21-year-old had never gone past the second round of any Grand Slam event. And at Roland Garros, he hadn’t gotten past the second round in two previous visits. Moya was at the top of his game Tuesday, especially his serves. With Moya leading two sets to one, a crucial moment came in the fourth set at 4:4, 15/15. Rios was serving. Moya hit a shot and Rios let it go, thinking the ball had bounced twice on Moya’s side. But the referee said it hadn’t. Rios lost the point, the game and his concentration. “Maybe if I won that game, the match would have been different,” he said. Former champion, Thomas Muster, continued a disappointing year with a quarterfinal loss to Mantilla, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. The Austrian’s ranking has dropped this past year from 9th to 22nd. Mantilla lost his focus for a while and a 4:2 advantage in the 3rd set. Cedric Pioline  became the only non-Spaniard in the men’s semifinals of the French Open, enduring five exhausting sets today to defeat Hicham Arazi . As French flags waved in the stands, Pioline broke the Moroccan’s serve for a 4:2 lead in the final set and then held on – fighting off break points in 4 of 5 service games in the final set. Pioline, who won won 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, has played three five-set matches in the tournament, will have a day to rest before facing Corretja in Friday’s semifinals. “I’ve got to be in shape for that because Corretja is a good baseline player who makes his opponent run a lot,” said Pioline, a former finalist at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open who made the French Open semis for the first time. Pioline became the first Frenchman to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros since Henri Leconte in 1992. Just two Frenchmen have won the French Open title since World War II, with Yannick Noah the most recent in 1983. The Pioline-Arazi match was 3 hours, 42 minutes of error-filled, often tedious tennis – the two players combined for 149 unforced errors. But French fans hardly seemed to notice, yelling “Oui” on his points and booing loudly when Arazi questioned line calls. Arazi, who played most of the match with a blister on his left foot, converted only five of his 21 break points. “I’m going to jump into the Seine,” he said. “The thing that really did me in is that I stayed too much on the baseline. I should have gone to the net. I should have volleyed more.” He wasted a set point at 6:5 in the 3rd set and another one at the same score in the tie-break. Alex Corretja reached his first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Filip Dewulf of Belgium 7-5, 6-4, 6-3, joining close friends Moya and Mantilla in the final four. “This is history,” Corretja said. “I think it’s really good because normally it’s not easy to have a country put three guys in the semis of a Grand Slam. We used to see the American guys in other tournaments, but not the Spanish guys.” Three players from one country signed in semifinals in Paris for the third time: 1969 Australians (Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche & Rod Laver), 1980 Americans (Vitas Gerulaitis, Jimmy Connors & Harold Solomon). Dewulf hadn’t lost a set until his straight-set loss to Corretja. The 39th-ranked Belgian was a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year.
Semifinals: Charleston Gazette
Carlos Moya, overcoming muggy conditions and a patient fellow Spaniard, defeated Felix Mantilla 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 today in the semifinals at the French Open. Mantilla, Moya, and Corretja all live in Barcelona and hang out together on the road. The three went out for ice cream and video games to celebrate after advancing to the semifinals. They could have used similar refreshment Friday in the 82-degree (28 Celsius) heat and smothering humidity. But the player who really felt the heat was Cedric Pioline – 3:40, 2:52, 2:04, 3:18 & 3:42 – he spent 15 hours 36 minutes on courts to book his place in semifinals. He had hoped to become the first Frenchman to win at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah in 1983, had played three five-setters in reaching the semifinals and appeared drained. “I felt I did everything a bit slowly. On top of that, you’re not as focused when you’re tired. You don’t make the right decisions,” he said. “If you play a five-setter every other day, it really shows.” Alex Corretja took advantage of Pioline’s exhaustion to win 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. “I saw that Cedric was struggling on the court,” said Corretja, now 3-0 against Pioline on clay. “I wanted to show him that if he wanted to beat me, he should be there and he should fight every point.” Both players put ice-packs on their necks during changeovers in the third set. Moya mixed powerful ground-strokes with delicate drop shots to throw off Mantilla, who preferred to rally patiently from the baseline. Moya also added 10 aces. Moya mixed his powerful ground-strokes with delicate drop shots to throw off Mantilla, who preferred to rally patiently from the baseline. The Spaniards split the first two sets and Mantilla took a 4:1* lead in the third set. But Moya won the next five games, losing just five points during that span, to take control of the match. Moya got to match point with a 127-mph serve that handcuffed Mantilla, then hit a 122-mph service winner to finish off the 2-hour, 42-minute match. “Maybe we can have dinner together. That’s the most important thing, we’re going to be friends even if I win or if he wins,” Corretja said. “We have to find our game on the court, and then just enjoy the party.” Moya said on the second all-Spanish final at Roland Garros (four years before Sergi Bruguera beat Alberto Berasategui). “Alex is a close friend of mine. But when you get on the court, you fight like crazy, you run, you do everything, you try to step on him if necessary.”
