Tennis: Golmard opens his account

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The Independent Online
JEROME GOLMARD, a semi- finalist at Nottingham last June, took an important step forward last night, winning his first ATP Tour singles title with a straight sets win over Germany's Nicolas Kiefer at the $1m (pounds 620,000) Dubai Open.

The tall, lean French left-hander entered the tournament ranked No 61 in the world. Subsequent victories against Karol Kucera, the fifth seed, Tim Henman, the third seed, Carlos Moya, the French Open champion and No 2 seed, and the unseeded Kiefer, ranked No 41, will elevate him to a place in the low 30s.

In the opening round, Golmard defeated his compatriot Fabrice Santoro, the winner of the ATP Tour title in Marseilles last Sunday. The French, with six men in the world's top 100, are showing signs of emulating the Spaniards. In addition to the two men's titles this year, French tennis was encouraged by the progress of Amelie Mauresmo to the women's singles final at the Australian Open last month.

Golmard, who served and received with rackets of different stringing tension in order to ease the strain on a sore elbow, only twice dropped more than one point in his nine service games in winning 6-4, 6-2 after 73 minutes.

The first time it happened was in the concluding game of the first set, when he had to save two break points. The second time was at 3-2 in the second set, when Kiefer took him to 30-30.

Kiefer's serving was erratic, seven double-faults costing him more than the same number of aces (three of them when he was broken for 2-5 in the second set) he could recoup.

It was the German's second match of the day. In the afternoon he had to finish his semi-final against the unseeded Australian Andrew Ilie, which was interrupted by rain on Saturday night after Keifer had won the opening set.

Yesterday Ilie held two set- points at 6-4 in a second set tie-break, Kiefer recovering to clinch the shoot-out, 8-6, to win 6-3, 7-6. "I was tired because I had to run a lot in the afternoon," Kiefer said, although it seemed unlikely that the one set he played had drained him of so much energy and inspiration for the second final of his career - he won a title in Toulouse in 1997.

As Golmard pointed out: "In Grand Slams you sometimes have to play five sets in one match, and another five sets the next day." Henman needs no reminding of Golmard's stamina. He was beaten by the Frenchman in the first round of the 1998 Australian Open, 11-9 in the fifth set of the longest match of the tournament (four hours and 19 minutes).

Apart from "realising a dream" by winning the title, the 25-year-old from Dijon left Dubai the richer by $162,000.