Kuerten King Again, Clinches 2nd French Open Title

Published June 12th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten emerged clutching the men's trophy for the second time and Mary Pierce bagged the women's title for France, the host nation's first win in 33 years. 

Kuerten, who was the previous 1997 champion and the Hamburg Masters Series winner combated Magnus Norman, the Rome Masters Series winner and the ATP Champions Race leader, for the crown. 

Brazil's fifth-seeded Kuerten pulled himself together after squandering an incredible 10 match points to oust his third-seeded Swedish rival 6-2, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (8/6) after a 3hr 44min thriller. 

It was only the second Grand Slam title of the 23-year-olds' career but the second in four years at Roland Garros for the King of Clay. 

Norman, the current leader of the ATP Champions Race, had dropped only one set in reaching the final but melted under the pressure of his first Grand Slam final in the opening two sets. 

Kuerten almost didn't make it as he was on the verge of defeat against both Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinals, and Spanish newcomer Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semis. 

"Kafelnikov was my worst nightmare," laughed Kuerten, who noted he had beaten the same player in the same round when he won the event three years ago. 



Mary Pierce, who ousted the world number one, Martina Hingis, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 in the semifinals, grabbed a victory for France after routing Conchita Martinez 6-2, 7-5 in the finals on Saturday, earning $575,000 for her win. 

She then paired with Hingis in the doubles final and gained herself another crown.  

The champion, who overcame a second set lapse before wrapping up the win to give France a seventh women's triumph at Roland Garros gasped, "I can't explain how I feel. It's just incredible. I'll never forget this."  

Canadian-born Pierce, who puts her success down to her rediscovery of God and Catholicism, has had an up-and-down career, though her religion and her closeness to her brother and coach David have settled her down recently. 

She came to France as a child and admitted she had felt homesick for her native North America to begin with. 

"I couldn't really speak French. I didn't have any friends and I was by myself. It was tough. I probably cried every night," Pierce revealed. 

The French and Pierce have always had a love hate relationship - seeing her as an inconsistent diva - with some justification - until now. 

But the moment she lifted the trophy, aloft her adopted country finally accepted her as truly one of their own. 

For France - and for the history of Roland Garros - it was a defining moment - (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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