Krajicek on the mark

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The Independent Online
Among those who experienced difficulty at the Italian Open here during the past two weeks were Steffi Graf, who lost to the 15-year-old Martina Hingis, and Lars Graff, an umpire who seemed to spend almost as much time scurrying about the court yesterday as two of the men's semi- finalists. The Swedish official was out of his chair so often checking ball marks on the clay to settle disputed calls that finally the players, Richard Krajicek and Wayne Ferreira, held an impromptu meeting at the net.

"A lot of times the only person who could see a mark was the umpire," complained Krajicek, who won 6-3 6-3 to advance to meet the defending champion, Thomas Muster, in today's final. Ferreira agreed. "It was a poor effort by the umpire and the linespeople," he said. Krajicek pointed out that most of the decisions went against him, adding: "In the end it didn't matter. I'm in the final, and that's the only thing that counts."

Not quite. It would have been helpful if the 10,200 spectators had been treated to a better performance, as they were when watching Muster defeat Alberto Costa, 6-3 3-6 6-4, continuing a series of fiercely contested matches against the 20-year-old Spaniard. Costa, who beat Muster in Kitzbuhel last year, took him to five sets recently in the Monte Carlo Open final and discovered yesterday that Muster responds defiantly when pressed. After levelling the match, the Spaniard recovered from 2-4 to 4-4 in the final set, only for Austrian to find the winning shots.

On the other hand, the unseeded Krajicek's attacking style could unsettle Muster, as it did two years ago on a clay court in Hamburg, where the Dutchman won in straight sets.

Krajicek has blighted a number of opponents on the way to his most prestigious final to date, ruining Sergi Bruguera's prospects of being seeded at the French Open and gate-crashing Stefan Edberg's farewell party.

Yesterday, the big-serving Dutchman denied Ferreira success on the South African's second consecutive appearance in the semi-finals, although in many respects Ferreira created his own problems.

When a series of unforced errors cost him his serve in the sixth game, Ferreira began to aim his racket at objects other than balls. At various moments he bounced it off the court, hit his shoes, a net post, his chair and a refrigerator. Not once was he warned by the umpire.

Although the South African's racket did not break, his concentration did. Many of his shots lacked conviction, and the match drifted away. Ferreira was 4-0 down in the second set when he managed to hold serve.

It was not until Krajicek served for the match at 5-2 that there was a glimmer of a contest. The Dutchman argued about yet another call and Ferreira took advantage to break. The South African celebrated with an ace on the first point of the final game, but was broken to 30.