Mon, Jun 07, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Anastasia Myskina makes history in all Russian final

AP , PARIS

Anastasia Myskina, left, and Elena Dementieva hold with their trophies after the women's final of the French Open in Paris, Saturday. Myskina won 6-1, 6-2.

PHOTO: EPA

Anastasia Myskina became the first Russian woman to claim a Grand Slam title, taking advantage of shaky play by compatriot Elena Dementieva to win 6-1, 6-2 Saturday at the French Open.

With unspectacular but steady tennis, the No. 6-seeded Myskina won in 59 minutes, the most lopsided Grand Slam final in 10 years. This was the first all-Russian Grand Slam final and marked the first time in 30 years Russia had even one woman in the final of a major.

The No. 9-seeded Dementieva has long been plagued by an unreliable serve, especially in big matches, and that was the case again in her first major final. She lost her first four service games, and missed her final four serves -- for two more double-faults -- to give Myskina a 5-2 lead in the second set.

Myskina herself double-faulted to lose the opening game, then swept the next eight games. She closed the victory when Dementieva sent a return barely long -- although there was momentary confusion about where the ball landed.

"It was out, but then everybody was quiet," Myskina said. "Then in the first couple of seconds you couldn't believe that you won a Grand Slam."

When the result became clear, Myskina trotted to the net, where the two pals since childhood embraced.

"It's a Grand Slam. It's a French Open against my friend," Myskina said. "It's too much going on for me right now."

A brass band played the Russian national anthem during the postmatch ceremony as Myskina fought back tears.

Dementieva's best moment of the day came during the trophy presentation when she spoke in fluent French to the delight of the crowd.

"It was the dream of my life to win Roland Garros, and it's a shame that I lost today," she said. "I hope to come back and win next year."

She and Myskina were the first Russians to reach a women's Grand Slam final since Dementieva's coach, Olga Morozova, was the 1974 Wimbeldon runner-up.

Argentina also has two players in a Grand Slam final for the first time. No. 3-seeded Guillermo Coria will play unseeded Gaston Gaudio on Sunday, with the winner becoming the first Argentine man to win a major title since Guillermo Vilas at the 1979 Australian Open.

With women's tennis on the rise in Russia in recent years, Myskina has been among the nation's most talented young players, and she'll climb to a career-high No. 3 in the rankings next week. Still, the 22-year-old Moscow native wasn't among the favorites in this year's French Open.

She arrived in Paris with a 1-4 lifetime record at Roland Garros but led a wave of upsets, beating Venus Williams and 2001 champion Jennifer Capriati en route to the title.

The match was as one-sided and error-filled as the two sloppy semifinals, with 50 errors by the two finalists and just 23 winners.

"I was too nervous," Dementieva said. "I couldn't play my game at all."

Myskina said she had jitters, too, but controlled them once she took the court.

"I was crying before the match. It just came out," she said. "It's good -- before match, not during."

The result was the most lopsided in a Grand Slam final since Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-0, 6-2 in the 1994 Australian Open. It was the most one-sided final at Roland Garros since Steffi Graf beat Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in 1988.

Dementieva struggled from the start. In her opening service game she double-faulted, hit an ace and double-faulted again on the first three points. She double-faulted for a third time on break point as the crowd groaned.

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