Re: Great Arantxa Sanchez Vicario article
Spanish lay claim to Paris/Bruguera, Sanchez Vicario pound out French Open titles
Monday, June 6, 1994
DALE ROBERTSON, Staff
PARIS -- The golden age of Spanish sports?
Jose Maria Olazabal started the "pelota" rolling when he won the Masters in April, then two Spaniards put a choke hold on the French Open on Sunday, claiming the men's and women's tennis championships for the first time in any Grand Slam tournament.
Of course, you really had to like Spain's chances entering the men's final, considering 100 percent of the participants hailed from there -- last year's winner Sergi Bruguera and his Davis Cup teammate, Alberto Berasategui, the new kid on the Catalonian block.
Bruguera's experience and, hence, confidence paid off. Following in the footsteps of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who defeated Mary Pierce 6-4, 6-4, he prevailed almost as easily over the upstart Berasategui 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.
"I am very proud for me, and for (the man) who is going to win, and for my country," Sanchez Vicario said.
It was 1969, with Rod Laver and Margaret Court representing Australia, when one nation last swept at Roland Garros.
Today, though, the ochre-colored clay, the "terre battue," is Sergi's turf. Juan Carlos might be the king of Spain -- and he was conspicuous by his presence, presenting Bruguera with the trophy -- but his 23-year-old subject is clearly the king of the dirt-ballers.
Bruguera knocked off Jim Courier, the champion in 1991 and 1992, in a five-setter last June, then again eliminated the American in Friday's semifinals after Courier, in the quarters, had thwarted No. 1-ranked Pete Sampras' bid for a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title.
He was overcome by exhilaration, and cramps, after taking Courier's title. This one was somewhat easier, once he erased Berasategui's 4-1 second-set led. His third-set stumble was more of a breather than a major lapse.
Sixth-seeded Bruguera came to Paris underprepared physically for the rigors of "Court Central" because of recent injuries, but he had saved up enough of a reserve to finish on top, the surprising challenge from his unseeded countryman notwithstanding.
"To control Alberto's forehand is almost impossible," he said. "But I know how to play him, maybe his weaknesses, and I think that helped me a little bit."
Berasategui, 20, lives in Barcelona, the home of Bruguera and Sanchez Vicario, but he was born in Bilbao, a town on Spain's northern shore not far from Santander, Seve Ballesteros country. Like Pierce, Berasategui chose this tournament to announce himself on the world stage.
He arrived wielding the same state-of-the-tennis-art weapon as she did, too, a whippet-like forehand that many contend is the most wicked shot in the game today. He wouldn't yield a set before confronting Bruguera's own daunting topspin strokes.was the first at Roland Garros to be carried over into Sunday.
It also became the first in 13 Grand Slam tournaments not to be won by Steffi Graf or Monica Seles. In fact, Graf or Seles -- or both -- had participated in 27 of the last 28, missing only the 1990 Wimbledon showdown between Zina Garrison Jackson and Martina Navratilova.
But Pierce's fresh face, which so brightened the stagnant women's tennis scene during the French fortnight, didn't translate into fresh feet on a chilly, gusty afternoon. It was Sanchez Vicario, in her typically tenacious, bulldog style, who got almost everything back despite the ferocity of the 19-year-old's groundstrokes.
Sanchez Vicario, seeded second, rarely forces the issue. Rather, she's a backboard, a virtually impenetrable wall of resistance, when she's at top form.
"I was really strong mentally, very patient," she said. "I just wait for my opportunities. That was the key for me. I was relaxed yesterday. I was relaxed today. And you know me -- I always give everything until the last minute. It is hard to beat me."
Pierce, losing two more games than she had in six previous matches, would eventually drown in a flood of unforced errors -- 51 in all. That was 20 more than Sanchez Vicario compiled in winning her second French championship five years after claiming her first at 17, when she was as unknown as Berasategui.
In her trophy acceptance speech, in English to a disappointed French crowd that considered Pierce its own despite her North American roots, the 5-6 1/2 Spaniard thanked everybody from her coach to her best friend to Juan Carlos, saying later, "It is an honor that the King of Spain watch me play."
But Sanchez Vicario neglected to express her appreciation to Pierce, who clearly did more than anybody to make these two days end on a happy note.
"Arantxa made me play bad," the 12th-seeded Pierce said, defending her first subpar performance of the fortnight.
Even Graf had offered up only token resistance to Pierce in the semifinals, succumbing 6-2, 6-2. But Sanchez Vicario, who took the court Sunday trailing 1-2 and facing a break point, presented a different kind of challenge. Although she suffered that break straight away, Sanchez Vicario was nonplussed. She had been here before. Pierce hadn't.
When Pierce let Sanchez Vicario promptly break back, losing two chances to go up 4-1, the momentum changed perceptibly.
"I was disappointed because it's a big difference between 4-1 and 3-2," Pierce said. "Then, the next game was very close. I should have won it, but instead it was 3-all. Those were two very tough games for me to lose, and that has been the difference lately, the important points, the close points when it counts.
"I'd been winning those. Today, Arantxa did. I think I was missing some experience. I was taking my time because I was tense, and I tried to breathe to relax, but in fact it had the opposite effect. I was a little too nervous, so I didn't play as well as I could have."
Particularly when serving. She surrendered four breaks in seven games Sunday and found herself scrambling to save break points in two of the other three.
Also, she put no pressure on Sanchez Vicario's serve after her last break, ripping a crosscourt backhand to draw even at 1-1 in the second set.
Nevertheless, the tournament was a terrific run for Pierce, who lost in the Virginia Slims of Houston final to Sabine Hack. She climbed to No. 7 in the rankings and proved that, with her abusive father Jim off her back, she's a force with which to be reckoned.
"It was only my first (Grand Slam) final, and I have many others ahead of me," Pierce said. "But because I really had my chances to win today, I am very disappointed."
Berasategui, on the other hand, implied he was just happy to be around.
"It was a dream for me to play the final," he said. "I did not think about making it before I came. But I was not nervous, just too tired after the third set. I went out and did my best. I have to congratulate Sergi. It is very difficult to play him."
Berasategui smashed 22 winners off his forehand, on which he utilizes an extreme "western" grip, but he made 65 errors, far too many to overcome without a more diverse mix of weapons, particularly the serve. He suffered six breaks, twice as many as Bruguera.
"I think, for now, my backhand and my serve are more strong," Bruguera said.
It would appear Spain's reign on the Roland Garros plain might last awhile. A Spanish teen, Jacobo Diaz, also won the junior tournament.