Tennis: Golmard moves in on first final

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The Independent Online
IT MAY not be of the slightest consolation to Tim Henman, but he is not alone in finding the French left-hander Jerome Golmard difficult to deal with. The night after eliminating the British No 1 from the $1m (pounds 620,000) Dubai Duty Free Open, Golmard advanced to his first ATP Tour final, defeating Carlos Moya, the French Open champion, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Henman described Golmard as "unorthodox but effective" after losing to the No 61-ranked Frenchman for the second time in three meetings, the first of which was in the opening round of the 1998 Australian Open. Moya, the No 2 seed and world No 5, would agree, having lost to Golmard for the second time in two meetings.

The Frenchman's victory guaranteed there will be an unseeded champion. In tonight's final he will play either Germany's Nicolas Kiefer, ranked No 41, or the Australian Andrew Ilie, ranked No 55, for the winner's cheque of $162,000.

Golmard's previous best performance was a semi-final appearance on grass at Notting-ham last June, when he was defeated by Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, the eventual champion.

His success last night was particularly impressive, since Golmard was suffering from a sore left elbow from early in the second set. He iced the joint during every change-over, and had treatment from the trainer. The Frenchman said the problem was caused by the combination of a cool night, which made the balls heavier. "I'll be fine for the final," he added.

Moya enjoyed a far better start to his match than Henman had the night before. The Spaniard broke to love in the third game, Golmard double-faulting on the fourth point. That proved enough to assure Moya of the opening set, which he finished confidently with a pair of aces.

The elbow problem did not prevent Golmard breaking for 3-1 in the second set during a run of 13 points out of 14 which was halted by a spectacular miss from close in with a high forehand volley in the sixth game. The Frenchman did manage to create a break-point for 5-1, only to hit a backhand wide.

Moya broke back for 3-4 and had chances on Golmard's serve at 4-4 and 5-5. The Frenchman recovered, and Moya's own serve wilted under pressure in the 12th game. After double-faulting to 0-40, he saved three set-points, only to hit a backhand drive long on a fourth break-point in response to Golmard's solid return of a second serve.

The Spaniard could not have hoped for a bigger incentive at the start of the deciding set than to see his opponent double-fault to lose serve. Moya was unable to take advantage, however, missing a backhand on break- point in the next game when he was still fretting about a first serve which had been called long.

Golmard saved a break-point with an ace in the third game before taking a 3-1 lead with a second service return that Moya wafted wide with his forehand. The Frenchman was unable to take any of four break-points for 5-1, but was holding his own serve with ease.

To be fair, there was the sign of a falter when it came to serving out the match at 5-3, Moya pegging him back from 30-0 to 30-30. Golmard responded with a smash to go to match point and then produced a winning forehand pass behind a second serve.

"His serve is good and he is a lefty. I hate playing lefties," said Moya. Golmard said that his goal is to reach the top 30 in the world. "I didn't have anything to lose, unlike Carlos, who has to think of ranking points."

In the second semi-final, Kiefer managed to win the first set, 6-3, before a deluge sent the players back to the locker-room. They hope to resume this afternoon, with the final tonight.