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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Myskina win caps Russian rise
By Caroline Cheese

Anastasia Myskina
This year's French Open women's final will be remembered for a number of reasons.

It was the first time a major final had been contested by two Russians, and Anastasia Myskina made history by becoming the first woman from her country to win a Grand Slam title.

It was also the first Grand Slam final since the Australian Open in 2002 that did not feature a Belgian or a Williams sister.

Chief of all, though, it will go down as one of the worst major finals in recent history.

Not since Steffi Graf took just 34 minutes to rout Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in the 1988 Paris final has there been such a toe-curlingly one-sided affair.

Dementieva was stricken by nerves and her serve, always her Achilles heel, promptly collapsed under the pressure.

The writing was on the wall as early as the second game of the match when the world number nine threw in three double faults.

Down 4-2 in the second set, she racked up another hat-trick of doubles and Myskina went on to seal victory inside an hour in front of a bemused and slightly embarrassed crowd on Philippe Chatrier Court.

Indeed, the biggest cheer of the day came when Dementieva gave her post-match speech in French.

But as poorly as Dementieva performed, Myskina deserves credit.

WOMEN'S FINAL STATS
Dementieva--v----Myskina
1--------------Aces-----------0
10-------Double faults------5
47%------First serve----63%
33-----Unforced errors---17

She too was in her first Grand Slam final and despite losing her opening service game, she recovered her nerve as her opponent, and friend, folded.

And while the final may have been a breeze, the 22-year-old cannot be accused of winning the title by default, after she beat Venus Williams in the quarter-finals and Jennifer Capriati in the last four.

But it would be pushing the point to say that Myskina's win signifies a power shift in the women's game.

Lack of form and fitness following a virus was a key factor as world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne crashed out in the second round at Roland Garros and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters missed the tournament altogether with a wrist injury.

Serena Williams is also struggling with consistency after she missed six months following knee surgery, while Venus is rarely at her best on clay.

On their day, Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne and the Williams sisters remain a cut above the rest of the women's field and it will be a huge surprise if two of those four are not contesting the Wimbledon final on 3 July.

RUSSIANS IN TOP 50
5 A Myskina
8 N Petrova
10 E Dementieva
11 S Kuznetsova
13 V Zvonareva
20 M Sharapova
25 E Bovina
36 D Safina
42 L Krasnoroutskaya
43 E Likhovtseva
However, Myskina has established herself as a leading light in a second tier of players in the women's game, alongside Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati.

The 22-year-old not only showed great composure in the final, but she outplayed and out-thought Capriati in their semi-final, varying the speed and length of her groundstrokes to take the American away from her comfort zone.

Myskina's win over a fellow Russian will be greeted with unbridled joy in her home country and encourage even more people to take up what is already a burgeoning sport.

Russia currently have six players in the world's top 20 and 10 in the top 50, enough to threaten the United States as the major force in the women's game.

However, almost all of them have had to contend with comparisons to Anna Kournikova, who blazed the trail for her compatriots but most famously failed to win a title and earned more money from sponsorship than the sport itself.

In Myskina, the newly crowned French Open champion, Russia's young tennis wannabes have this time found an idol to emulate who can deliver trophies.





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