Final: Charleston Gazette
They made their own line calls, and embraced at the end. Carlos Moya  and Alex Corretja  were just a couple of buddies playing tennis on a windswept Sunday. And, at times, they performed like weekend hackers. Gusts that whipped the clay across center court turned routine shots into adventures and robbed the match of drama. Moya, steady but unspectacular, defeated his fellow Spaniard and close friend 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 for the French Open title before a crowd that seemed more interested in doing the wave than in often-tedious tennis. Moya flopped onto his back after Corretja netted a backhand on match point. Corretja jumped the net for a long hug with Moya, who flung his racket high into the stands as a fan yelled “Viva Espana!” “I don’t know if we are friends, now,” Corretja said with a laugh. Fans reserved their biggest cheers for Pele, who presented the winner’s trophy and then joined Moya for an impromptu romp with a soccer ball. They headed it back and forth, and then Moya booted the ball into the crowd. Moya said he felt no guilt about defeating a good friend. “For two weeks I’ll be a king,” Moya said of the period before Wimbledon. “I’m not sad, not at all, even beating him. I just won a Grand Slam, so I cannot describe how happy I am.” A Spanish sweep of the singles titles already had been ensured when Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Monica Seles for the women’s title on Saturday. Sanchez-Vicario watched Moya’s victory from the players’ box. Moya and Corretja, reached the final after the men’s field was decimated early in the tournament. Top-seeded Pete Sampras lost in the second round and No. 2 Petr Korda was upset in the first. Moya ousted No. 3 Marcelo Rios in the quarterfinals. “The feelings I’m having right now are unbelievable,” said Moya, who won $650,000. “I cannot explain with words. You have to feel it. You have to be there.” Corretja, who had not faced a seeded player on his run to the final, struggled from the beginning in winds reaching 30 mph (48 kph). He had repeated mis-hits, including one shot that landed in the stands. “I couldn’t handle the wind,” Corretja said. “All my game wasn’t working really well. The whole time I was just trying to find the ball. It was honestly tough to play.” Moya had 45 unforced errors and just 20 winners. Corretja had 39 unforced errors and 18 winners. The players ignored the officials at times. In the first set, Corretja overruled a line call and gave Moya an ace. Moya returned the favor later in the set. “I think we didn’t need the chair umpire or the linesmen. Next time we’re just going to play by ourselves,” Corretja said. “I just trust him. I never have to check the mark.” The final was expected to be more competitive, but Moya simply was more versatile. He served better and dominated with his powerful forehand. It was his 5th title. He seemed a new king of Paris, but never reached even semifinals in his ten following visits at Roland Garros. Stats of the final
French Open, Paris
May 24-June 6, 1999; 128 Draw (16 seeds); Surface – Clay
The only Grand Slam final of the Open era played between two bald players (Andre Agassi, Andrei Medvedev), who had been supposed to win this tournament one day (Agassi in the early 90s, Medvedev in the mid-90s), but in 1999 they were both written off. Agassi made history becoming the first man since 1962 to win all four majors, and he did it in amazingly dramatic circumstances, winning two five-setters being very close to lose them, and three four-setters being each time close to a two-sets-to-love deficit! The great Roger Federer played his first Grand Slam match at Roland Garros ’99 and left a good impression taking a set off Patrick Rafter – one of the best guys at the time.
