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Archive for Thursday, June 3, 2004

Nalbandian turns back Kuerten

Former French Open champ falls in quarterfinals

June 3, 2004

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— Gustavo Kuerten's right hip hurt, plain and simple. A shot, a sprint, a lunge: Each was enough to cause pain, making his task that much tougher against a determined David Nalbandian in the French Open quarterfinals.

Hoping to somehow prolong his stay at his favorite tournament, the site of his three Grand Slam titles, Kuerten gutted it out for more than three hours Wednesday until losing to Nalbandian, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6).

"That's the toughest part -- to maintain your mind ready and fresh and thinking about the game all the time," Kuerten said. "Sometimes, it's really tough to forget all the pain that you have."

It didn't help that Nalbandian was like a metronome, swatting stroke after stroke from 6 feet behind the baseline, then scrambling to get into position for the next.

Gaston Gaudio did the same against Lleyton Hewitt, like Kuerten a former No. 1 player and a major winner. Stretching points and rarely making a miscue, the unseeded Gaudio eliminated No. 12 Hewitt, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Nalbandian and Gaudio play similar styles, neither has won a Slam, and neither has won any title since 2002. Oh, and they have this in common, too: Both are from Argentina, as is No. 3 Guillermo Coria, giving the nation three semifinalists at a major for the first time.

"It's great for the country, whoever wins," Nalbandian said. "We have a 75 percent chance."

The interloper? Serve-and-volley specialist Tim Henman, the first Englishman in the French Open semifinals in 41 years.

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