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Since 1st March, 1999
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It’s Ferrero vs Verkerk
- Unseeded 24-year-old becomes first Dutchman to make French Open final
Juan Carlos Ferrero lets his racket do the talking at Roland Garros Friday. (AFP)

Paris: With a smile and a serve that could blow holes through walls, Martin Verkerk carved his own piece of French Open history on Friday, becoming the first Dutchman to reach the final at Roland Garros. His all-action style and devastating delivery saw him past the scampering hot favourite Guillermo Coria 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 and into a title-match with third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“I don’t know what happened. It is a dream for me, it is unbelievable,” the 24-year-old said, eyes watering and lips quivering with emotion. “To reach the final of Roland Garros is the dream of any kid starting to play tennis. It is unbelievable.”

Explaining his simplistic tactics, the unseeded Dutchman grinned: “He can run wherever he wants but if you serve big it is difficult to get the ball back. “I prefer just to hit the ball and let the other guy run.”

For Ferrero his 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 triumph over fellow Spaniard Albert Costa was the sweetest of revenge for last year’s defeat in the final.

Costa, the iron man of the tournament, finally ran out of steam. Winning a record four five-set matches here had sapped the burly Spaniard and he was powerless to prevent Ferrero reaching his second straight Roland Garros final.

Ferrero has never failed to reach the semis each of the four times he has played the event, and while his spot in the title match was largely expected, Verkerk’s could not have come as a bigger shock.

“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.” The 24-year-old is playing his first French Open and finds himself only the third Dutch Grand Slam finalist.

“It’s a dream, but it’s also a little bit of a joke,” he said. “Your family, your friends, they make it like unbelievable. I don’t like to say it but it’s unbelievable. For me it is a miracle.”

Not since Richard Krajicek won Wimbledon in 1996 had a Dutch player reached the final of a Grand Slam. The only other one was Tom Okker who was runner-up at the US Open in 1968. The last unseeded male player to reach the final here was Andrei Medvedev in 1999.

Verkerk finished off Coria in two hours 40 minutes but the match could have been over after just a set when the Argentine avoided disqualification at the end of the first set.

The seventh seed had just lost the opening set tie-break when he slung his racket in disgust to the back of the court. It flew several metres at head height and grazed a ballgirl.

Coria, who could have been disqualified over the incident, recognised the enormity of the situation and immediately threw his hands in the air and looked to French chair umpire Cedric Mourier as the French crowd jeered and whistled.

He got off with a warning but was clearly chastened by the experience. “I felt very bad for the next few points and perhaps that is why I lost the second set,” he said.“ I apologised for it three or four times. . I didn’t mean to do any harm when I threw it.”

Bhupathi, Likhovtseva runners-up

In the mixed doubles final, second seeded Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan of the US beat Mahesh Bhupathi and his Russian partner Elena Likhovtseva 6-3, 6-4.

Indian girls lose in semi-finals

Sania Mirza and Saana Bhambri lost in the semi-finals of girls doubles. The Indian pair lost in straight sets 0-6, 2-6 to Katerina Bohmova of the Czech Republic and Michaela Krajicek of Holland.

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