2000 – 2001, Roland Garros

Roland Garros, Paris
May 29-June 11, 2000; 128 draw (16 seeded) – 4,526,942; Surface – Clay

Even though Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were seeded with two highest numbers, everyone expected a Gustavo Kuerten vs. Magnus Norman final. Agassi came to Paris out of form, with a humble 3-2 clay-court record, something similar had happened a year before when he triumphed, but tennis miracles rather don’t occur twice in a row, in turn Sampras had won just 2 out of 5 clay-court matches during his French Open preparation, and everyone knew he had lost his last reasonable chance to collect fourth Slam in Paris, in 1998. Much more younger Kuerten and Norman were brilliant at the time, sharing the biggest titles between themselves: Norman won the Italian Open, Kuerten in Hamburg, splitting wins against each other in the process. 20-year-old Marat Safin was considered as the only man who could interfere the general assumptions. Also other youngsters displayed their huge potential: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Roger Federer & Lleyton Hewitt.
All scorelines
First round: Andreas Evagora, Charles Bricker

Gustavo Kuerten dismissed his first opponent in the French Open with a swagger on Monday, saying his status as favorite was a source of inspiration rather than being a burden. The Brazilian, unseeded champion in 1997, brushed aside Swede Andreas Vinciguerra 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 in little more kuerten_rg00than an hour in their first round match. “It’s better for me [as favorite]. The other guy probably felt the pressure. I’m used to playing as a favorite here since I won the tournament,” the fifth seed said. “I can take advantage. I got into a rhythm quickly like I have done in my last tournaments. He got a bit frustrated and couldn’t find the shots [to reply],” said the Brazilian, who won at Hamburg nine days ago after also reaching the Italian Open final. The 40th-ranked Vinciguerra, in the first meeting between the two, did not get on the scoreboard until the 16th game when he won service for the first time. The Swede also managed one break of service – to Kuerten’s eight – and saved the Brazilian’s first match point with an ace in the penultimate game before Kuerten served to love for the match. Anthony Dupuis – a wild card entry ranked 108th – punched the air in delight after slamming a serve past Andre Agassi on set point. Alas, the little-known Frenchman hadn’t heard a net cord call amid the din from home fans who had started celebrating the prospect of a huge upset. “I thought I had won the first set,” Dupuis said. “That would have changed many things.” Instead, Agassi clung on, saving three set points (2:5, 4:6, 6:7) before clinching the first-set tiebreaker. “I didn’t want to go out and start pulling any triggers, missing shots and not finding my range,” Agassi said. “I really wanted to settle into the match.” That’s exactly what he did, cruising to a 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4 victory in the first round of the French Open on Wednesday. On set point, Agassi said, he heard the ball hit the net cord “from the second it left his racket.” “Actually I heard it early,” he joked. “It was definitely a clear let. But it was a big serve.” The defending Roland Garros champion applauded a brave performance from Dupuis who has never climbed above No. 82 in the world rankings during an undistinguished eight-year pro career. “The difficulty in the first set was the quality of play on his part because he was stepping up hitting my first service for routine winners,” Agassi said. “He was hitting as big as anybody. I had to get him off the plate.” French fans were pleasantly surprised that Dupuis even got to set point. The clash looked like a colossal mismatch, pairing Agassi – who has collected a career Grand Slam – against someone contesting only his fourth Grand Slam tourney match. As Agassi seeks his second straight French Open title, he might think of Sergi Bruguera – the last man balcells_00to capture the clay court tournament in successive years: 1993-94. The feat is no guarantee of continued success on the slow red clay at Roland Garros. This year, the injury-plagued Spaniard returned briefly to Paris on a wild card. He was beaten by countryman Juan Balcells 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 1-6, 6-0 in his first-round match Wednesday. An operation on his right shoulder in February 1999 put Bruguera, 29, out of action for a year (he played just 1 main-level tournament in 1999)“I started playing again in January this year. It’s very difficult to come back, but I’m trying very hard,” he said. “I thought it would be easier, but you lose a lot of habits, a lot of things that were automatic, that I didn’t even think about before.” Goran Ivanisevic was characteristically downcast after losing a first-round match to Spain’s Albert Costa 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 Wednesday. “I didn’t expect it to be my day. I didn’t expect anything better than this,” said the 28-year-old left-hander from Croatia. “You practice hard for one week, and then to play like this,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Ivanisevic, once ranked No. 2 in the world, said he is not considering quitting tennis, even though he feels his future doesn’t look bright. “When you win one or two matches every two or three months, how can you be confident?” he asked. For Chilean Marcelo Rios, winning is everything. And if that’s not possible, the game is not worth playing. The former world No. 1, who underwent groin surgery in November, retired from his first-round match Wednesday against Germany’s Tommy Haas after losing the first two sets 6-3, 6-2. “I’m not here to play a couple of matches or win a set or try to win one match,” Rios said. “I think I’m here to win the tournament. If I know I’m not going to feel good the rest of the week, it makes no sense to play.” The 24-year-old said his legs were hurting, although not as badly as before surgery. “I’m a little depressed because I’m not playing good. When I’m playing good, I enjoy playing tennis,” he said. His decision to quit did not sit well with the 22-year-old Haas. “If you make the decision to go on and play, I think you should finish,” Haas said. “I don’t think it’s good at all, but we all know how Marcelo Rios is, and I don’t think he cares what people think.” Head down, shoulders slumped, legs heavy, Pete Sampras shuffled away from the French Open as he has year after year, frustrated, disappointed, yet doggedly vowing to try again for as long as he plays. This is where Sampras goes each spring in search of a personal validation, proof that he can win on clay and capture the Grand Slam title that keeps getting away. Each year he leaves early, the victim of more punishment. The beating came this time in the first round Monday against Australia’s Mark Philippoussis, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 4-6, 8-6 (3 hours 39 minutes), and it was all the more painful to the No. 2 Sampras because he played so well in defeat and because he knows that at 28 time is running out on him. He knows, too, that his trend at the French doesn’t look promising – philippoussis_rg00third round and out three years ago, second round the past two years, first round this year. After more than 3 1/2 hours in blustery weather that kept shifting from hot to cold, from sunny to cloudy and back again, this match between serving titans ended in the most ignoble way at 8:06 p.m., when Sampras double-faulted on match point. Ever the stranger in a strange land at Roland Garros, Sampras had asked the umpire at 6:6 in the fifth set whether they play a tiebreaker now (earlier he came back from a 2:4 deficit). No, the umpire said, no tiebreaker. At the French, unlike the U.S. Open, the fifth set is played out in games. Sampras never won another point. He watched Philippoussis serve his 23rd ace in taking a 7:6 lead at love before Sampras fell at love in the final game. Sampras looked the picture of misery and weariness at the end, though he denied that fatigue was a factor. His legs moved slowly, his socks and shoes seemed caked with a couple of pounds of clay, and he had no punch in his game. When he tried to describe his emotions a few minutes later, his voice was as soft and weak as some of his shots in the final games. “I’m sitting here very disappointed about what happened,” Sampras said. “Very close match. Could have gone either way. I feel like I had some chances, but Mark, I give him all the credit. He served huge.” Sampras took solace in playing a solid, tough match that showed he can adapt his serve-and-volley style to a modicum of proficiency on clay. There weren’t many long rallies, but there also weren’t a lot of embarrassing gaffes, as there had been in Sampras’ other early round exits. In 11 appearances at the French, Sampras has lost in the first round twice, the second round four times, and the third round once. He reached the quarters three times and the semifinals once. “I certainly haven’t gotten the breaks at this event over the years,” Sampras said.  The rain fell mercilessly all morning and afternoon at the Drench Open, washing out an entire program, flustering fans who planned this Day 2 (a single point wasn’t played on Tuesday due to rain) outing for weeks and throwing a damper on Magnus Norman‘s 24th birthday. Norman, who has risen to the top echelon of men’s tennis over the past 13 months looking like the reincarnation of recently retired Jim Courier, took the wet news with a shrug. Like Courier, he has reached the top without a crushing serve and by excelling on hard and soft courts. At 6 feet 2 and 165 pounds, norman_rg00BHhe’s more substantial than the reed-like Kuerten, though not nearly as muscular as Philippoussis. His fitness level, however, is unquestioned and there are times he has to shake coach Fredrik Rosengren awake in order to get a training day under way. “When I’m home in Monte Carlo I wake up at 8, go for a run, then practice two hours’ tennis,” he said. “After that we go weightlifting for 45 minutes. Then we have lunch, play another two hours of tennis and normally do one hour more of something physical.” The inside-out forehand is something he has had since his junior days, but during this 13-month ascension he has gone to it more. It has helped him increase his accuracy in smacking his shot down the line instead of the cross-court. In the first round he ousted Thierry Guardiola 6-4, 6-4, 6-0. It was only Day 3, but Charles Darwin’s legacy fell heavily over the French Open as three players struggling to come back from injuries were cashiered. They included 1998 champion Carlos Moya, who labored 3 hours, 37 minutes before losing battles with his aching back and the uncelebrated Hernan Gumy. The score was 7-6(4), 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3. Gumy two years before played almost two-hour longer match against Alex Corretja…

