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Ferrero leaves Costa in the dust.

Byline: Bill Barclay At Roland Garros

Juan Carlos Ferrero thrashed defending champion Albert Costa 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 in the French Open semi-finals yesterday, exacting sweet revenge for last year's defeat in the final by his fellow Spaniard.

The 23-year-old third seed will play unseeded Dutchman Martin Verkerk in tomorrow's final at Roland Garros after a display of cool-headed panache on a baking centre court.

Costa, seeded nine, had recovered from two sets down to win three times and had played four five-setters already in the tournament but another comeback proved beyond him.

Ferrero dominated the first set, recovered from 5-3 down in the second to snatch it on a tie-break and outmanoeuvred Costa in the third to move to within one victory of his maiden grand slam title.

'After playing five sets it's normal that he was a bit tired. I was more fresh and I really wanted to win,' Ferrero said.

'I shall be playing in the final for the second successive year and I hope I will have better memories this time. I'm better physically than last year.'

Ferrero's victory means he has won his last 12 matches against fellow Spaniards.

He had jokily suggested before the match that he would throw the second set just to avoid holding a two sets lead against his compatriot, who is something of a comeback king.

But he did nothing of the sort in an often turgid encounter between two closely matched clay court exponents.

Ferrero raced into a 4-1 lead in the opening set, sealing it when 27-year-old Costa netted a pitiful attempt at a drop shot while serving at 3-5.

Costa should have won the second set after taking a 5-3 lead with brutal forehand blows but Ferrero broke him to love to level. In the tie-break the younger pretender outplayed Costa, recovering from 5-3 down to win it 7-5.

To salvage the match from there, Costa would have had to do what no man in any tour event had achieved - win a fifth match in five sets in the same tournament.

His mood darkening all the time, the Spanish iron man tried to stir himself in the third set as the sun began to dip over centre court.

But serving at 3-3 and break point down, Costa tripped and fell playing a forehand at the baseline. In that moment his hopes bit the dust.

Ferrero held serve twice and sealed a hugely satisfying afternoon's work with a neat forehand winner, sinking to his knees to celebrate a perfect outcome to his fourth successive Roland Garros semi-final.

Costa then backed his compatriot to win the title.

'If he plays with the same attitude like today, very relaxed, I think he can do it'.

The third seed will start strong favourite to beat unseeded Verkerk tomorrow.

'The important thing is that he believes he can win the match. Of course he will be nervous when the moment comes because we all are. But I hope he wins the final because he deserves to,' added Costa.

Costa refused to blame fatigue for his defeat.

'Physically I felt very good during the match,' he said. 'Perhaps at the end I was a little bit tired. I kept trying all the time but he is also a very good player and he did a great job today.

'I am proud of my resistance. It was a very intense match. He was just a bit fresher.'

The 27-year-old said he would leave Roland Garros with his head held high after some stirring comebacks to reach the last four after a mediocre year.

'I leave with the feeling that I'm still completely in form. At one point [earlier this season] I was beginning to think I'd lost my tennis.'

Today's order of play

All times local

Chatrier 3pm: Women's singles final: (4) Justine Henin-Hardenne (Bel) v (2) Kim Clijsters (Bel), Men's doubles final: (11) Paul Haarhuis (Ned) & Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) v (3) Bob Bryan (USA) & Mike Bryan (USA)

CAPTION(S):

Juan carlos Ferrero celebrates his victory over Albert Costa and (inset) Martin Verkerk whom he faces in tomorrow's final
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Title Annotation:Tennis
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 7, 2003
Words:684
Previous Article:Bogdanovic savours best-ever result to reach semi.
Next Article:Verkerk's 'miracle' rewrites history.


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