First round: (AP)
Michael Chang had visions of his tennis obituary. “I hope you guys aren’t writing me off,” he said. “Give me a little more time.” Well, what gave him that idea? Perhaps it floated into his mind after questions led him to talk about his post-tennis career, possibly doing missionary work or going back to school. Or maybe it was his latest Grand Slam misfortune – a 6-2, 5-7, 6-0, 7-6(8) first-round loss to top-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia – and his plummeting ranking, No. 51, in the world. Afterward, Chang cut a forlorn figure. This particular defeat hit hard because this is the 10th anniversary of Chang’s historic French Open title. “It always hurts when you lose early in a major,” said the 27-year-old Chang. “I felt like I put in the work and came up a little short.” The warm memories of his lone Grand Slam championship serve as a comfort and, at the same time, a cruel reminder of his once-lofty status. Quite simply, he can’t seem to win the close matches in Grand Slam events. Chang lost to Mark Philippoussis in five sets in the second round this year at the Australian Open and exited in five sets in the second round last year against Carlos Moya of Spain after holding three match points at the U.S. Open. In the 4th set against Kafelnikov, Chang saved three match points and led 3:0 in the tie-break blowing two set points afterwards (6:5, 8:7). Both the fourth-seeded Carlos Moya, the defending champion, and No. 13 Andre Agassi showed the moxie to escape difficult situations. Agassi, still feeling a twinge or two from an injured shoulder, defeated Franco Squillari of Argentina, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3, finishing the match with three consecutive aces. Moya struggled on Centre Court against little-known Markus Hipfl of Austria, winning 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, in 2 hours 55 minutes (0:2 in the 4th set). The only seeded male beaten was No. 15 Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia, who lost to Hicham Arazi of Morocco, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. “The way I was playing, I didn’t see any way out to escape from this match,” Moya said. “What can you do when you are losing so badly? You just have to do your best and pray. That’s what I did and it worked out.” For 4 hours, 18 minutes, Pete Sampras played as if he were trapped in a movie montage of his ugliest and longest matches. He muttered and sputtered, letting his mind drift back to the way he survived so many other brutal five-setters. Matches when he was sick and cramped and barely able to stand, his racket serving as a crutch between points. Then he won once again, shuffling away caked in clay. “It’s Welcome to Paris,’ I guess,” Sampras said after taking his first-round match Tuesday against Juan Antonio Marin 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-5, 6-7(9), 6-4 at the French Open. “How did I survive it? Grace of God, I guess,” he said. Sampras did everything he could to blow the match, including double-faulting on match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker, but then he did everything he could to win it on wobbly legs in the fifth. “It was just pure will, just hanging in there and fighting hard,” he said. “I wasn’t going to stop, by any means. When it’s in the fifth set, it comes down to heart and how much you want it.” Sampras wants to win his first French Open in the worst way, and that’s just how he started. He was determined to play true to his attacking style, but found himself becoming tentative against the clay-loving Marin, and too often got caught in the no-man’s land between the baseline and net. Marin, a 5-foot-9 Costa Rican who had lost all seven of his previous Grand Slam matches (finished career with 17 first round defeats at majors which is an Open era record) and was ranked No. 92, displayed a knack for keeping the ball in play and frustrating Sampras. Never did that come in handier than when Sampras held the first of his two match points at 8:7 in the fourth-set tiebreaker. Sampras drove a forehand crosscourt into the corner that looked like a solid winner to everyone except Marin. “Pete thought I was not going to get to that ball,” Marin said. “All the crowd also, because they shouted like the match was over. I got to that ball, and I run to the other side because I know I have to.” Surprised as Sampras was, he whacked another shot the other way, only to see Marin track that down, too, with what he called, with no exaggeration, “an unbelievable backhand” down the line that Sampras couldn’t touch. Instead, Sampras lunged and tumbled to the court, then sat up with his shirt, shorts and socks covered in red. Marin raised his hands in triumph as the crowd roared, and he would have more reason to celebrate a few points later. Serving for the match at 9:8, Sampras double-faulted, then Marin swiped the set with the help of two big forehands. In the 3rd set Sampras saved a set point, there was 4-all in the decider (Marin was serving second)… In an all-French duel, similar to that in 1994 (Delaitre-Santoro) Arnaud Clement defeated Cedric Pioline 3-6, 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4, 6-3 despite Pioline led 5:3 serving in the 3rd set, and held two match points in the tie-break which was entirely played in rain. In other five-set French encounter, Sebastien Grosjean eliminated Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1 squandering a 3:0 lead in the 3rd set. Nicolas Lapentti was a victor against former champion Thomas Muster 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(4). The 32-year-old Austrian finished his career after the loss, but made a fruitless comeback a decade later. Meanwhile 18-year-old Lleyton Hewitt  made his Parisian debut losing unexpectedly to Martin Rodriguez 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6.