Second round: Steven Wine

Defending French Open champion Andre Agassi, hobbled by a blistered big toe, limped out of the tournament with a stunning second-round loss Thursday. Karol Kucera won 16 of the final 17 games to upset the top-seeded Agassi 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-0. The near-capacity crowd on center court, which included Agassi’s girlfriend, Steffi Graf, watched in stunned silence. Agassi was so disappointed by the defeat that he left Roland Garros without talking to reporters, which left him subject to being fined. “He’s not taking it well,” said his coach, Brad Gilbert. “He’s very upset.” Agassi controlled the match early and led 5:3 in the second set before two blisters on the big toe of his right foot began to bother him. Agassi requested a trainer at 5:4, Gilbert said, but didn’t kucera_rg00receive treatment until falling behind 4:1 in the third set. Gilbert said the blisters tore open and Agassi couldn’t move, even after he had the toe taped. “We put our heart and soul into all of this and just get bad luck sometimes,” Gilbert said. As the match progressed, Agassi occasionally winced in pain and became increasingly erratic with his shots. On break point in the opening game of the fourth set, he didn’t try for a shot by Kucera down the line. Agassi won only six points in the final set and finished with 60 unforced errors. After hitting a service return into the net on match point, he waved to the crowd and signed autographs before walking off the court. The loss ends his run of four consecutive Grand Slam finals, a feat last achieved by Rod Laver in 1969. Agassi was trying to become the first man to win consecutive French Open titles at Roland Garros since Sergi Bruguera in 1993-94. Agassi planned to return to his home in Las Vegas. Gilbert said he hopes the blisters will heal in about a week, well before Wimbledon starts June 26. Kucera came into the tournament with just three wins in seven years at Roland Garros, and he’s 65th in this year’s ATP champions race. But he’s now 2-0 in Grand Slams against Agassi, including a five-set upset at the 1998 U.S. Open. This time Kucera started slowly, double-faulting on break point twice in the first set. But he served better after that and became more aggressive with his groundstrokes, keeping the ball deep and making Agassi move. “The first two sets, he’s got the match in his hands,” Kucera said. “I was lucky to get back, actually, in the second set.” The upset left No. 3 Magnus Norman as the top remaining men’s seed. Moments after Agassi’s defeat, Norman completed a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Fabrice Santoro. Austria’s Stefan Koubek was disqualified from his second round match at the French Open on Thursday after throwing his racket at a ballboy.  Koubek, in a fit of anger, threw his racket toward his chair but accidentally hit a ballboy. The 23-year-old Koubek, who was losing to Hungarian Attila Savolt 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, 5-2, had already received three warnings during the match. The first was for coaching, the second for throwing his racket, the third for verbal abuse and the final one for non-sporting behavior – flinging the racket. ”I hit the ballboy with the racket. Not on purpose of course, but it happened,” the 35th-ranked player said. ”I didn’t even see him because I was so mad with myself that I wanted to throw the racket to my bench. It hit the ground and went to him. It did not even hit him hard I think. I’m pretty sure about that.” Koubek said he immediately apologized. ”I think he didn’t speak English. He was scared of course, because it happened,” he said. Clearly frustrated, Koubek tried to describe his anger. ”I was mad that I got a warning for coaching and there was no coaching,” he said, adding that his coach Gunther Bresnik had only been telling him to keep fighting. ”Then there was a call (the umpire) made which was savolt1ridiculous I thought. I know 100 percent it was not the mark he showed me so I got mad at him, a little bit too much.” Koubek, who won his first ATP Tour title at Atlanta as a qualifier last year, made the final 16 at the French Open that same year. ”I’m disappointed of course. I’m mad with myself that it went this far,” he said. He admitted it was not the first time he had been admonished on court. ”I have had many warnings in my life,” he said. Best name at the French Open: Attila Savolt [149] of Budapest. Attila the Hungarian, 24, played his first main draw Grand Slam match Wednesday and came from two sets down to win it (Martin Rodriguez). He laughed off his name. “It’s not so bad. Lots of people in Hungary are named Attila,” he said. “But when I got to Italy, everyone is very excited about it.” Attila the Hun and the barbarians conquered northern Italy. Under rare circumstances, Savolt became the first Hungarian to advance to the last 32 of a major since Balazs Taroczy (Roland Garros 1985). Two-time U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter, who has been sidelined by a shoulder injury and had admitted he was not a contender in Paris, bowed Cedric Pioline won 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4. “I think it was pretty evident in the match that I was really short of practice and hard work and definitely matches,” Rafter said. Injury was also behind Andrew Ilie‘s decision to retire in the fifth set against 12th-seeded Marat Safin, who was leading 7-5, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3 5-0. “The problem was the start of the first game. I started having shadows of cramping when I was serving,” Ilie haas_rg00said. “To be stopped you know by basically cramping. I didn’t do anything wrong.” Qualifier Agustin Calleri [102] moved through third round after upsetting No. 14 seed Dominik Hrbaty 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Hrbaty reached semifinal in Paris a year before, Calleri had eliminated in the first round a 1998 semifinalist Felix Mantilla in three easy sets. Calleri in his 30 following Grand Slam appearances never passed beyond third round, becoming arguably the best Open era player to never achieve this feat. In the most dramatic match of the second round, Tommy Haas prevailed against Andrea Gaudenzi 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 6-1 in 4 hours 12 minutes. The 22-year-old German was serving at 5:6 (30-all) in the 4th set. A 5-setter survived also other youngsters: 19-year-old Lleyton Hewitt, winner over Marcus Hantschk 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and Juan Carlos Ferrero, who turned around an awful display in the first hour against Slava Dosedel, 1-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. It was first 5-set win in Hewitt’s career, prior to the French Open ’00 he had lost three matches of this type. Gustavo Kuerten had unexpected problems in the 1st set against Marcelo Charpentier, but won another two sets easily and the match 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2.

