Tennis: Edberg enjoys chat over dinner

THE CLATTER and chatter from the terrace restaurant of the Monte Carlo Country Club was unabated yesterday as Andrei Medvedev struggled against a businesslike Stefan Edberg on the Centre Court.

In the near future - perhaps even as soon as next month's French Open - everything is likely to stop when Medvedev plays. But on this occasion the diners concluded that the young Ukrainian was not about to become a legend in their lunchtime. Edberg won, 6-4, 6-3.

Interest was swiftly aroused by a Frenchman, Cedric Pioline, who extended an impressive sequence of wins against Aaron Krickstein and Petr Korda in the Monte Carlo Open by defeating Jonas Svensson, 6-3, 6-4, for a place in today's semi-finals.

Yannick Noah, in 1986, was the last French player to advance to the singles final here, and it is 30 years since Pierre Darmon lifted the trophy. Edberg is the semi-final hurdle facing Pioline, a 22-year-old from Paris ranked No 29 in the world. 'We practised quite a few times last week in Nice,' the Swedish top seed said. 'He doesn't give you any free points and he has got a great backhand, so you have got to watch out for him.'

The second semi-final brings together Thomas Muster, the defending champion, and Sergi Bruguera, who won the title in 1991. One Spaniard was guaranteed to reach the last four, Bruguera ensuring himself of the place by defeating a compatriot, Carlos Costa, 7-6, 6-2. Muster, the eighth seed, ended an encouraging week for Alex Corretja, from Barcelona, 6-2,

6-2.

Edberg, not the most effective player on clay, must trust that his confidence holds and that Pioline is as profligate as Medvedev was yesterday. The Ukrainian converted only two of the 11 break points he created.

The pattern of the match was evident as early as the second game, in which Edberg saved three break points and the players duelled through seven deuces, the Swede finally producing a winning forehand volley. Medvedev lost his serve in the fifth game, but broke back in the sixth game, only for Edberg to regain the initiative at 4-3.

Edberg, who had not won an opening set in his two previous matches in the tournament, remained wary. He had notched up 6-1 in the opening set of his first encounter with Medvedev on a similar surface in Stuttgart last year, only for the Ukrainian to beat him in three. Though Medvedev recovered from 0-2 in the second set yesterday, a double-fault on break point at 3-3 hastened his departure.

The Swede, who has defeated Medvedev three times on carpet courts, was pleased with his approach to this second meeting on a slower surface better suited to the Ukrainian's impressive groundstrokes. 'Sometimes when I play on the clay I try to do too much,' Edberg said. 'Today I was hitting the ball very clean. I didn't try to put too much spin on it. I just played the way I play my best tennis, that is by playing the simple way.'

Medvedev said he had had an inkling the day before that events would not go according to plan. 'First of all, we only practised once yesterday, and we normally practise twice,' he said. 'And I was late for everything. I missed my transportation and I was also late for dinner. When I went to bed it was 9.30pm, and after I got to sleep I had a couple of strange phone calls around 9.45pm. They said 'hello' and I said 'who is this?' and then they just hung up. It is not normal.'

The Ukrainian continued to be late on the crucial points yesterday, though he gave his opponent due credit for winning. 'Stefan played well,' he said. 'He not only took his chance, but he also took mine.'

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