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All-Argentine final at French Open


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Gaudio played inspired tennis to reach his first Grand Slam final.

PARIS, France -- Unseeded Gaston Gaudio will play pre-tournament favorite Guillermo Coria in an all-Argentine final at the French Open in Paris.

Gaudio played the match of his life to beat another Argentine David Nalbandian 6-3 7-6 6-0.

Third seed Coria won an see-saw encounter with Britain's Tim Henman 3-6 6-4 6-0 7-5.

Eighth seed Nalbandian, who had put out Marat Safin and former champion Gustavo Kuerten, was overwhelmed in two hours 26 minutes after making a string of unforced errors.

The turning point saw Gaudio win four straight games from 5-1 down in the second set before taking a two sets lead in the tiebreak.

His utterly demoralised opponent subsided in the third set as Gaudio romped to victory with a stream of winners.

It was Gaudio who took command from the start under cool, cloudy conditions on a half-empty Philippe Chatrier centre-court.

From 3-3, he ran off three games in a row including two service breaks dominating the bigger and more physical Nalbandian with his searing groundstrokes off both flanks from the baseline.

The 2002 Wimbledon runner-up appeared to be getting back into the match when he moved 5-1 up in the second set, but incredibly Gaudio clawed his way back to 5-5 and then in the tie-break he took a 6-2 lead and went two sets up with a smash at the net on his fourth set point.

That appeared to take the heart out of the eighth seed and Gaudio rapidly moved to match point with three successive service breaks.

He hit long on the first but on the second Nalbandian flapped at a forehand and it died at the net sparking off a tearful celebration from Gaudio.

"This is a dream for me. It's my favorite tournament and I have always dreamed of getting to the final here," he said.

Dominant Coria

Coria went into his semi-final with ninth seed Henman as an odds-on favorite after dominating the clay court season.

But it was the Briton, better know for his serve-volley game on Wimbledon's grasscourts who initially took control, winning the first set with two breaks of service after 34 minutes.

Coria was clearly rattled and Henman took further advantage to break immediately at the start of the second set and take a 4-2 lead.

But the Argentine finally cut out the unforced errors and used his speed around the court to take total command of the match.

He won the next 13 games and at two sets to one and three games to the good in the fourth looked good for his first grand slam final.

But that was to underestimate the fighting qualities of 29-year-old Henman who proceeded to win the next five games and then serve at 5-4 in the fourth set to level at serve to level at two sets all.

Coria immediately broke back, won his only service to lead 6-5 and finally closed out an epic encounter on his second match point.

"It's a childhood dream to be in the final," Coria said. "We are guaranteed an Argentine to win the tournament.

"He played really well, took his chances at the net and the crowd really helped him out (in the fourth set). It was a fantastic battle."

Henman left the court to cheers from the Roland Garros crowd having offered them some of the finest attacking tennis of the tournament.

"It has been a great fortnight for me," Henman said.

"I started the match really well but had a difficult period in the middle and had my chances at the end. That's the way it goes, that's sport."


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