Tennis: Top seed falls to `Brit'

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The Independent Online
AFTER SINKING the Armada's flagship yesterday, Marc-Kevin Goellner, of Hemel Hempstead (via Rio, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Recife and Bonn), revelled in the role of honourary Brit.

"Not being able to have the citizenship, residency will be enough," teased the 27-year-old German Davis Cup player, who defeated Alberto Berasategui, the top seed, to advance to the semi-finals of the Samsung Open.

Goellner's parents ought to have named him Marco Polo. His father is a German diplomat and his mother is a secretary to the foreign ministry. Goellner based himself in London five years ago, soon after making an impact on the sport by beating Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl back-to-back to win the clay court title in Nice.

Living in Bonn, "Baby Boom-Boom" was adrift from the German training centre in Munich. He decided to move to London after playing at Queen's Club. "All the practice courts you could want - clay, grass, hard, and indoor - are in one club, and there are plenty of players to practise with." His children, Nina, 3, and the one-year-old Yannick-Keanu, were born in London.

Goellner, ranked No 103 in the world, refers to Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman as, "my British mates". He won the doubles title with Rusedski in Bournemouth last year, and then defeated the big-serving left-hander en route to the quarter-finals at Battersea in February.

A competitor at each of the three Samsung events on the green clay at the West Hants Club here, Goellner was a singles finalist in 1996, losing to Albert Costa. Until yesterday's success, 6-4, 6-3, he had not even won a set off Berasategui in practice, their training sessions dating back to 1991.

"I could never work out his forehand," Goellner said. Many players have a similar problem with Berasategui, who contorts his wrist when lashing the ball. Goellner prevailed yesterday by serving well and attacking the backhand. The German, who made a fine start to the week by winning the first 20 points of his opening match against Italy's Marco Meneschincheri, is yet to drop a set.

Eight Spaniards started the tournament, and Berasategui was one of four to survive to the quarter-finals. Goellner was not intimidated. In winning the second of his two ATP Tour titles, in Marbella in 1996, he defeated five Spaniards in a row - Tomas Carbonell, Francisco Clavet, Fernando Vicente, Felix Mantilla and Alex Corretja.

Italy's Vincenzo Santopadre followed Goellner in loosening the Spaniards' grip on the tournament. The 27-year-old left-hander from Rome advanced to his first ATP Tour semi-final by defeating Alex Lopez-Moran, 6-3, 6- 3.

Santopadre, ranked No 133, will play Albert Costa, the No 2 seed, who defeated the Frenchman Arnaud Clement, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. Costa was among the early favourites for the French Open this year until injury caused him to withdraw from the Italian Open final against Marcelo Rios, ending a sequence of 11 consecutive wins.