Friday, June 4, 2004

Russian will win women's French Open title



The Associated Press

PARIS - Head down, Jennifer Capriati shuffled past her mother and coach near the locker room beneath center court.

"I just want to sit down," Capriati said, then sighed, burdened by an upset loss in the French Open semifinals Thursday.

A few minutes earlier, a few feet away, a beaming Anastasia Myskina, red flower in hand, was accepting congratulations for her 6-2, 6-2 victory over Capriati. Myskina got a kiss on the cheek from Olga Morozova, the last Russian woman to play for a Grand Slam title, 30 years ago - and the coach of Saturday's other finalist, Elena Dementieva.

The No. 9-seeded Dementieva beat No. 14 Paola Suarez 6-0, 7-5 in a match filled with so many miscues (17 double-faults, 69 unforced errors total) it could be used for a "How Not To Play Elite Tennis" instructional video.

The previous 10 Grand Slam tournaments featured six all-Williams and three all-Belgian championship matches. But befitting the topsy-turvy nature of the past 10 days, there will be an all-Russian major final for the first time, assuring the country of its first female Slam champion.

Capriati had 36 unforced errors to only 11 winners, a big letdown after knocking off No. 2 Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Tuesday. That's the same day Myskina eliminated No. 4 Venus Williams, and Dementieva saddened the locals by beating No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo of France.

"I was just having a bad day," said Capriati, 3-9 in major semifinals dating to a loss to Monica Seles at 14 in the 1990 French Open. "You're trying to figure out ways to change or what to do or what's going wrong. You have a million things going through your mind. When it's not there, it's not there."

Men's semifinals

Tim Henman will be easy to pick out today in the semifinals: He'll be the one at the net.

He'll also be the lone Brit - and the only non-Argentine.

A serve-and-volleyer defying conventional wisdom by winning on clay, Henman has made an improbable run while many favorites were stumbling. He has succeeded with the same tactical approach employed by Pete Sampras, a perennial bust at Roland Garros.

The three other semifinalists prefer to play behind the baseline, where most French Open champions can be found. Guillermo Coria, David Nalbandian and Gaston Gaudio are willing to run from corner to corner hitting groundstrokes for hours at a time, which is why Argentina is enjoying its best Grand Slam showing.

The clash of styles should be intriguing when the No. 3-seeded Coria plays No. 9 Henman, with the winner bound for his first major final.

"He's a very dangerous player," Coria said.

"But I'm going to play my best tennis so that I can beat Henman."

The only certainty about the other semifinal between No. 8 Nalbandian and the unseeded Gaudio is that the winner will be Argentine, assuring the nation of its first finalist at the French Open since Guillermo Vilas in 1982.




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