Tennis / French Open: Bruguera towers above tired Berasategui: The baseliner from Barcelona scales new hights in the men's final of the French Open to defeat his compatriot

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The Independent Online
A GIANT television crane which has towered above the Centre Court at the French Open during the past fortnight may have been a temptation for Sergi Bruguera, who was too exhausted to play at Wimbledon after winning the title here a year ago but later sampled bungee jumping.

The 23-year-old from Barcelona undoubtedly looked in much better condition yesterday after defeating Alberto Berasategui, from Bilbao, in the first all-Spanish final of a Grand Slam Championship.

But perhaps a bungee jump was out of the question, and not only because of the loose skin on the fourth finger of Bruguera's racket hand, which was subjected to a good deal of filing by the trainer. According to the champion, his physical well-being was something of a deception.

'Maybe my biggest doubt was that I was not in very good shape,' he said. 'I didn't have good preparation for this tournament, because I injured my shoulder and did not play for two weeks before going to Dusseldorf (for the World Team Cup).' He certainly fooled Berasategui.

Wimbledon now waits to see if Bruguera's baseline style translates to grass better than it did on his previous two visits. In 1989, he was beaten in the first round by Amos Mansdorf, of Israel, and the following year he lost to the American Bryan Shelton in the second round after breaking his duck with a victory against Britain's Andrew Castle.

'I have improved my serve and my volley,' Bruguera said. 'I hope to play well there, but I do not hope too much.' At the very least, he should have acquired a better feel for the lawns before joining his Davis Cup team-mates for the tie against Germany on the grass courts of Halle two weeks after the Championships.

In last year's final here, Bruguera gave the impression that he would have died rather than lose to Jim Courier, recovering from 2-0 down in the fifth set to deny the American a third consecutive French title. He was not threatened with having to go to such extremes yesterday, defeating his compatriot 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 in two hours and 11 minutes.

The topspin generated by Berasategui's unorthodox forehand, delivered with the same side of the racket as his backhand shots, troubled Bruguera far less than his previous opponents. 'The other players were so afraid of Alberto that they were beaten almost before they played,' he said.

Berasategui, who had played only 15 sets before the final (injuries prevented Wayne Ferreira and Javier Frana from completing their matches against him), pushed Bruguera in a 41-shot rally before losing the concluding point of the opening set, but he then failed to capitalise on a 4-1 lead in the second set.

Though hopes of a tighter finish were raised when Berasategui took the third set, it transpired that the effort had expended his energy. 'I got too tired,' he said. 'It is very difficult to play Sergi. You have to play one hundred per cent the whole match. I think my tactics were right, but I missed too many forehands.'

At the conclusion, Bruguera put his hands over his face and gave way to emotion. 'I was thinking about all the nerves and the tension of these two weeks,' he said. 'I just couldn't believe that I had won it again.'

The 13-year-old Martina Hingis, from Switzerland, successfully defended her junior singles title, defeating Canada's Sonya Jeyaseelan, 6-3, 6-1. Hingis, who will be 14 in September, is expected to play her first tournament on the women's tour in Zurich in October.

(Photographs omitted)

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