Second round: Jocelyn Noveck
Yevgeny Kafelnikov was ousted from the French Open on Wednesday, doing little to show he is worthy of the No. 1 ranking he gained just three weeks ago. Kafelnikov was whistled off the court by the fans after losing 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 to Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia. Kafelnikov, a former French Open champion, will lose his top ranking if Pete Sampras or Patrick Rafter reaches the quarterfinals. This was the second straight year he lost in the second round in Paris. ”When I’m not 100 percent, it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to have a tough day at the office,” he said. ”Ask any No. 1 how hard it is to be on the top of the world,” he added. Kafelnikov has played poorly since January, when he won the Australian Open, capturing only one title since. He gained the No. 1 ranking on May 3 despite losing six consecutive matches. ”It’s not psychological,” Kafelnikov said. ”It’s that I’m No. 1 in the world, and anytime I step on the court, it seems they are playing with a lot of desire.” Andre Agassi was luckier but also had a hard time. Facing an inspired Frenchman playing his best, Agassi held on after losing two sets to beat Arnaud Clement 6-2, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-0. Agassi was two points from defeat when he trailed 0/30, 4:5 on serve in the 4th set. A couple of big ground-strokes saved him, then he watched Clement wilt in the heat with a case of leg cramps. “I didn’t get lucky that he cramped, I worked for that,” Agassi said. Agassi, seeded 13th, won an exhausting fourth set that included two games in which he failed to convert multiple break points. He then surged through the final set against a spent opponent. Usually a crowd favorite in Paris, Agassi had to defer this time to a player ranked 82nd in the world. The fans chanted ”Arnaud! Arnaud!” through much of the match. The men’s field lost another prominent player when No. 5 Richard Krajicek was routed 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 by Vince Spadea. ”When my game is ready, I feel like I can beat anyone in the world,” Spadea said. Defending champion Carlos Moya of Spain, seeded fourth, defeated Petr Korda, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. Korda’s last Grand Slam appearance, afterwards he played only one tournament (Queens Club). Krajicek had a chance of reaching the No. 1 ranking in this tournament. Pete Sampras‘ annual ordeal at the French Open ended the way so many others did: anguish on his face, hollowness inside, and a vow to return for more punishment next year. For the fourth time in 10 futile attempts to capture the only Grand Slam title that has eluded him, the No. 2-ranked Sampras tumbled out in the second round today, falling to No. 100 Andrei Medvedev 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3. ”I’m sitting here just after losing, thinking, ‘What happened? What could I have done strategy-wise?’ It’s just a numb feeling,” Sampras said. The depth of Sampras’ torment could be seen in his actions on the court in the sweltering, 90-degree heat. He kicked the clay, beat it with his racket, kept up a running argument with himself, even threw down his towel. For so stoic a man, it was tantamount to a raving tantrum. ”I was very frustrated,” Sampras said. ”I wanted to contain myself. I’m still boring. Let’s not forget that. But I was on the edge of breaking a few sticks.” Sampras tried serving and volleying. He tried staying back. Too often, he got stuck in the middle, just as he did on the same slow court a year ago against No. 97 Ramon Delgado of Paraguay. Playing for nearly 4 1-2 hours in a five-setter two days ago had nothing to do with this loss, Sampras said. It was just the annoying red clay that’s so foreign to him. ”On every surface, it’s a natural instinct,” he said. ”Sometimes on clay my instinct is not the right call. Maybe it’s best to stay back, maybe it’s best to take a little bit off my serve and come in on the next shot. I get into a hole, and I want to serve my way out of holes. On clay, you just can’t do that.” No. 3 Patrick Rafter, trying to show that a serve-and-volleyer can thrive at the French Open, completed a suspended match from Thursday evening and advanced to the third round against clay-court specialist Nicolas Escude of France. “It’s a big relief,” Rafter said after his 7-5, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 victory. It was his second straight 4-setter, in the first round he beat 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 “wild card” Roger Federer , for whom it was Grand Slam debut (his 8th main-level tournament). Hicham Arazi notched second valuable win in succession as he ousted two-time former champion Jim Courier 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
Third round: Lisa Dillman
