Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Hewitt hungry for a little

FRENCH OPEN Aussie success in Paris is rarer than a French restaurant in the Outback, but Lleyton Hewitt has the skills, and even more importantly, he believes he can win it

AP , PARIS

But tell that to them.

"It's really surprising for everyone," said the eighth-seeded Nalbandian, who overpowered No. 20 Marat Safin of Russia 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in the fourth round Monday. "It's incredible."

Gaudio beat another Russian, Igor Andreev, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

"It's great, I never thought this could happen. To be four Argentines in the final!" said Gaudio, only once even as far as the fourth round at 20 previous majors.

They join compatriots Guillermo Coria and Juan Ignacio Chela in the final eight. Today, No. 3 Coria plays No. 5 Carlos Moya of Spain, and No. 22 Chela faces No. 9 Tim Henman of Britain.

The promising pack of Argentines is still chasing the glory of their role model Guillermo Vilas, the last Argentine to win the French Open -- in 1977. Vilas won a total of four Grand Slam titles.

Coria, named after the former star, is considered the best clay-courter around with a 20-1 record this year.

On Wednesday, Gaudio meets No. 12 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, while Nalbandian faces three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil.

There's another big Argentina-Brazil clash Wednesday: The countries' soccer teams square off in a World Cup qualifier.

"Let's hope it's a victory -- 2-0," Nalbandian said.

DIVIDED LOYALTIES

Kim Clijsters might have been divided over how to root when her fiancee Lleyton Hewitt faced Xavier Malisse.

Clijsters cheered for Malisse, a fellow Belgian, when he played 2002 French Open champion Albert Costa in the third round.

But Monday, she clapped only for Hewitt.

Hewitt, a former No. 1 and two-time major champion, cruised past fourth-round opponent Malisse 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Often, after hitting winners, Hewitt would glance over at Clijsters in the stands. Other times, he cheered himself on with cries of "Come on!"

BAD LANGUAGE

Marat Safin's argument is this: If other professional athletes can swear without getting fined, why not tennis players?

"You haven't seen the soccer players? I mean we are pretty decent compared to them," Safin said, noting also that National Football League and National Basketball Association players in the US tend to use "a lot of good words" during games -- without penalty.

Prompted by a reporter's question, Safin returned to his discussion of what's wrong with his sport. He said tennis has too many rules, which are sapping entertainment value for viewers.

The Russian, who is seldom shy about expressing his emotions on or off court, was fined US$500 earlier in the tournament for throwing a racket.

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