TENNIS: Costa factor strikes again

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The Independent Online


reports from Estoril

As far as Andrei Medvedev is concerned, the Iberian Peninsula embraces the Costa Brava, the Costa Del Sol, the Costa Carlos and the Costa Alberto. The last two have cost him dearly at the Estoril Open.

The Ukrainian, who lost his title to Carlos in last year's final, fell to the unseeded Alberto in the quarter-finals yesterday, 6-2, 6-3.

Medvedev, the second seed, had not looked confident on his first visit of the season to the clay courts, and the 19-year-old Costa, ranked No 58 in the world, was quick to take advantage. A year ago he lost to his Spanish namesake in the semi-finals.

There is bound to be at least one unseeded finalist. Costa's opponent today is the Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, ranked No 51, who defeated Austria's Gilbert Schaller 6-3, 6-4.

Another Austrian fared rather better. The scoreboard told of a victory for Thomas Muster, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, and the third seed packed his bags and headed into the semi-finals, leaving an angry opponent, Javier Sanchez, protesting on the court, racket in one hand, a ball in the other.

Sanchez, adamant that his serve had landed wide of a far line before he routinely blocked Muster's return over the baseline on the fifth and conclusive match point, demanded that the mark be checked. The American umpire, Steve Ulrich, insisted the match was finshed. So did Mark Darby, the ATP Tour supervisor. And groundsmen began to sweep the clay court in preparation for the next match, causing a further outburst from the Spaniard.

It was four minutes before Sanchez finally surrendered the ball and sheathed his racket, leaving justice in the hands of his older brother, Emilio, who duels with Muster today for a place in tomorrow's final.

Whatever the merits of the final call, Javier Sanchez's frustration was understandable in view of the way the quarter-final slipped away from him after he had led by a set and 4-1.

It was not that the Spaniard had underestimated Muster's powers of recovery. Franco Davin described the Austrian as "a lion" after losing to him in the previous round, although not many lions hunt down and kill their quarry and then spend half an hour doing press-ups.

Muster caught up with Sanchez, won the tie-break 7-3, and shot into a 5-1 lead in the final set. The Spaniard twice broke Muster when the Austrian was serving for the match, and after he survived four match points had visions of levelling at 5-5, until Muster passed him for 15-40 and the umpire refused his pleas for a second opinion on the final point.

Emilio Sanchez, the 1990 champion, recovered from a set and 0-2 down to end an encouraging week for the Portuguese wild card, Nuno Marques, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 43