After a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over Sjeng Schalken, Gustavo Kuerten is the only player remaining at the French Open who can stop the reign of Yevgeny Kafelnikov at No. 1. Kuerten is out there alone after his compatriot Fernando Meligeni defeated third-seeded Patrick Rafter, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, in a third-round match yesterday at the French Open. Rafter needed to reach the quarterfinals to have a shot at supplanting Kafelnikov. Kuerten, the champion here two years ago, must win the title again and have a certain number of bonus points to ascend to the top spot. Rafter, for his part, was not downcast at the lost opportunity. “Part of the game, mate,” he said. “It would have been lovely. But you know, it’s been a good, very good three wspan style=”color: #33cccc;”eeks for me. I’m happy with the way I’ve played and regained the form.” He is not dwelling on where and when it may happen. “Not at all,” Rafter said. “I don’t look at it like that at all.” In men’s play, Andre Agassi came up with the shot of the tournament in beating fellow American Chris Woodruff 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the round of 16 and a matchup against defending champion Carlos Moya. Moya, seeded No. 4, beat Sargis Sargsian 6-3, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-3. “To be smack dab in the thick of this tournament feels wonderful,” the No. 13-seeded Agassi said. “I feel very confident.” Agassi took a perfect lob to the corner by Woodruff, hit it through his legs with his back to the net, and watched it whiz down the line for a winner. “Do not try this at home,” he advised. Tim Henman, No. 7, tumbled out after leading two sets to love and 3:1 in the 3rd against Alberto Berasategui of Spain, a 1994 finalist in Paris. Serving at 4:5 in the 5th, the seventh-seeded Briton netted his two final shots to give the Spaniard a 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 win in 3 hours, 26 minutes in the third round. Henman’s compatriot, Greg Rusedski, had better luck, beating Davide Sanguinetti of Italy 6-2, 7-6(7), 6-2 to reach the round of 16 despite his own predictions that he’d go nowhere at Roland Garros. Marcelo Rios‘ chances of winning a Grand Slam seem best on the red clay of Roland Garros. And the way he is playing right now, this could be the year. In three sets of top quality clay-court tennis between the two best players on the surface in 1998, the ninth-seeded Chilean was too strong for Spain’s Albert Costa on Friday, winning 7-5, 6-4, 7-5. Rios faces Berasategui in the next round. For some, he is the tournament favorite. “If I had to pick one player to win, it would be Rios,” said Henman, the British No. 7 seed. “He is playing really well at the moment.” The former world No. 1 is in fine form on the European clay court circuit, with title wins at the German Open and in St. Polten, after struggling to overcome injury problems early in the year. “I’m feeling much better than last year,” he said. “I have played three matches in straight sets, which for sure will help me at the end if I keep winning.” Rios defeated Costa on Centre Court in Paris second year running, in 1998 in the third round (four sets).
Fourth round: Jocelyn Noveck
Playing better than anyone on clay this season, Gustavo Kuerten eased into the French Open quarterfinals with a straight-set victory today over Bohdan Ulihrach. Kuerten beat his Czech opponent 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 and appears ready to contend for the French title he won in 1997. ”I’m feeling more comfortable during points,” the Brazilian said. ”I love to come back here. Everyone treats me so well.” Next up, though, is Andrei Medvedev, who knocked out Pete Sampras in the second round and overcame a partisan crowd Monday to beat Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-1. Medvedev led 3:0 serving in the 1st set, but Di Pasquale broke three times in a row, and had a double set point at 5:4* (40/15). Alex Corretja, at least, has some strong credentials. Ranked No. 6 and a threat on both clay and hard courts, he advanced to the quarters with a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Austria’s Stefan Koubek. Fernando Meligeni is just starting to make a name for himself. Almost as skinny as his compatriot Kuerten, Meligeni also displayed uncanny power in a 6-1, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(1) upset of No. 14 Felix Mantilla of Spain. Meligeni lost all five previous meetings with Mantilla. ”Brazil deserves this,” Meligeni said. ”I hope we can stay in the tournament and play the semifinals together, and one guy is going to be in the final for sure.” Meligeni said he was inspired by Kuerten’s victory here in 1997. ”A friend of yours wins the tournament, it shows you that you can do it,” he said, “I don’t know if I’m good enough to win the tournament. I just get on the court, try my best, hit the ball”. Andre Agassi seemed to tap into some fierce desire that told him he could turn things around even though he was trailing badly in the 2nd set of his match against Carlos Moya. ”Today was a huge, huge obstacle in my way,” Agassi said after his 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 victory. ”I felt good about not just winning, but how I won. I like the way I played.” A first-round loser a year ago, Agassi is now trying to become the first American man in 61 years to complete a career Grand Slam. Sampras tries that every year in Paris. But for whatever reason, he has psyched himself out of playing