Third round: Steve Wilstein, Charles Bricker

On the men’s side, unseeded Andrei Medvedev, making another strong showing in Paris, advanced to the fourth round by beating Agustin Calleri, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Medvedev was also unseeded last year when he reached the final before losing to Andre Agassi. His next opponent will be third-seeded Magnus Norman, who beat Sargis Sargisian, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. “I’ve done some surprises in the past here. I’m ready for another one. Medvedev said, and referred to a new Champions Race hewitt_rg00ranking – “Norman would be five or maybe even behind (Cedric) Pioline. So the race, I don’t know. I don’t know why they did it. We’re not Formula 1.” But if he doesn’t think Norman is really No. 1, Medvedev still knows he’ll be a tough opponent. ”To beat him, I will have to play an excellent match,” admitted. No. 6 Cedric Pioline, No. 9 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 12 Marat Safin all won in straight sets, while No. 7 Thomas Enqvist lost in five sets to Albert Costa 7-5, 6-7(2), 1-6, 6-3, 4-6. Frenchman Pioline swept Albert Portas, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Hewitt beat Attila Savolt, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0. Safin eliminated Tommy Haas, 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3. The 19-year-old Hewitt, seeded in a major for the first time in Paris, believes he is still too inexperienced on clay to be considered a realistic title contender. “There is still a lot of learning to do and a lot more experience I can get out of this surface. The big thing we are working on is hopefully two, three, four years down the track that someday I’ll be holding up the trophy here.” Medvedev, 25, has a mediocre record of 17-12 this year but says he’s playing well. “I feel just like I did last year,” the Ukrainian said. “I’m a little bit older, but I feel good.” Medvedev won’t get a shot at a rematch with Agassi, who lost in the second round to Karol Kucera. “It’s a pity to see him go so early,” Medvedev said. “He brought a lot of charm and charisma into the tournament last year. By winning it, he certainly lifted up the whole game of tennis again.” Former French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov brushed aside Sebastien Grosjean to underline his status as one of the hot favorites to land this year’s title. He beat the Frenchman 6-3 6-1 5-7 6-4 on Friday in the third round. And with top seed and defending champion Andre Agassi and second seed Pete Sampras already out, the draw is opening up for fourth seed Kafelnikov. The Russian said after his latest victory: “This week I am playing better than expected, better on this surface than I thought. It’s federer-kratochvil_rg00going to be very, very interesting. I am a second-week player. If I get past the first week it is going to be very tough for any of the guys to stop me.” That task will first fall to Spanish clay court specialist Fernando Vicente who beat British 13th seed Tim Henman in five tough sets, winning 7-5 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory. 19-year-old Roger Federer reached his last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time after an all-Swiss marathon (4 hours 25 minutes) with Michiel Kratochvil, 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-7(4), 8-6. Michael Chang couldn’t turn back the clock. He couldn’t move it forward, either. Oh, what he could have done with just another half-hour with the darkness falling, but never quickly enough, over the Court Centrale on Friday. If he could have gutted out the fourth set or extended the length of the points in the third against French Open favorite Gustavo Kuerten, he might have placed this scintillating Friday night special into suspension until the next day, when anything could happen, including a worsening of Kuerten’s aching back. It didn’t happen, and the tall, angular Brazilian, fighting off repeated Chang rallies, closed him out finally at the 2-hour, 59-minute mark for a 6-3, 6-7(9), 6-1, 6-4 victory that was lustily celebrated by an audience that stood and applauded until both players disappeared from the court. This third-round match demonstrated that Chang, 28, the last American man in the draw, still has the guts if not the game to play top tennis. “He’s a great fighter,” Kuerten said. “He showed today how he is. It was a tough match, but with this kind of atmosphere it makes you give your best.” Despite twice calling for the trainer to massage his back, Kuerten never seemed to have a power outage. The biggest weapon kuerten_rolandg00_Chang brought to this match was his fight. In the tie-break he saved three points with a service winner, a passing shot which forced a volley error and an ace. But his serve, which had been strong in the opening two sets, vanished in the third. He said he began to cramp, making it hard to react quickly. His first serve was flying long. But when the red clay began to darken in color from the diminishing sunlight, Chang rallied his body. “My cramps kind of went away and I was able to push it a little more, run down some of those shots at the end,” he said. He was down a break most of the final set until Kuerten, serving for the match at 5:3, could get only one first serve in. At deuce, he thought he hit a service winner, but Chang asked for an overrule, marking the spot, and got it. He followed with a forehand down the line – a shot he hadn’t hit in over an hour – and it was 4:5. Trying to draw even, Chang fell behind love-40 but fought back and, at 30/40, after corner-to-corner retrievals, he wound up to hit a forehand winner from near the service line and whacked it hard.  He broke a string – on the final point – and the ball shanked wide. It was over.

Fourth round: AP

kafelnikov_rg00No. 4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov continued to play the role of marathon man, outlasting Fernando Vicente 5-7, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(4), 8-6. In four matches totaling 12 hours, 53 minutes, Kafelnikov has played 19 sets and 196 games (three 5-setters & 4-setter in the previous round). “I don’t feel physically tired at all,” Kafelnikov said. “I’ve just begun.” His latest victory was the closest call yet: He overcame 112 unforced errors and a 5:2 deficit in the fifth set (Vicente was serving at 5:3, 30/0). By that time, with occasional light rain falling on a chilly evening, the stands on Court Suzanne Lenglen were mostly empty. Kafelnikov’s wife, Mascha, could hardly bear to watch, frequently covering her eyes with her hands as he mounted a comeback. “I’m really happy to survive,” he said. “In best-of-five matches in Grand Slams, the experience is on my side. And I feel I’m physically strong enough to go the distance.” Kafelnikov had some help with his fifth-set comeback. Vicente serving at 6:6, dumped an easy overhead into the bottom of the net. The Spaniard smacked his face with his hand in dismay, then lost the next two points to give Kafelnikov a 7:6 lead. Kafelnikov closed out the victory with the help of three big serves and walked off a winner after 3 hours, 42 minutes of tennis. The Russian hasn’t won a clay-court tournament since his French title four years ago, and he arrived at Roland Garros with an 8-10 record this year on the surface. Kafelnikov, the 1996 champion, next plays No. 5 Gustavo Kuerten, the 1997 champion, who reached the quarters with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over No. 11 Nicolas Lapentti. Lapentti needed treatment for a blistered right toe early in the third set – but the die had been cast by that stage. “I’m enjoying myself a lot here,” Kuerten said. “I came here feeling strong and with a lot of confidence, but from now on it’s wide open for everyone.” Two Spaniards also reached the quarters: No. 10 Alex Corretja swept Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6(7), 6-2 (Federer wasted two set points in the tie-break), and No. 16 Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Mark Philippoussis 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. After the match, Ferrero said: “At least there will be one Spanish semi-finalist.”  Ferrero’s ferrero_rg00win saw him reach the first Grand Slam quarter of his career. His consistency from the back of the court forced the Australian into a stream of errors and the Spaniard won in just 2 hours 22 minutes. It was a great day for ducks and toads, a miserable day for tennis players and fans at the French Open. Only the most resolute of aficionados, shivering in the 55-degree chill and dreary drizzle, could endure the eight hours it took to produce just two quarter-finalists Monday: No. 3 Magnus Norman and No. 12 Marat Safin. Two other matches were left hanging: Argentina’s Franco Squillari leading Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui 6-4, 6-1, 3:3 (after the resumption Squillari took three games in a row), and Spain’s Albert Costa against Australian Lleyton Hewitt at 4:4 in the 2nd set, Costa eventually won 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. On a day like this, not a stroke would have been played at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, where the courts get slippery after just a few drops. But the red clay at Roland Garros soaks up a lot of water, and play slogs on unless the showers get so heavy puddles start forming. That happened once, and play was halted for 2 1/2 hours, causing a crush of fans at the wine and beer tent. The memorable image on a day like this was not any of the players stroking wonderful winners, but of Andrei Medvedev cringing in the rain, flinging his racket to the court in disgust, imploring the fans to jeer him louder. “I was trying to get them booing more so I get more angry, more excited,” Medvedev said. “They didn’t. For some reason, they stopped. Nothing worked today, to be honest.” Indeed, Medvedev couldn’t muster any of the magic that carried him to the final a year ago, and he sank in a sopping heap, 6-0, 6-4, 6-2 against Norman. Norman, meanwhile, cavorted like a water sprite, looking ecstatic to be playing anytime, in any conditions. The way he’s been playing this year, it’s no wonder. The Swede is No. 1 in the ATP Tour rankings race with two titles so far, and at the French he has yet to lose a set, or even play a tiebreaker. “I’ve been working like crazy for this for a couple of years now,” the 24-year-old Norman said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every moment out there, really.” Norman goes up next against the 20-year-old Safin, who knocked out the last Frenchman, Cedric Pioline, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 (avenging a 5-set loss in 1998). “He’s like me, he’s playing his best tennis for the moment. He’s red hot,” said Norman, who lost to Safin recently on clay in Barcelona. “If I can get through that one, I think I have a good chance to make the finals.” At 6-foot-4, Safin is one of the most imposing players on the tour, possessing all the tools to be a champion – big serve, superb ground-strokes, safin_rg00patience, and court sense. But the Russian is still young enough to panic in a big match, as he did against Pioline during the second set. “I got scared,” Safin admitted. “I didn’t know what to do. He started to play better. I couldn’t find my game. I couldn’t find the way I can beat him. I was standing there. He was pushing me, and sometimes you get this sensation… you start to think that he’s playing much better than you, and you have no chance to beat him.” The 2 1/2-hour rain break at 3:2 in the third set, and some advice from coach and former player Andrei Chesnokov, helped Safin regroup. Chesnokov told him his problem was his legs. “If you get scared, of course the legs don’t work,” Safin said. “I mean, first of all, you have to clear the head, [think] what you have to do, try, try try. So I start to move a little bit, to be a little bit fit, start to hit a little bit. I try to do something new because it was boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom. He started to push me, really. All the time I was three meters behind the line.” Safin found his rhythm again, found he could move in on Pioline, take the serves from the baseline, get Pioline moving side-to-side and nick him apart. When Pioline charged now, Safin ripped shots past him, made him pay for his attack. Suddenly, Pioline and the crowd were taken out of the match, and Safin was on his way to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Quarterfinals: AP

