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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Nalbandian into final
David Nalbandian
Nalbandian is playing his first tournament on grass
D Nalbandian bt X Malisse 7-6 6-4 1-6 2-6 6-2

David Nalbandian won a final set shoot-out with Xavier Malisse to reach the Wimbledon final at his first attempt.

The Argentine will face number one seed Lleyton Hewitt on Sunday after holding his nerve on the resumption of his semi-final with Malisse.


I can't describe how I feel - it's been the best week of my life
David Nalbandian

Level at two sets apiece overnight, Nalbandian opened with his fastest serve of the match and comfortably took the opening game of the fifth set.

Malisse appeared to have seized the initiative though when he broke Nalbandian's serve in the third game to take a 2-1 lead.


But the 20-year-old, playing his first tournament on grass, then proceeded to reel off five game in a row to become one of the unlikeliest men's finalists of all time.

Xavier Malisse lost his serve three times in the final set
Malisse lost his serve three times in the final set
He immediately broke his Belgian opponent to love, and did so twice again to win in three hours and 17 minutes, sealing victory with a superb backhand volley.

The drama-filled contest had been suspended just before 2100 BST on Friday with Malisse having coming from two sets down to level the match.

The Belgian was in control in the third and fourth sets and started favourite on Saturday to face Hewitt in the final.

But after starting with three aces in a confident opening service game, Malisse lost nine points in a row at one stage as the fifth set slipped away from him.


Today I was too stressed - I wasn't thinking about having fun, I was just thinking about winning and I was too tense on court
Xavier Malisse
He continued to try to hit winners off almost every shot, but the fluidity of Friday evening deserted him as Nalbandian proved the stronger.

His victory staved off any further controversy over the injury time-out that Malisse took after the first set.

Malisse had called for assistance at 2-3 down, appearing to complain of a chest problem.

Argentine David Nalbandian questions Xavier Malisse's extended medical timeout
Nalbandian was kept waiting for over 10 minutes

After an initial consultation he was able to resume the set without further help, going down 7-2 in the tie-break.

But Malisse then called for the doctor at the end of the set and disappeared off court for more than 10 minutes.

Nalbandian was left in his chair mystified, as treatment is only allowed for three minutes.

But tournament rules state that the three minutes do not start until after a medical evaluation has been completed, and officials later confirmed that Malisse was being assessed rather than being treated.

After the players were forced off for a rain delay, Malisse phoned his doctor in Belgium and was reportedly told his heart jitters were brought on by stress and anxiety, although he apparently underwent a heart operation when he was 17.

He could not prevent Nalbandian from closing out the second set, but some sparkling tennis in the third and fourth sets appeared to give him the edge.

But the Argentine youngster maintained his composure after the overnight break to produce the latest remarkable story in a men's tournament that has defied all predictions.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Number 28 seed David Nalbandian
"It's the best day of my life"
Number 27 seed Xavier Malisse
"It's been a great two weeks"
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