well on clay. Agassi has done the opposite. Agassi suddenly turned the match around with offspeed shots, junk lobs, lunging retrievals and a go-for-broke offense that Moya couldn’t handle. ”As long as I played tennis, everything was under control,” Moya said. ”Then I started thinking about something else. The problem was that I was leading pretty easily, 6-4, 4:1 with two breaks. I thought everything was done. If it was more tight, I would have been focused. When I wanted to play well again, I couldn’t.”When Moya’s final forehand landed weakly in the bottom of the net after he chased down a lob by Agassi, the Spaniard dropped his racket in disgust. Moments later, he gave it to a fan. Agassi was runner-up at Roland Garros in 1990 and 1991 and a semifinalist twice. He lost in the first round last year, skipped the year before that, and went out in the second round in 1996. Almost 30 years old, he takes great satisfaction in ”just feeling like I can still do it.” ”You can believe it all you want, but until you do it, it’s just, you know, it’s just a bunch of talk,’‘ he said. Marcelo Rios defeated Alberto Berasategui 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Rios came back from two sets down against Berasategui also in the second round of Roland Garros ’95, but lost the fifth set quickly then (4-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, 1-6). Dominik Hrbaty took a revenge on two defeats to Marat Safin in 1999 (St. Petersburg, Rotterdam) overpowering the Russian 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. Qualifier Marcelo Filippini stunned Greg Rusedski 7-6(10), 6-3, 6-4. The almost 32-year-old Uruguayan, who lost in the first round of his four previous appearances in Paris, saved two set points in the 1st set against Rusedski and advanced to his only Grand Slam quarterfinal (not dropping a set)!
Quarterfinals: Steve Wilstein
Andre Agassi barely broke a sweat as he mercifully put injured qualifier Marcelo Filippini of Uruguay out of his misery 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in 72 minutes. Playing his most punishing tennis yet this tournament, Agassi yielded only four points in the first four games, nine points in the whole 3rd set. “He killed me on the court,” said Filippini, who hadn’t lost a set in the first four rounds. “I had no chance. It’s not nice to get booed on center court.” Filippini, ranked No. 140, said a strained abdominal muscle limited his serving motion and hurt him on every backhand. But he admitted that even if he were well Agassi probably still would have destroyed him. Marcelo Rios exited a tournament he seemed primed to win. He fell 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3 to Dominik Hrbaty, one of the season’s big surprises. “I think he played better than me today,” Rios said. “Losing is always sad. I’ll try again next year.” Hrbaty was very confident: “When I lost third set I knew I would win in four or five because he was very tired.” Love means nothing in tennis, and yet for Andrei Medvedev it means everything. In this most romantic of cities, where lovers kiss under every lamppost, Medvedev is fairly glowing as he finds himself in the French Open semifinals and back in the arms of the German player Anke Huber. “I don’t think there is anybody happier on earth than me right now,” Medvedev exulted after dispatching 1997 champion Gustavo Kuerten 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday. “It is like a second birth in tennis, in life. When there is love, you’re inspired, you can write poems, you can write music, you can play good tennis.” With spring fever in the air, Medvedev is playing his most inspired tennis in years, beating Pete Sampras in the second round and Kuerten in the quarters. In the semis on Friday, he’ll face another Brazilian, Fernando Meligeni , who upset Spain’s sixth-seeded Alex Corretja 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. Corretja, runner-up last year at the French, said he was weakened by an allergic reaction that began mysteriously on Sunday. “I was feeling dead on the court,” said Corretja, who has battled allergies for years. “I couldn’t move my legs. It’s like I was carrying 100 kilos on each leg.” The tally of unforced errors told the story: 49 for Corretja, 20 for the Brazilian. “It’s incredible,” said Meligeni, “It’s not a normal score. I didn’t expect this, for sure.” The Brazilian everyone expected to reach the final ran into a player most people had forgotten. Medvedev played poetically against Kuerten, stroking the ball on drop shots with a delicate touch that wouldn’t break an egg. Time and time again, those shots caught Kuerten flat-footed behind the baseline, unable to sprint to the net quickly enough to touch them. In all, Medvedev won 10 points on drops, including one that closed out the first set and another that ended the match. Kuerten, affectionately known as Guga and often cheered lustily by the French crowd, got no help from fans this time. A citywide Metro subway strike, triggered by a fatal attack on a ticket seller, left about one third of the seats empty at center court. “I knew I had to do all the things just by myself,” the eighth-seeded Kuerten said. “I couldn’t do them.”