squillari_rg00Unseeded Franco Squillari became the first Argentine since 1982 to reach a Grand Slam men’s semifinal when he beat Albert Costa 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 Wednesday at the French Open. Squillari will next play third-seeded Magnus Norman, who beat No. 12 Marat Safin in three hours, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. “I think it’s wide open,” Squillari said. “Although I was tired, I think I played great tennis today.” The last Argentine to play in the men’s semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament was Guillermo Vilas at the U.S. Open 18 years ago. Vilas and countryman Jose-Luis Clerc also reached the semifinals at the French Open that year. “They were the inspiration for a whole generation of tennis players,” Squillari said. Squillari, 23, has never previously advanced beyond the second round at a major tournament. He is ranked 45th and came to Roland Garros with a record of just 15-13 this year. He has won the Munich tournament the past two years for the only titles of his career. But against Costa, Squillari played a masterful clay-court match, combining patience with the foot speed needed to endure long rallies. Hardly overpowering, the left-hander used his serve merely to start the point and played several steps behind the baseline, waiting for short balls he could attack to win points. The approach worked, and Squillari beat the unseeded Costa for the first time in their four meetings. Squillari broke serve twice in the first set, and on set point hit a forehand that smacked the net cord and landed softly on Costa’s side. The Spaniard walked off the court shaking his head at the bad luck. By the third set Costa was repeatedly dropping and throwing his racket in frustration. He got back into the match by winning the set but then began to tire. In the final set, Squillari broke for a 5:4 lead, then served out the match. On match point he slammed an inside-out forehand for a winner, then raised his arms in triumph and looked to the sky with a grin. “The feeling is something new I haven’t felt before,” he said. “I hope it will go on.” Norman, the leader in this year’s ATP champions race, had his hands full against the hard-hitting Safin. The demonstrative young Russian repeatedly threw his racket and took a nasty spill in the final game before finally sailing a forehand wide on match point. Safin slammed his racket to the ground one more time, breaking it, then offered Norman a warm handshake at the net. “I was disappointed in my game,” Safin said. “I played one of the worst matches. Norman played an unbelievable match. He was much better than me.” Norman, who also reached the semifinals at the Australian Open in January, moved one win closer to his first Grand Slam title. “It was a great match, one of the best,” he said. “I got a little bit tight, but I snuck through and I won it.” Safin, who says he broke 48 rackets last year, busted three Wednesday in frustration with his erratic ground-strokes. ”I’m very sorry for my attitude on the court, because I know it wasn’t so nice from my part,” he said in broken English reminiscent of another engaging personality on the men’s tour, Goran Ivanisevic. ”I say to myself, ‘I cannot be so stupid to play like this.”’ That release of tension seemed to help. Suddenly, Safin started playing superbly, driving his ground-strokes deep into the corners, serving better, putting pressure on Norman, who had to have his right foot wrapped with about a yard of tape to cover his blisters. Safin broke Norman for a 2:1 lead, held to 3:1, and stayed ahead the rest of the set. Now when he was under pressure, himself, Safin responded the way he knows he should. Facing break point at 4:3, he served three straight aces to make it 5:3 as the crowd roared. But by the fourth set, even the impassive Swede got caught up in the emotions of the match. At 5:5, 30/30, Norman hit an apparent service winner, and he argued at length when the chair umpire reversed the ruling and called the shot out.

norman_safin_rg00_forehand comparison

It was a three-hour slugfest between two former French Open champions, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the Russian blasted off the court when 23-year-old Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten showed up with a vengeance to pull out the match, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. A noisy, pro-Kuerten crowd hollered his nickname – “Guga Guga Guga” – and waved Brazil’s green, yellow and blue flag as the 1997 French Open champion found the rhythm that had been missing in the first three sets. He cranked up his first serve, fired a few aces, took command of the net and ripped a string of passing shots past Kafelnikov to earn a berth in the semifinals Friday. “I had the match in my hands and basically gave it away,” Kafelnikov said. “Up until 4:2 in the fourth set, Gustavo was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t do anything until the fourth set. I just lost it.” Kafelnikov denied that fatigue might have been a factor in his defeat. He played 196 games – three five-setters and one four-set match – and played 12 hours and 53 minutes to reach Tuesday’s quarterfinal. Kuerten said he thought Kafelnikov may have been tired mentally. “It’s more mental than physical. It’s tough to have a chance like he did in the fourth set, and he was probably thinking that he missed a chance to already be off the court,” he said. The statistics say it all: 95 unforced errors for Kafelnikov compared to Kuerten’s 56, and 14 aces for the Brazilian while Kafelnikov put in only six. The first three sets were laborious baseline duels, the players groaning and grunting as the sun played hide and seek for the first time in days. Both players required treatment after the third set. One trainer massaged Kuerten’s legs while another changed a bandage on Kafelnikov’s blister. “I was nervous, and my muscles were stiff. I wasn’t moving at all, not the way I should be,” Kuerten said. Kafelnikov, the 1996 champion who was bounced in the second round last year, gave no excuses for letting the match slip away. “The blister on my foot didn’t bother me and I wasn’t tired,” he said. “At 4:2, 40/15, for some weird reason, I played two loose points. I got unlucky, the ball just traveled a few inches, then it was 4:3. I thought the match can turn around, but not in such a dramatic way, that basically I was going to win only one out of six service games until the end of the match.” Kuerten defeated Kafelnikov from a two-sets-to-one deficit in Parisian quarterfinals also three years before. He meets Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain who beat countryman Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in other quarterfinal action. Ferrero, a 20-year-old playing only his third Grand Slam event (first time on Centre Court in Paris), is aiming to emulate Sweden’s Mats Wilander, the only player to win the tournament on his French Open debut.

Semifinals: Steven Wine

ferrero_kuerten_rg00Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, bidding for his second French Open title, was three games from defeat and down a service break before he rallied to beat Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in a five-set semifinal today. Kuerten won 7-5, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. His opponent Sunday will be steady Swede Magnus Norman, who earned his first berth in a Grand Slam tournament final by beating unseeded Franco Squillari 6-1, 6-4, 6-3… In the 1st set Kuerten saved five break points at 3-all and made the first break of the match on third set point with a help of the netcord. Ferrero broke in the opening game of the 2nd set to ‘love’ and became w dominant figure over two and a half sets.  The 16th-seeded Spaniard rode his snowballing momentum into the fourth set by immediately breaking in the first game. He streaked out to 3:1 and appeared to be in total control of the match. In fact, things seemed even bleaker for Kuerten after he held for 3:2. At that point, he called for trainer Per Basholt to work on his lower back during the changeover. As Bersholt rubbed ointment into Kuerten’s lumbar area, you could hear the gathering groans in the audience. “I was confident I could win this match at that point,” Ferrero said. “But, once again, it proves that in tennis you should not be too confident because, until the last point, nothing is done.” Serving at 3:2, Ferrero won the opening point on a drop shot but then committed three straight unforced errors and, at 30/40, Kuerten streaked to another drop shot and lobbed it over Ferrero for the break. Kuerten broke again in the final game (like in the 1st set he converted third set point, Ferrero had two game points too) and rolled into the fifth set, where Ferrero crumbled. At 3:2, the Spaniard committed three unforced errors to go down love-40 and Kuerten completed the break when Ferrero, trying to be too precise, drove an inside-out forehand a shade long to the backhand corner. Kuerten slammed a service winner to close out the victory, then raised his arms, smiled and blew a kiss to the crowd. The match, which took 3 hours, 38 minutes, was one of the longest of the tournament. Kuerten was also down a set and a break in the fourth set of the quarterfinals before he rallied past fourth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov. “Mental is maybe the most important thing,” Kuerten said. “It’s not everything, you know. You’ve got to be full of weapons. But if you’re not mentally prepared, you’re not going to win it.” Kuerten and Norman have been the hottest players on the men’s tour this spring. Last month Norman beat Kuerten in the final at Rome, and the following week Kuerten beat Norman in the quarterfinals at Hamburg. The biggest stars on the men’s tour were missing from the semifinals, and the stadium was only one-third full when Norman and Squillari took the court for the first match. The third-seeded Norman leads this year’s ATP Champions Race and has won seven tournaments since April 1999, but he reached the final without much fanfare. “Maybe people are a little surprised,” said Norman, 24. “But I’ve had great results this year, so I’m not surprised.” Now that he has a chance to become the first Swedish champion at Roland Garros since Mats Wilander in 1988, Norman may norman_rg00attract more attention. “I will give it a try tonight,” he said. “I love Paris, just to walk around. We’ll see tonight if they recognize me.” Norman, who was in the stands to watch Hingis’ semifinal loss, didn’t deny rumors that they’re dating. “That’s my private life, and you guys have to understand that,” he said. “Obviously she’s a very good friend.” Serving well despite gusty winds and coming to the net more than usual, Norman won the first set against Squillari in 28 minutes and never wavered from there. “I played a perfect match,” Norman said. “I was very aggressive. I even came to the net a few times, which I normally don’t do. You’ve got to take some risks. That’s what I did.” Squillari, the first Argentine in 18 years to reach a Grand Slam tournament men’s semifinal, prefers to play five or six steps behind the baseline. But from there he struggled with his service return, and Norman faced only one break point. “Today was not great tennis,” Squillari said. “It was not a very good match for him or for me. He won today because he played the less bad. I had trouble concentrating because there was a lot of wind on center court.”

