Courier seeking a triple crown Red-clay wonder, Bruguera, final foe FRENCH OPEN

June 05, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

PARIS -- The hitting machine vs. the running machine.

That's the men's French Open final.

Jim Courier, seeking his third title in a row, banged his way into tomorrow's championship by defeating Richard Krajicek, 6-1, 6-7 (2-7), 7-5, 6-2, yesterday.

Sergi Bruguera, making only nine unforced errors, was too fast and too clever on the clay for Andrei Medvedev, winning, 6-0, 6-4, 6-2.

Three years ago, Courier, the No. 2 seed, said he wouldn't have thought about being in three straight French finals.

Today, he added, "It's just kind of better not to think about it."

As for Bruguera, a one-surface phenomenon who is seeded 10th, everyone kept waiting for someone to overpower him these past two weeks.

It never happened, and the hard-hitting Medvedev paid him tribute:

"His speed on the court was just too fast. Too fast for me, at least. The rhythm was too high for me and I lost all concentration. I couldn't hit the backhand. I couldn't hit the forehand. My heartbeat was too fast. It was a good lesson."

Neither match was dramatic, though Courier-Krajicek had a few tense moments. Courier had demolished Krajicek's biggest weapon, his serve-and-volley game, in the first set, but the hot-and-cold running Krajicek suddenly ran warm in the second.

From 3-2 in the second-set tiebreaker, he hit a scorching service return winner followed by a forehand passing shot down the line and Courier was down 2-5.

Courier seemed rattled. He failed to return the next two Krajicek serves, the match was tied and the 6-foot-4 slugger from the Netherlands thought he was back in it.

Inexplicably, he went away from his attack game and camped on the baseline for several games.

That allowed Courier to build a 5-2 lead, and he was cruising in when Krajicek turned on the juice once again.

Courier has been in these situations against hot players in best-of-five set matches.

Gradually, Krajicek cooled off, and it was Courier's service return that made the difference.

"The key was trying to get back as many balls as possible, whether they were good returns or bad returns. Just trying to get every return I could back into the court."

It worked. Krajicek had plenty of chances, but his volleying, particularly on the backhand side, was deficient.

The Bruguera story is astonishing. In the past two years he is 67-16 on clay and 16-19 on all other surfaces.

There is a lot of subtlety in playing the clay, and he has mastered it.

He ran through Medvedev in the first set in 20 minutes, giving up only eight points.

Some reporters seemed baffled that Medvedev could go down so easily after his great week here.

"I never played someone like that, except Jim Courier last year. Nobody else played like that against me."

Courier is 4-0 lifetime against Bruguera.

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