Semifinals: Nesha Starcevic
Andrei Medvedev beat Fernando Meligeni 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) in 2 hours 59 minutes to reach his first Grand Slam final. And with a No. 100 ranking, Medvedev becomes the lowest-ranked player in the Open era to play for the French Open championship. ”I can’t explain it,” he said. ”It’s a minor miracle.” A semifinalist at Roland Garros in 1993 and once ranked as high as No. 4, Medvedev nearly slipped into tennis oblivion, troubled by injuries and a fast lifestyle. But since renewing his relationship with German player Anke Huber three months ago, Medvedev has been enjoying his second spring. His victims in Paris included No. 2 Pete Sampras and 1997 champion Gustavo Kuerten. ”It means a new life and it means I’ve come back to tennis,’‘ said Medvedev, admittedly rattled by nerves and unable to sleep the night before. ”Tennis is my life.” Against Meligeni, a Brazilian ranked 54th, Medvedev was treated by a trainer during several changeovers and was given vitamins and minerals. ”I had cramps, I felt dizzy in the third set,” Medvedev said. Had it been an earlier-round match, Medvedev said he would have considered quitting. But not in his second Grand Slam semifinal. ”All I thought was to fight like a dog, and that’s what I did,” he said. ”If I dies on the court, I wouldn’t care today, really. If my heart would stop on the court, then I would be proud that I’m dead this way.” It was one of those matches in which a lose could win all lost sets: Meligeni led *4:0 in the 1st set having 6 set points at 5:4, 3:1 in the 3rd set and blew a set point in the 4th set tie-break. Andre Agassi strutted off court tapping his heart, a gesture to show he still has all the desire it takes to win a Grand Slam championship. His passion for tennis had waned a few years ago, and his ranking plummeted, but on Saturday the old fire burned for everyone to see as he reached the French Open final. Seven games in 24 minutes is all Agassi needed to deliver a quick knockout of Dominik Hrbaty, completing a rain-suspended match 6-4, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4. Agassi said he doesn’t believe the breakup of his marriage to actress Brooke Shields has made him more motivated or more focused in tennis. ‘‘I would hate to give the impression that that’s the case,’‘ he said, ”because that would mean that the beautiful years I shared with Brooke somehow interfered with my tennis. I think we constantly make choices in life. The choice that I made in my personal life was a very important personal decision. But the one I made with my tennis was also a very calculated specific decision, and that’s just to continue maximizing the things I still feel I can accomplish.” If Agassi wins the French title Sunday he will complete a career Grand Slam and become the first man to win all four majors on three different surfaces. Only four other men have won the four majors – the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open – but they did it when the tournaments were played on either clay or grass, not hard courts. ”It would be an incredible achievement,” said the 29-year-old Agassi, who also is bidding to become the first American to win all four since Don Budge in 1938. Agassi’s trip to the final was threatened Friday when Hrbaty won six of the last seven games to take the third set and a 2:1 lead in the 4th. But rain gave Agassi a reprieve, allowing him to come back fresh on a dry day with the court more suitable to him. Agassi’s kick serve was stretching the 21-year-old Hrbaty wide before the rain hit, and Agassi was able to dictate play. ”I play with a bit more spin than he does,” Agassi said. ”When the weather came, the court not only got a lot slower, but the balls got very heavy so my kick wasn’t taking as well. It was kind of sitting up for him. So I wasn’t getting the offense early in the point on my serve.” The conditions started to favor Hrbaty’s style of play, Agassi said. ”I was glad to stop and wished we had stopped about 15 minutes earlier,” Agassi said. A day before Hrbaty had his chances to win two opening sets: led 4:2 (40/0) serving in the 1st set, and 6:5* (30/0) in the 2nd set, also 5:3 in the tie-break.
