Edberg enjoys revenge

Chang succumbs in four sets to unseeded Swedish veteran while Graf is still waiting for serious test
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The Independent Online
It took Stefan Edberg seven years to get his chance to take revenge over Michael Chang for the defeat he suffered in the 1989 French Open final but, when he beat him in four sets here yesterday, the wait might just have been worth it.

Since, at 17, Chang became the youngest-ever winner of the French, he had never had to meet Edberg on a clay court. When the time finally came, it looked as if Edberg would have little chance. At 32, and seemingly winding down in his final year on the professional circuit, he was ranked No 47 to Chang's No 4. But none of that mattered as Edberg came through 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 in a triumph that obviously meant a huge amount to him.

Edberg started uncertainly, losing the first two games and, on his first break-point, Chang pounced to take the opening set. But Edberg steadied himself to take the second and when Chang suffered an abdominal injury in the third and lost it 6-0, he seemed on the point of retiring. He recovered to make a fight of the fourth, but Edberg was emphatic in the tie-break, winning it 7-1.

Marcelo Rios, meanwhile, has come a long way in a short time and, judging by the ease with which he is brushing aside opponents here, it is easy to see why. Yesterday the 20-year-old from Santiago advanced to the last 16 when he notched up his third straight-sets wins out of three.

The first Chilean ever to break into the world's top 10, Rios manages to combine giftedness and surliness in almost equal measure. In beating Petr Korda of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 31 minutes, he produced an exhibition of near-faultless clay-court tennis. When, afterwards, he was asked what he enjoyed in life and replied "nothing", he was merely underlining his reputation as the moodiest guy in the game.

It was here two years ago in his first Grand Slam event that the left- handed, bandana-sporting Rios gave notice of what a wonderful prospect he was when, as a qualifier ranked 283 in the world, he gave Pete Sampras a tough second-round match before going down in three tight sets. In an industry voracious in its appetite for young talent with a hint of danger, Rios is the most desirable commodity of his kind since Andre Agassi burst upon the scene.

Rios is comparable to Agassi in other ways: he is quite small - 5ft 8in and 140lb - but has speed on his side and an ability to take the ball remarkably early. But it is the range of his strokes that is most impressive. The way he mixed drop shots with angled passes and all manner of spin made Korda, ranked 36 to Rios's 10, look very pedestrian.

Whether Rios is yet good enough to win the French on his third visit is another matter. Certainly he is having an outstanding year, of which the highlight was probably not the title he won in St Polten last week - timely though it was - but the final in Barcelona when he took Thomas Muster to four sets.

Rios will fancy his chances in his next match, which brings him up against the sole surviving Frenchman, Cedric Pioline, who on the Court Suzanne Lenglen yesterday did much to lift the home crowd's flagging spirits after they had just seen the last Frenchwoman, Sandrine Testud, go out in an emotionally draining three-setter against Iva Majoli.

The responsibility on Pioline as he took on Alberto Berasetegui was huge and, when the Spaniard, the runner-up here to Sergi Bruguera in 1994, took the first set, the rhythmic clapping that that always starts up in the Roland-Garros stands at moments of high tension carried even more urgency than usual. It was Pioline's cue to take the match to Berasategui, and he ran away with it 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0.

The decline of Berasategui has been almost as surprising as his rise. With his wrong-way-round forehand he confounded everyone two years ago. Like Muster, he got into the top 10 purely on the strength of his clay- court expertise, but now, at 35 in the world, he cannot even rely on those.

Michael Stich, for whom the French has not been the happiest tournament, seems to be going the other way after a wretched six months in which he has suffered two serious injuries to his left ankle.

Having played only one clay-court tournament this year, losing in Rome in the second round, he was torn between practising at home for two weeks or coming here without much hope of success. That he lost the opening set to the 65th-ranked Swede, Mikael Tillstrom, was no great surprise. But he came back strongly to win in four and set up a meeting with Muster, who also went through yesterday.

In the women's singles, Majoli's struggle to overcome the spirited Testud suggested that the Croatian is some way off the pace set by the three seeds above her, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. The match turned on a disputed line-call early in the third which Testud allowed to ruin her concentration. Majoli now meets the unlikeliest of the last 16 women - Gala Leon-Garcia, a Spaniard ranked 108 in the world.

Graf continues to find life perhaps rather too easy. Her third-round opponent, Petra Langrova of the Czech Republic, hurt her groin when trailing 3-0 in the first set and retired with Graf 1-0 up in the second. Graf now meets Mary-Joe Fernandez, while there were also wins for Amanda Coetzer of South Africa and the Japanese Kimiko Date.

Courier's return, page 28