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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 June, 2003, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
Destiny fulfilled for Ferrero
By Caroline Cheese

Juan Carlos Ferrero
Ferrero had long been tipped as a French Open winner
A Grand Slam tournament has rarely delivered two such one-sided finals as the 2003 French Open.

A day after Justine Henin-Hardenne powered past a nervy Kim Clijsters, Juan Carlos Ferrero overwhelmed surprise finalist Martin Verkerk in Sunday's men's showpiece.

But it is not only the manner of their victories which connects the newly crowned men's and women's champions.

Ferrero and Henin-Hardenne both first visited Roland Garros at the age of 12 and set their hearts on lifting the trophy one day.

Tragically, both lost their mothers in their teenage years, prompting Ferrero to consider quitting the game for good.

But both Henin-Hardenne and Ferrero have overcome that hurdle to win their first Grand Slam trophies at the 2003 French Open.

Unlike Henin-Hardenne, Ferrero was the favourite throughout the tournament, particularly against a final opponent whose first-round win was his maiden triumph at Grand Slam level.

However, the Spaniard had been in such a position in last year's final.

Having reached the semi-finals in his two previous visits, Ferrero was widely tipped to overcome compatriot Albert Costa in the final.

But a combination of an ankle injury and nerves meant Costa won at a canter.

After exacting revenge over Costa in the last four, Ferrero laid last year's ghosts to rest with an emphatic win of his own against an overwhelmed Verkerk.

In doing so, he avoided the fate of two other title favourites before him.

Former champion Carlos Moya went down 8-6 in the final set against the big-serving Dutchman.

Martin Verkerk
Verkerk gained an army of fans at the French Open

And Hamburg Masters champion Guillermo Coria, who swept aside Andre Agassi in the quarters, could not even win a set in his semi-final encounter with Verkerk.

The Dutchman may have frozen in the final but he lit up the tournament with his memorable celebrations on court and his ebullient post-match news conferences.

The French Open also saw the emergence of Tommy Robredo as a possible champion of the future, after the 21-year-old saw off world number one Lleyton Hewitt and three-times champion Gustavo Kuerten to reach the quarter-finals.

His run was ended by Costa, yet another player to capture the notoriously hard-to-please French crowd's imagination.

The 2002 champion took 18 and a half hours to reach the last four, three times recovering from two sets down in a total of four five-set epic encounters.

After such high drama, the dismal final came as even more of a disappointment - but Ferrero will not be losing any sleep over it.

The man nicknamed "Chavalito" ("little kid") by his fellow Spanish players fulfilled his early promise by powering to his first Grand Slam title, a victory which should open the floodgates for many more to come.

Links to more French Open 2003 stories


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