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PARIS -- Guillermo Coria, 21, had just won the longest...

June 03, 2003|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

PARIS -- Guillermo Coria, 21, had just won the longest match of this French Open -- five sets that took 4 hours 41 minutes over two days. He had just beaten his Argentine Davis Cup teammate, Mariano Zabaleta, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

Coria and Zabaleta had played 377 points, had squabbled with each other, punched fists toward each other, sweated, grunted, run for miles it seemed. At the end, after what he called the best and biggest win of his career, Coria had this to look forward to -- a French Open quarterfinal against a man he has revered.

Andre Agassi "has always been my hero," Coria said. "Andre Agassi is one step ahead of everybody else. I'd love to be able to play like him."

Like or better than Agassi, that's how Coria aims to play today.

"I'm a bit tired right now," Coria said, "but I think I'll be all right. This is a match I've been wanting to play for some time. It's true, I'll be a little bit tired, but I don't think this will affect my tennis. I think the will I have to play this match will compensate."

For a change Monday, defending champion Albert Costa did not play the longest match.

After three consecutive five-set marathons, ninth-seeded Costa took the air out of a rowdy French crowd with a dominating 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Arnaud Clement, seeded 32nd and the last Frenchman left in the draw.

Costa will play 21-year-old Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals. Robredo became the fourth Spanish man among the final eight with a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil.

Kuerten saved four match points but on the fifth, after drawing Kuerten to the net with a drop shot, Robredo mis-hit a lob. The ball just kissed the baseline and the 15th-seeded Kuerten threw down his racket while Robredo, seeded 28th, dropped to his knees in both thanks and happiness.

The most dominating performance of the day, though, belonged to 2002 finalist and third-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero, who destroyed Spanish countryman Felix Mantilla, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. Ferrero's quarterfinal opponent will be 19th-seeded Francisco Gonzalez of Chile, who eliminated 30th-seeded Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

This will be Coria's first Grand Slam quarterfinal. He has played Agassi twice, on hard courts, and lost twice.

"On hard courts, against him I couldn't do anything," said Coria, who was named after countryman Guillermo Vilas, the 1977 French Open champion. "Now is my opportunity to play him on clay. I hope I'll be able to take my revenge after those two matches I lost against him."

Ferrero had 52 winners to 13 for Mantilla.

"He played perfectly," Mantilla said of Ferrero. "He hit all the balls. He didn't miss a single one."

This is the fourth French Open for the 23-year-old Ferrero and he has made it at least to the semifinals of the first three. Last year, he struggled with a sore ankle. "This year, I'm very fit, physically and mentally," he said. "Today I practically didn't miss any ball. I was quite at ease."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

French Open Men

*--* Highlights from Day 8 of the French Open on Monday: * Men's seeded winners: No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 7 Guillermo Coria, No. 9 Albert Costa, No. 19 Fernando Gonzalez, No. 28 Tommy Robredo * Men's seeded losers: No. 15 Gustavo Kuerten, No. 20 Felix Mantilla, No. 30 Jarkko Nieminen, No. 32 Arnaud Clement * Stat of the day: 139. Number of unforced errors by Argentine Mariano Zabaleta, who lost his fourth-round match to countryman Guillermo Coria TODAY'S QUARTERFINALS * Guillermo Coria (7), Argentina, vs. Andre Agassi (2) * Martin Verkerk, Netherlands, vs. Carlos Moya (4), Spain WEDNESDAY'S QUARTERFINALS * Tommy Robredo (28), Spain, vs. Albert Costa (9), Spain * Juan Carlos Ferrero (3), Spain, vs. Fernando Gonzalez (19), Chile

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