Final: Dale Robertson

Gustavo Kuerten didn’t smile. He never raised his arms in triumph or shot a fist into the air. Nope, he was too tired, too spent, perhaps even too humbled by what had just transpired. Guga, all grown up now at 23 and twice a champion of the French Open, turned to the players’ box and bowed once at the waist. Then he walked over tkuernor00o his chair and sat. Ahhh… finally. It’s not every day a man needs 11 championship points to win one. But then, realizing the magnitude of the accomplishment, Kuerten suddenly mustered up a hidden reserve of energy and bolted from the court into the stands, where there were family and friends to hug. “This was more than a normal match,” he said Sunday. “The atmosphere was so great.” Kuerten’s 6-2, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(6) victory over Magnus Norman, which consisted of three mundane sets and one absolutely classic one, let him leapfrog the third-seeded Swede into the top spot on the ATP Tour standings. That nominally makes him the No. 1 player in the world as he leaves Paris to return to Brazil, where a large samba party awaits. He remains the only citizen of his country ever to win a tennis major. It also proved that his first French title in 1997, claimed when he was only 20, virtually unknown, unseeded and ranked a lowly 66th in the world, wasn’t a fluke. “Two times to win is not so easy,” said Kuerten, the fifth seed. “To finish the match, to put my name in history again, this tells me I can be one of the players who will stay for a long time in tennis. I think it certifies that I really am one of the top players around.” And with Brazil still in mourning over losing the World Cup final to the French in Paris two years ago, Kuerten at least applied some additional salve to the wounded national pride. The hundreds of delighted blue-and-gold-clad, Brazilian flag-waving Guga fans on hand did a happy samba while Kuerten tried to catch his breath and put his thoughts in some kind of order. He already had struggled through back-to-back five-setters against Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarters and Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semis, the former of which he called “my biggest nightmare.” He probably wouldn’t have survived another, seeing as how he felt fatigued from early in the third set on and required attention from the ATP’s trainer at one juncture. Worse, on the first of what became an amazing series of match points, he thought it was over, having watched a Norman forehand land – in his mind, anyway – a centimeter wide of the line. The linesman agreed, too. But chair umpire Francois Pareau trotted over, peered closely at the mark and overruled the call. TV replays would prove inconclusive, but Kuerten was beside himself. After circling the spot confidently, he had headed toward the net to shake Norman’s hand. Instead, 43 minutes of tennis remained, 43 more exhausting minutes before they handed him the Coupe de Musketeers to keep. “I was so convinced the ball was out,” Kuerten said. “But for him, it was clearly in. It was like watching white while he guga arues_stats_rg2000was watching black.” This hot new rivalry on an ATP Tour that’s begging for one didn’t produce one of the longest or greatest matches in tennis history Sunday, but the 95-minute fourth set to end all sets that Kuerten and Norman delivered unto a delighted full house at Roland Garros surely established records for exhausting twists and turns, never mind weird statistical anomalies. Would you believe they played 128 points in that set alone? Or that 18 of them would be break points against Norman’s serve – 11 with the championship of the world’s most important clay-court tournament on the line? That the 24-year-old Swede, a former heart patient to boot, could save 10 – nine of them against his serve – over a span of more than half an hour before succumbing on a forehand drive that landed wide by at most an inch seemed irrelevant to him. His remarkable comeback from the early two-set walkabout, his willingness to stay and fight for 3 hours and 44 minutes on tennis’ most demanding surface, did not offer him a bit of consolation. “I don’t feel any satisfaction at the moment,” Norman said afterward. But he will, when he sits back and contemplates the magic of the afternoon. “Maybe in a few weeks,” Norman later conceded, “I will think about the tournament and be happy. But right now… no, I can’t.” Fittingly, the match ended with a tiebreaker, one that Kuerten led 3:0, 6:3 and then serving at 6:5 before Norman tied him up again, just as he had done repeatedly throughout the set. For a guy who had sleepwalked into such a mess in his first appearance in a Grand Slam final, it represented a remarkable display of tenacity, of true grit on the red grit of Court Central, the mecca of clay-court tennis. But a halting backhand return into the net followed by that barely errant yet fatal forehand did Norman in. Overcome by disappointment, he showed unusual emotion for any Swedish player, shattering his racket on the court after he shook umpire Pareau’s hand. But Norman’s anger wasn’t to be construed as disrespect for Kuerten, who also defeated him in the Italian Open final. “He’s the best player of the year so far, by far,” Norman said of Guga. “He deserves to be No. 1 as much as I deserve to be No. 2.” For a while, the match’s story line appeared to be mirroring Andre Agassi‘s off-the-mats rally from two sets down against Andre Medvedev last year until Kuerten righted himself after losing his serve to start the fourth set. He broke back gugarg00quickly, but the fact he needed four break points to do it proved a warning of what was to come. Kuerten reached break point in all but one of Norman’s fourth-set service games and had 18 of them total. The 12th game, which set up the tiebreaker, lasted 21 minutes (9 deuces). Guga saved a half-dozen game points and Norman staved off four match points before it ended with Guga’s backhand return into the net (one of those match points Norman saved with a dropshot-volley combo!). Alas, the tiebreaker would only postpone what at the start, 3 hours and 43 minutes earlier, seemed inevitable. “What can I say?” Norman said. “I gave it all I had, 110 percent. I didn’t play my best match today, but I tried to hang in there, you know.” Norman was so amazingly concentrated saving all those match points that a nervous tic appeared on his face during the ceremony! He is the sixth Swede to play for the championship at Roland Garros, but he has a ways to go to join Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander in the pantheon of French Open legends. Borg won here six times and Wilander thrice, a record for one nation since the Open era began in 1968. And Norman’s idol growing up, Stefan Edberg, who won the other three majors twice each, was shut out at Roland Garros. But on the strength of his impressive accomplishments over this fortnight and the ascendancy of his game since the year began, Norman figures to contend in the future. Chances are he’ll probably see Guga here again, too. Stats of the final


Roland Garros, Paris
May 28-June 10, 2001; 128 Draw (16 seeds); Surface – Clay

Gustavo Kuerten captures his third Roland Garros title, for the third time defeating Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinal. Former US president, Bill Clinton visits Centre Court on a day in which Andre Agassi suffers his biggest beat-down in three consecutive sets (from Sebastien Grosjean hands).
All scorelines
First round: John Parsons

Andre Agassi began his bid for a second consecutive Grand Slam title, winning in straight sets Tuesday on the second day of the French Open. Agassi, who won the French Open in 1999, beat Sweden’s Thomas Johansson 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(5). He closed the match with a ripping forehand for only his second win on clay this year. “Every day is different here,” he said. “It’s all about making sure that you are physically and mentally ready. It’s not easy, but it never has been.” Agassi, seeded safin_rg01third, is playing his 13th French Open. He lost in the second round last year. He captured the year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open in January. No. 2 Marat Safin tried to kick-start his season with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-1 win over Austrian Markus Hipfl. The Russian is the reigning U.S. Open champion but has not gotten past the second round in this year’s first five Masters Series events, second in importance only to Grand Slams. Safin has been hampered by a back injury since February. But he has continued to play major tournaments, by his own admission, to keep making money. “I’m glad that I’ve recovered from the injury,” said Safin, although he admitted he was only “60 percent” better. Against Hipfl, Safin wasted a double match point in the 3rd set. Showing he’s ready to defend his French Open title, Gustavo Kuerten displayed his clay-court strength Monday in defeating Guillermo Coria 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in his opening match. The top-seeded Brazilian served 14 aces and broke his opponent five times. Coria, a 19-year-old Argentine, went down surprisingly easily against the two-time French Open champion. Coria is ranked 13th in the ATP Champions Race and has the third best record on clay this season behind Kuerten and Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero. “Every time I come here, I try not to think about winning the final or the semifinal,” Kuerten said. “I try to go slowly and survive every match I have in front of me.” No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov opened by defeating Federico Luzzi of Italy 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 for his 500th career victory. “Even though I won in three sets, it wasn’t easy,” said Kafelnikov, who captured the French in 1996. “I was pushed almost to the limit.” Kafelnikov, playing his ninth consecutive French Open, has not won a title on clay since his Roland Garros championship. But the Russian is optimistic. “If I can get going, it’s going to be difficult to stop me,” he said. Luzzi, a lucky loser, replaced South Korea’s Hyung-Taik Lee, who withdrew Monday because of a torn abdominal muscle. Pete Sampras, who has suffered plenty of embarrassment over the years at the French Open, escaped what would have been his most humiliating defeat at any of the four Grand Slams yesterday, thanks to his ever-supportive serve which has been the foundation of his record 13 major triumphs elsewhere. The American, who has only once gone beyond the quarter-finals here, eventually won 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 8-6 against French qualifier Cedric Kauffmann. But it was only after 3 hours 12 minutes of what at times looked like torture as he kept losing the grip he should have maintained against a novice. Three times on a warm and sunny evening Sampras, the fifth-seeded winner of 63 circuit titles who also reigned for a kaufmann_sampras_rg01record six years as world No 1, found himself facing match points against Kauffmann ranked 247, a 25-year-old Parisian still seeking his first match win on the Tour. Kauffmann, who has played most of his tennis at the University of Kentucky and challenger tournaments in the United States, was leading 5:3 in the final set yesterday when the first of those match-points arrived, and that daunting Sampras serve came to the rescue. The second reprieve was earned with another biting serve which allowed Sampras to prowl forward and play a winning cut-off volley. Yet the danger remained from Kauffmann, who in January was embarrassed himself when he lost in the first round of a challenger event to 44-year-old Gean Mayer. Patrick Rafter, twice a winner of the U.S. Open, wasted a two-set advantage against countryman Wayne Arthurs and lost 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-1. Last year’s runner-up, No. 9 Magnus Norman, was eliminated 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-2 by Spain’s David Sanchez. Albert Costa, who will win the following edition, was surprisingly ousted by Julien Boutter 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5), 4-6, 5-7. Lleyton Hewitt was forced to saved three set points in the 1st set, during his four-set win over [286] Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. It was Mathieu’s Grand Slam debut. Mariano Puerta needed 4 hours to struggle past Arnaud Clement 7-6(0), 3-6, 7-6(5), 1-6, 9-7. The Argentine was serving to win the match at 5:4 in the decider, but Clement had a match point leading 7:6*. Greg Rusedski dismissed Albert Portas 6-4, 7-5, 6-1 despite being *0:5 in the middle set – the Briton didn’t need to save any set points. “Even though I was down 5-love in the second set I thought I was dictating the play,” said Rusedski.

