The Italian Open was considered as the fastest clay-court event, thus several serve-and-volley players enjoyed the surface advancing to the finals in the 90s (Ivanisevic, Sampras, Becker, Krajicek & Rafter). In the first meeting between two revelations of ’97, Kuerten  and Rafter , the Brazilian dominated the progress of the final more than the scoreline could suggest. He already led 5:1* in the 1st and 5:3* in the 2nd set; in turn in the no-break-of-serve 3rd set, he comfortably held six times having break points in Rafter’s three service games. In the tie-break Rafter missed an easy volley leading 5:4* and lost on the second match point after 2 hours 40 minutes as ‘Guga’ finished one of the longest rallies with a backhand volley.
Kuerten’s route to his 5th title:
1 Fernando Vicente 6-4, 6-3
2 Francisco Clavet 6-3, 6-3
3 Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-5, 6-1
Q Karol Kucera 3-6, 6-4, 7-5
S Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-2
W Patrick Rafter 6-4, 7-5, 7-6(6)
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