| Juan Carlos Ferrero after victory Sunday. (AFP)
Paris: Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero was crowned King of Roland Garros on Sunday after he thrashed Netherland’s Martin Verkerk 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to win his first Grand Slam title.
The straight sets pummelling was the most one-sided men’s final here since 1978 when Bjorn Borg wiped Guillermo Vilas for the loss of just five games.
Clinching the win with a searing forehand, Ferrero fell to his knees before vaulting into the players’ box to hug and kiss his father and elder sisters as the tears flowed freely.
“It was 12 years ago when I first came to Roland Garros and I always dreamed of winning here, I don’t know what to say,” the 23-year-old said. “These two weeks were the most special in my life, I was hoping to win and now it’s in the bag. I’d like to congratulate Martin, I hope he will keep improving.”
Ferrero never looked in any doubt that he would finally make his Grand Slam breakthrough in front of Spain’s former Olympic president Juan Antonio Samaranch. Ferrero has never failed to reach the semi-finals here since first playing in 2000. For Verkerk the entire tournament was a voyage of discovery.
Playing his first Roland Garros, he was only the third Dutchman to reach a Grand Slam final and bidding to be the second — after Richard Krajicek at Wimbledon in 1996 — to win one.
However, he had not won a Grand Slam match before stepping on to the ochre-hued Parisian clay, and simply lost his way on Centre Court.
Overwhelmed as he was in the title match, his heroics this past fortnight have lifted him from world number 46 to a ranking of 15. The 420,000 euros ($495,200) he picks up for reaching the final also doubles his career earnings to date. “I was behind all the time, he played unbelievable. He deserved to win,” a shell-shocked Verkerk said.
A fortune-teller had told Ferrero he would emerge as champion this year but in truth very little providence was needed to discern the winner on Sunday. Ferrero broke his gangly opponent in a 10-minute opening game. His forehand finally broke down facing his fifth break point as he relinquished the momentum of the match. Two more breaks for the wiry Spaniard allowed him to romp through the opener 6-1 in 35 minutes.
Verkerk’s groundstrokes lacked the fizz Ferrero put on the ball. His serve lacked the accuracy of previous rounds. In all he was facing an uphill battle.
The Dutchman grabbed a break of his own in the third game of the second set — before a male streaker ran on to the court — but Ferrero hit back with two breaks of his own to grab a two-sets-to-one lead after 79 minutes. In the third set Verkerk again fell behind quickly. Serving at 1-3 down, he once again fought for his life. But he was forced to work too hard for each point. Verkerk simply lacked the tools to hurt his opponent.
His 45th unforced error gave Ferrero another break point. A serve saved that one and a whipped forehand past Ferrero gave him game point. He held and pumped his fist to the skies but it was hard to see a way back.
Kim gets birthday present
Kim Clijsters of Belgium, beaten by compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the women’s singles final, gave herself a happy 20th birthday present on Sunday with victory alongside Japan’s Ai Sugiyama in the women’s doubles final.
Clijsters and Sugiyama, the second seeds, saw off their top-ranked opponents Virginia Ruano Pascual, of Spain and Paola Suarez of Argentina, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 9-7 in a thrilling final which saw the champions come back from 0-2 down in the third set.