Second round: Steven Wine

Forget the marvelous serve, lethal volley, ferocious forehand and beautiful backhand. At the French Open, Pete Sampras has almost no shot. He walked off the clay a loser again Thursday, beaten by Spanish journeyman Galo Blanco, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-2. The second-round drubbing was blanco_rg01hardly a surprise, because any match on dirt is a struggle for Sampras. He was seeded fifth but admitted being lucky to survive the opening round against qualifier Cedric Kauffmann, who came within a point of his first victory on the men’s tour before losing in five sets. Dating back to 1989, Sampras is 0-for-12 at the only Grand Slam tournament he has yet to win. He’s 5-5 in matches at Roland Garros since 1996, when he made his best showing by reaching the semifinals. ”As the years go by, it gets more and more difficult,’‘ he said. ”This is the one that is my biggest challenge. All you can do is learn a little bit from this and come back next year.” At 29, Sampras owns a record 13 major titles, seven from Wimbledon alone, and a French trophy would bolster his place in history. But slow clay gives opponents extra time to counter his serve-and-volley game, so he’s sometimes forced to stay at the baseline, where he has slim hope. ”Here is different, no?” said Blanco, ranked 76th. ”I have more chances than on another surface against him.” When Sampras charged the net, he too often got passed. Staying back played into Blanco’s hands. ”All the baseline points, he was controlling and dictating,” Sampras said. Andre Agassi, Sampras’ compatriot and rival, watched part of the match before taking the court himself for a straight-set victory. ‘‘It’s never been easy for a game like Pete’s to do well here,” Agassi said. ”On clay, you can’t just explode for one shot and hit through the court. He’s great at turning an entire point around with one shot, but on clay you can’t. You have to fight off three or four, then slowly turn the point around, then slowly finish it.” Agassi, seeded third, plays that more patient style as well as anyone. He beat Julien Boutter 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and may pose the biggest threat in Paris to No. 1-seeded Gustavo Kuerten. No. 2 Marat Safin needed 3 1/2 hours to beat Alex Calatrava 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3. Watching teen-ager Andy Roddick writhe in pain from cramps during a five-set match at the French Open, Michael Chang had an eerie feeling of history repeating itself. This time, Chang lost. ”I didn’t want to think about it too much,” Chang said. ”I wanted to stay focused.’‘ Twelve years ago, Chang won an epic match against Ivan Lendl in roddick_rg01the fourth round of the French Open, serving underhand against the No. 1 player when cramping nearly overwhelmed him. He won that match after 4 hours and 37 minutes, then went on to become the youngest men’s champion at Roland Garros at age 17 years and 3 months. On Wednesday, Chang lost in 3 hours, 50 minutes to the 18-year-old Roddick, losing the second-round match 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5. Roddick’s body contorted in sudden jerks of pain between points, clutching his head and leaning on his racket as the cramping worsened in the dramatic final set. For onlookers, the similarity between the two matches was uncanny. Chang, now 29, begs to differ. ”I think with Ivan, it was just something that was so different,” he said. ”It has similarities definitely, but it was a little bit different at the same time.” If Chang was trying hard not to remember his win over Lendl, Roddick thought of little else. ”That’s one of my first memories of tennis, that match against Lendl,” Roddick said. ”It definitely crossed my mind. I thought that was pretty ironic. ‘It was like a fairy tale.” Unlike Chang back in 1989, Roddick’s serve was devastating throughout the match, with 37 aces (clay-court record at the time) and 32 service winners. ”That serve really saved him,” Chang said. ”I had a lot of chances. ‘Even when he was cramping, he was still able to bomb the serve.” Roddick was loudly jeered for throwing his racket down in frustration in the first set, but by the fifth the crowd was shouting ”Andy! Andy!” as the teen-ager drew closer to victory. After sealing the match, Roddick threw his baseball cap into the crowd, then ripped his shirt apart. Roddick next faces sixth-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, who routed Russian qualifier Nikolay Davydenko 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 in their second-round match. Defending champion Gustavo Kuerten cruised to his russell_rg01second consecutive straight-set win, eliminating Argentina’s Agustin Calleri 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Despite the easy win, the top-seeded player wasn’t impressed with his performance. ”I didn’t play with the same intensity I played in the first match,” the 24-year-old Brazilian said before explaining how he overcomes those rough patches. ”When I have a problem during a match, I try to think back and remember my great moments here,” he said. David Sanchez after eliminating a 2000 finalist, sent packing a 1998 champion Carlos Moya, also in five sets, 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(7), 6-7(5), 6-2. Other former Spanish champion (1993-94), Sergi Bruguera retired after winning first to sets and losing the third, to qualifier Michael Russell (6-4, 7-5, 3-6). Something like this, happened to Bruguera in the Roland Garros second round for the second time, previously in 1991 when he retired to Omar Camporese  leading 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 0-1.