Final: Nesha Starcevic
Andre Agassi  captured a piece of tennis history Sunday, rallying to win the French Open and become the fifth man to complete a career Grand Slam. After losing the first two sets, Agassi surged back against Andrei Medvedev to claim in five sets the only title to elude him. Once seemingly on the verge of defeat, Agassi regrouped and won 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. After the final point, he covered his face with his arms and broke into tears. ‘‘I never dreamed I’d ever be back here after so many years, I’m so proud,” said Agassi, his voice shaking. ”I’ll never forget this, I’ll never forget this. I’m very blessed.” The others to win all four majors in a career were Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. Budge and Laver (twice) did it in the same year. Laver came down to the court to present the trophy to Agassi. ”To be assigned a place with some of the game’s greatest players is an honor I’ll have the rest of my life,’‘ Agassi said. Agassi, seeded 13th, also won the 1992 Wimbledon, the 1994 U.S. Open and the 1995 Australian Open. Medvedev, at No. 100 the lowest-ranked player ever to reach the French Open final, and Agassi hugged after the match. ”I cannot say that losing to him is an honor, but it’s an honor to stand here with him because he made history,’‘ Medvedev said. Medvedev’s ranking will jump to the mid-20s. Agassi will rise 10 spots to No. 4. ”I cannot say I did anything wrong, he just played unbelievably,” Medvedev said. ”I left my heart and soul on the court. I had nothing left.” Medvedev was ranked as high as No. 4 in 1994. But his ranking plummeted amid injuries and a loss of interest in tennis. He has won 11 titles in his career. Agassi, a former No. 1 who dropped out of the top 100 not long ago, won his 40th career title and earned $635,000. Medvedev, playing in his first Grand slam final, ruled the first two sets. Then the 29-year-old American found his old fire in the third and turned the match around by coming more to the net. ‘I lost to a great player today,” Medvedev said. A loser in the French Open final in 1990 and 1991, Agassi raised his game as the sun reappeared and the wind died down on the red clay. He hit a backhand winner down the line and Medvedev blasted a forehand long to put Agassi a break up with a 3:2 in the 5th. With Medvedev serving, Agassi held three match points at 5:3: Medvedev fired his 23rd ace to save the first and had another big serve to stave off the second. A double fault and a botched volley put Medvedev in trouble again, but he survived with another good serve. A couple of strong serves gave Agassi his fourth match point. He fired a serve far to Medvedev’s forehand and the Ukrainian’s return went long. Medvedev took the first set in 19 minutes. He responded with another strong set as Agassi made one error after another. But as Agassi fought back, Medvedev’s confidence waned. ‘‘I felt if I could let him feel my presence it could turn into a battle,” Agassi said. Medvedev finished the first two sets with aces and had 23 for the match. But he also faced one of the best returners in the game. ”It was not a great start but I hung in there,” Agassi said. Agassi broke serve for the first time for a 4:2 lead in the third. But his momentum did not last long. A drop shot winner, a forehand winner and a forehand wide by Agassi gave Medvedev three break points. Agassi than fired wide an overhead smash and the set got back on serve. Agassi saved a mini-match point at 4-all with a forehand volley (approached the net after very risky second serve, which is exceptional considering he’d committed two straight double faults before that crucial point!). Agassi gained three set points at Medvedev’s serve in the next game. He got the first one when the Ukrainian’s lob went long. Now the crowd was into it: Agassi was producing winning shots and Medvedev was producing unforced errors. ”I knew my game wasn’t gone,” Agassi said. He had a break point to go up 4:0 in the 4th, but Medvedev replied with two straight aces. He then double faulted but a good serve and a forehand winner allowed Medvedev to hold. Medvedev blasted four aces in the sixth game, in which he fought off three break points. But Agassi closed it out on his second set point. A wide backhand gave Agassi the fourth set. Medvedev prolonged play in the fifth when he faced three match points in the ninth game. The game went to five deuces before Medvedev saved it. But there was nothing he could do to stop Agassi from serving out the match. Stats of the final