Third round: Steven Wine

Tim Henman‘s clay-court run ended suddenly Friday, with a third-round loss in five sets to Argentina’s Guillermo Canas at the French Open. Canas fell to his knees and shook his fists after the 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory. He closed the match with a forehand winner down the line, breaking canas_rg01Henman for the last time. Henman, seeded 11th, has never gotten past the third round in six attempts at the French. Although rarely comfortable on clay, he reached the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters Series in April, becoming the first British player to do so since 1975. He was 7-4 on clay this season before Friday’s loss. Henman rallied from *2:4 to take the opening set and had a mini-match point at 5-all in the deciding set. Canas will beat Henman in a dramatic five-setter also at the Australian Open 2004. Former champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov won his third-round match, downing Belgium’s Olivier Rochus 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-3. ”Hopefully, I can accomplish the same success in this tournament that I had a few years ago,” said Kafelnikov, the 1996 champion. The seventh-seeded Russian has not won a title on clay since taking the Roland Garros crown. No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero dropped his first set of the tournament in beating fellow Spaniard Jacobo Diaz 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2. Ferrero, nicknamed ”Mosquito” for his lanky build, is one of the strongest players on clay this season and could face defending champion Gustavo Kuerten in the semifinals. ”I love Roddick’s game,” said occasional hitting partner Andre Agassi. ”He doesn’t hope for somebody to lose. He really tries to win. Andy’s a tough competitor, but Lleyton is going to make him take a lot of first balls,” Agassi said before highly expected encounter between Roddick and Hewitt. Rain forced two brief delays, and No. 3 Agassi finished in misty twilight, beating Fernando Meligeni 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.  “It was getting pretty dark out there,” Agassi said. “It seemed like it was getting to where it was about everything but tennis.” Once again, Andy Roddick limped off center court at Roland Garros, this time in tears because he couldn’t finish the match. The 18-year-old American’s brief but dramatic debut run in the French Open ended after he took a nasty tumble in the third set Friday against Lleyton Hewitt. Roddick tried to continue but played only four more points before retiring because of a strained left thigh. Hewitt led 6-7(6), 6-4, 2-2 and 40/15 when Roddick called it quits, tossing his racket aside in disappointment. He saved seven set point in the opening set. “It took me awhile to regain my composure after the match,” Roddick said. “You don’t want to go out like that. I hewitt_roddick_rg01wanted to make someone play well to beat me.” The young Floridian won the favor of French fans by overcoming cramps and hobbling past Michael Chang in a five-set thriller Wednesday. The third-round match against Hewitt was shaping up as another tense endurance test until Roddick fell chasing a shot. Tests indicated the injury was just a strain. Roddick said he expects to be sidelined only a few days before beginning preparations for his debut later this month at Wimbledon, where his huge serve makes him a formidable threat. Roddick’s taxing win over Chang took a toll that likely contributed to his injury. He said his legs remained sore Friday, and his left hamstring began to tighten in the 2nd set. After hitting a running forehand in the 3rd set, Roddick came down awkwardly on his right ankle, stumbled and landed hard on his right hip. He rolled onto a tarpaulin near the backstop and remained curled on his side for almost a minute. Grimacing, he sat up before a trainer finally reached him. After receiving treatment for several minutes, Roddick slowly limped to his chair, covered with clay. He had his left thigh wrapped, then returned to the court and won the next point with a booming forehand. “I wanted to hit one more winner at Roland Garros,” he joked. That loss ended Roddick’s 12 match winning streak, prior to the French Open, the 18-year-old American captured two clay-court titles in the States (Atlanta & Houston). One American did advance in the top half of the men’s draw: Detroit native Michael santoro_rg01Russell, a 23-year-old qualifier ranked 122nd in the world. Russell outlasted Xavier Malisse 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 and will next face Gustavo Kuerten, the top-seeded two-time champion. “Who’s he? What’s his name?” Russell joked, before admitting: “I’m going to be nervous.” Kuerten eliminated Karim Alami 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-2. Playing crucial second tie-break of that match, Kuerten had a 2-16 tie-break record in the last six months! Thomas Enqvist [14] for the only time in 12 appearances in Paris, advanced to the last 16 after surviving a tough battle against Jiri Novak [55]. The Swede won 6-2, 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 8-6 in 3 hours 4 minutes. Nine seeded men remain, but not Russian hothead Marat Safin, who stomped out of the tournament after losing 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 0-6, 6-1 to Frenchman Fabrice Santoro (in the picture after defeating Greg Rusedski one round earlier). Safin, seeded second but still seeking his first tournament title this year, from *2:4 in the 3rd set, won 11 consecutive games to take a 1:0* lead in the final set, then folded. He failed to show for his post-match news conference and will be fined $10,000.

Fourth round: (AP)

kuerten'sheart_rg01Defending champion Gustavo Kuerten surged back from the brink of defeat Sunday to beat U.S. qualifier Michael Russell in five sets and reach the French Open quarterfinals. The top-seeded Brazilian saved match point in the 3rd set before turning the match around and eliminating his 122nd-ranked opponent 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-1. After the fourth-round victory, the two-time French Open champion carved a heart in the red clay with his racket, kneeled inside it and blew kisses to the crowd. ”Maybe one of the greatest feelings in all my life in the tennis court was today,” Kuerten said after winning in 3 hours, 25 minutes. Russell stunned the 1997 and 2000 Roland Garros champion in the opening two sets, easily retrieving Kuerten’s searing groundstrokes. Kuerten was down 5:2* in the 3rd set but held serve with an ace. He wasted two break points in the next game, then set up match point for his opponent by sending his forehand lob wide. Kuerten saved the point with a forehand after one of the match’s many long rallies, then closed the game with a forehand smash. He went on to force a tiebreaker, winning the third and fourth sets and delighting fans who punctuated the match with cries of ”Gu-ga! Gu-ga!” Russell continued to chase Kuerten ‘s groundstrokes, but the Brazilian closed the match with yet another forehand smash. ”It’s disappointing – only one point away,” Russell said. ”But he came up big. That’s why he’s the No. 1 in the world.” The 23-year-old player from Ponte Vedra Beach, has won only five of his 17 matches on the ATP Tour and has never won a title. He came within a point of losing his first qualifying match at this year’s French Open. In the first qualifying round Russell ousted Olivier Patience 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. Kuerten will meet 1996 champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinals. The seventh-seeded Russian beat Spain’s Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. Kafelnikov has twice reached the quarters since taking the title. Both times he lost to Kuerten. Andre Agassi moved a step closer to a second straight Grand Slam title, beating Franco Squillari in five sets Monday to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open. Agassi closed the match by blanking the 16th-seeded Argentine in the last set to complete the 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0 victory. The Australian Open champion blew kisses and bowed repeatedly to the crowd after defeating an opponent who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros last year. “Squillari played an incredible fourth set,” Agassi said. “If I didn’t step my game up, I would have had a lot of problems.” The third-seeded Agassi, who won the French in 1999, will play No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean in the quarters. The Frenchman eliminated Spanish clay-court specialist Galo Blanco 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 in the fourth round. Earlier, No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt took his place in the quarters when he beat Guillermo Canas to complete a five-set match suspended the day before because of darkness. Agassi was surprised in the opening set by Squillari’s left-handed forehand. Agassi blew seven break points in hewitt_rg01the opening game. He had 29 break points throughout the match and converted only eight. Squillari lost control of his serve in the second set, conceding two service games with double faults. He lost that set and the next, but charged back in the fourth, sealing it with one of his 15 aces. By the final set, Agassi was able to outrun his opponent. “He spent so much energy hitting the ball,” Agassi said. “It’s not easy to play that kind of tennis for a long time.” Hewitt survived his first real test of the tournament. The sixth-seeded Australian dropped the first two sets but rallied to win 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in 4 hours, 12 minutes. “He surprised me a little bit,” Hewitt said. “He just didn’t miss.” He was 4:2 up in the final set against the Argentine when play was suspended Sunday. Hewitt beat a wild card and a qualifier in his first two rounds. He downed Andy Roddick in the third round when the American teen-ager quit because of a thigh injury. Next up for Hewitt is No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero, one of the favorites to win the title. “He’s going to be very hard to beat,” Hewitt said. “But I feel quietly confident.”

Quarterfinals: (Sports Illustrated)

Yevgeny Kafelnikov compared Gustavo Kuerten to Pablo Picasso after receiving a lesson in the modern art of tennis from the Brazilian in their French Open quarterfinal on Tuesday. The top seed’s 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 victory marked the third time in five years he has beaten the Russian in the last kuerten_kafelnikov_rg01eight at Roland Garros. The Russian, French Open champion in 1996, squandered five break points at 4:4 in the 3rd set, though, and Kuerten went on to take it in a tie-break. Kafelnikov lost heart and the Brazilian reeled off the fourth set with ease, clinching victory in two hours, 32 minutes. “It’s difficult playing from behind with a player like Gustavo all the time,” said Kafelnikov, who never fully recovered from losing the first set in only 18 minutes. “You give him freedom, he’s like Picasso. He’s playing backhand up the line, backhand cross court, doing everything.” The player known as “Guga”, who drew a giant love heart on the court after his marathon fourth-round victory over qualifier Michael Russell on Sunday, modestly shrugged off the compliment. “He’s never seen me paint,” laughed the Brazilian. “Maybe on the court I can produce some magic like the other day against Russell. But, really, put some paper in front of me and I’m just the level of a qualifier.” Kafelnikov has proved a lucky charm for clay specialist Kuerten, who beat him in the Roland Garros quarterfinals 12 months ago and in 1997, going on to win the title on both occasions. The Russian thinks Kuerten will also retain his crown this year. “I said whoever won the match today would win the tournament,” Kafelnikov said. “It’s a big, big paradox for me. The guy who beats me always gets huge, huge confidence because they know it’s not an easy thing to accomplish, beat me in a Grand Slam. Normally, when they do that, they go on and take the title. Hopefully, he will do that again. Otherwise, I’ll be very ashamed.” History also suggests the hat-trick is on. The last person to win the French Open three times was Czech Ivan Lendl, in 1984, 1986 and 1987, and on each occasion he beat the same player, Ecuador’s Andres Gomez, in the quarterfinals. “From now on, I don’t have much more pressure on myself to win, to beat the other guys. It’s pretty open now. Maybe I can take more risks and play my game a little bit relaxed,” Kuerten said. He is certain to have the crowd on his side in the semifinal clash on Centre Court, but he knows their expectations can also be a burden. “It can be a temple but it can be a hole too,” Kuerten said. “You can see yourself in the best and worst situations. “But for sure the greatest happiness in my career has been on this Centre Court.” Kuerten will face fourth seed Juan Carlos Ferrero in a repeat of last year’s semifinal, the Spaniard having overwhelmed Australian sixth seed Lleyton Hewitt 6-4 6-2 grosjean_paris016-1. Former President Clinton showed up at the French Open to root for Andre Agassi, stayed for most of three sets and saw him win three games. While Clinton had little to cheer about, Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean delighted the partisan Parisians in the capacity crowd with the match of his life Wednesday to win 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. The shocker ended Agassi’s quest for a second successive Grand Slam championship and a second title at Roland Garros. He won the Australian Open in January and the French in 1999. “It’s pretty disappointing at the moment,” said a terse, sullen Agassi. “I played well. He played a lot better. I didn’t realize that Bill Clinton was coming,” the Frenchman said with a grin. “For me it was very good, because from then on I played very well.” The 10th-seeded Grosjean’s opponent in the semifinals will be No. 13 Alex Corretja, who advanced by beating unseeded 19-year-old Roger Federer 7-5, 6-4, 7-5.

Semifinals: (Sports Illustrated)

One point from elimination six days ago, Gustavo Kuerten is now one win from his third French Open title. The gangly Brazilian nicknamed Guga earned a berth in the final by beating Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 Friday. Kuerten won the championship at Roland Garros in 1997 and again last year. Kuerten will try to become the sixth man to win three French titles and the first since Mats Wilander earned his third title in 1988. “I really never expected this to happen to me,” said Kuerten, 24. “I don’t try to compare myself with other guys. Not even in my best dreams was I able to win three times here.” This year, Kuerten admits, he has been lucky. He was one point from a straight-set defeat in the fourth round against American qualifier Michael Russell, an upset that would have ranked with the greatest in Grand Slam history. But Kuerten survived a harrowing 26-stroke match point, with one of his shots landing on a line, and he then rallied for the victory. “I was blessed that day,” he said. “I feel myself with nothing to lose anymore. I shouldn’t have won that match.” From that close call, the top-seeded Kuerten has gradually found his footing on his favorite surface, and he was in top form against the fourth-seeded Ferrero. The speedy young Spaniard came into the match with four titles this year and a 27-2 clay-court record, the best in tennis. But he was no match for Kuerten, whose experience on the big stage helped him win most of the key points. Ferrero had eight break-point chances in the final set but failed to convert any, and finished the match 2-for-16. “Today was pretty much close for my perfection,” Kuerten said in his broken English, which is often accompanied by a smile. “I feel like playing my best tennis. I cannot wish to play better than this.” When Ferrero sent a service return into the doubles alley on match point, Kuerten reacted with a gleeful hop-skip behind the baseline, fist raised. His coach since 1989, Larri Passos, applauded and pointed to his right arm. Why the gesture? “Because he had to practice with me two days, and he couldn’t move his arm anymore,” Kuerten explained. Kuerten is ranked No. 1 largely because he has won 43 of his past 46 matches on clay, and he’s not likely to soon shake the label of clay-court specialist because he expects to skip Wimbledon later this month. He corretja_rg01has complained about the seeding system there and said he simply needs a rest. “To maybe stop only three or four days and start to practice on grass again to play in Wimbledon maybe is going to be too much for myself,” he said. In the second semifinal, the 13th-seeded Alex Corretja disappointed the crowd by beating No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean of France 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4. Corretja’s only other Grand Slam final was at Roland Garros in 1998, when he lost to Carlos Moya. “I haven’t dropped a set since the first day, so that means I’m playing better than I even imagined when I came here,” Corretja said. Grosjean, who upset Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals, was unable to muster similar magic against Corretja. “I don’t have too many regrets,” Grosjean said. “I played somebody stronger than me from the baseline. He played a great game.” The skinny Kuerten will be heavy favorite Sunday. Perhaps his biggest challenge will be to come up with a creative way to celebrate his third title. After surviving the marathon against Russell, Kuerten carved a heart on the court with his racket. What does he plan for Sunday? “Maybe I can get some of Van Gogh’s influence,” he joked.

Final:  (Sports Illustrated)

Colorful clay-court artist Gustavo Kuerten crafted another masterpiece Sunday. Mixing patience, power and pizzazz, Kuerten claimed his third French Open title by dismantling Alex Corretja 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-2, 6-0. The result delighted fans at Roland Garros, who have come to love Kuerten and chanted the bony Brazilian’s nickname – Guga – throughout the match. In a reprise of his kuerten_rg01celebration after a harrowing fourth-round win last week, Kuerten used his racket to carve a heart in the red clay. Then he collapsed on his back with arms spread in jubilation, exhaustion and relief. During the trophy ceremony, he donned a handmade T-shirt that said “I love Roland Garros” in French, with a heart symbol representing the word “love.” “Every single time I come here, it’s special,” Kuerten said later as a small but noisy group of Brazilian fans celebrated to the sound of samba drums. “Everything that happens here to me is wonderful. It’s a place I love to be.” The top-seeded Kuerten, 24, became the sixth man to win three French championships and the first since Mats Wilander earned his third title in 1988. He’s the first man to win consecutive French trophies since Sergi Bruguera in 1993-94. But there will be no back-to-back major titles this year for Kuerten, because he’ll skip Wimbledon in two weeks. Kuerten said he wants to rest his sore groin, but he has previously complained about the tournament’s seeding system, and his career record there is only 6-4. Though ranked No. 1, Kuerten has reached a Grand Slam semifinal only in Paris. Some players – most recently Yevgeny Kafelnikov two days ago – have said Kuerten needs broader success to be ranked with the sport’s all-time elite. Corretja disagreed. “Winning three titles, even if they are on clay, what’s the problem?” the Spaniard said. “I would love to be in his situation. He doesn’t need to show anything. He has to feel happy with what he achieved already. But, of course, he can go for more because he can play anywhere.” For sure Kuerten’s the king of clay, where he has won 44 of his past 47 matches. He played cautiously at the start of the final, when gusty wind sent clouds of clay into the stands. Conditions were worst during the first-set tiebreaker, when Kuerten missed every first serve and once went to his chair to wipe dirt from his contact lens. Then the weather improved, and the Rembrandt of Roland Garros began to paint the lines. Corretja stayed close for a while, and at 5:5 in the 2nd set he had a break point but missed a backhand wide. “That point could have changed the match a lot,” Kuerten said. “After that, I played so aggressive that I put him in a tough situation.” Kuerten held serve, then broke to take the second set, and Corretja began to fold. He increasingly found himself pinned behind the baseline chasing shots into both corners, and when he hit a backhand wide to lose the third set, the Spaniard angrily smacked a ball into the stands. “I wasn’t feeling too well because I knew he was playing better,” said Corretja, also the runner-up in 1998. “The way he was playing the last two sets, it was pretty difficult to beat him,” The final set was a rout, with Kuerten winning 23 of the first 25 points. But the final game provided entertainment, if not drama. Serving for the championship at 40-love, Kuerten blew an easy overhead. Then he hit a backhand wide. Then he took an even easier overhead on the bounce and hit it right at Corretja, who blocked a lob over Kuerten’s head. The Brazilian had to retreat to the baseline and eventually smacked a backhand long as the crowd groaned. That made three match kuerten_rg01championpoints lost. “I saw myself winning all of them,” a chagrined Kuerten said. “I was feeling so emotional at that time that I wanted to finish it off, so I rushed a little bit.” There would be no miracle comeback by Corretja, however. Four points later, Kuerten closed out the victory with one last sizzling forehand, then began skipping around the court like a kid just released for recess. Before mounting the podium to accept his trophy, Kuerten carefully knocked the clay from his shoes. He then spoke French to French Open fans for the first time, telling them: “I love playing at Roland Garros. I love playing for you. Thank you for supporting me.” Kuerten’s native language is Portuguese, and he speaks halting English. When did he learn French? “Yesterday,” he joked. “I was try to figure out the words I knew, and I put all together.” Kuerten earned $590,000, and he became the first player in 25 years to win the men’s title after being down match point in an earlier round (previously the same thing made Adriano Panatta in 1976). He was one point from a straight-set defeat in the fourth round against American qualifier Michael Russell, and following that escape Kuerten carved a heart in the clay for the first time. “I never really had in my best dreams winning here three times,” he said. “So I see myself as a really blessed guy.Kuerten’s 14th title. Stats of the final