Gustafsson and Enqvist reach all-Swedish final

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The Independent Online

Magnus Gustafsson turned in another gritty performance today, edging Jan-Michael Gambill in a third-set tiebreak to reach the Stockholm Open final for the second time in his career.

Magnus Gustafsson turned in another gritty performance today, edging Jan-Michael Gambill in a third-set tiebreak to reach the Stockholm Open final for the second time in his career.

Playing before a partisan sellout crowd on the Royal Tennis Hall's centercourt, Gustafsson prevailed 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4). His victory assured an all-Swedish final in the oldest ATP indoor tournament in the world.

Top-seed Thomas Enqvist was never broken as he beat fellow Royal Tennis Club member Magnus Norman 6-3, 6-4 in the other, all-Swedish semi-final.

"It was my best match in the tournament," Enqvist said. "I didn't make many mistakes. But I knew I had to play well. Otherwise I wouldn't have won, because he's such a good player."

Enqvist, ranked seventh in the world, won consecutive Stockholm Open titles in 1995-96. He started this year on a high note, reaching the Australian Open final in January after warming up with a victory at Adelaide, Australia.

But he did not make another final until Stuttgart, Germany, three weeks ago, when he beat Marcelo Rios, Andre Agassi and Richard Krajicek in the last three rounds.

"I have to play 100 percent in the final," Enqvist said. "He's a warrior. "Gusten" gives everything. People who like tennis and want to become good tennis players should go an watch him."

Gustafsson, a massive forehand being his most powerful weapon, played near-perfect tennis in the opening set. He won it in less than 30 minutes after losing only nine points and ending the set with an ace.

"I have never played a better set in my life!" beamed Gustafsson "Now I know how Agassi feels - he plays like that nearly all the time."

Gambill broke Gustafsson's serve twice in the second set, the first time to lead 3-1 and the second time to wrap up the set, 6-2.

The American took a 4-2 lead in the third set after breaking Gustafsson's serve. But the Swede broke right back. Then they traded service breaks again, Gambill getting the last one at love to force the tiebreak.

With the score 4-4, Gambill's game turned sloppy. He made three straight easy mistakes and the match was over.

Gustafsson, at 33 one of the oldest players on the tour, reached his first Stockholm Open final 10 years ago, but lost to Ivan Lendl when the tournament was held across town in the much bigger Globe Arena.

"It's fantastic to be in then final again ," Gustafsson said. "It's nice to be able to prove that I'm not finished. But reaching the 1989 final was a bigger achievement, because the Stockholm Open was a Super-9 event then with all top players entered."

Gustafsson has played well in recent tournaments, reaching the semifinals in Lyon, France, where he had a match point against eventual winner Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador.

"I'm in very good shape, but I never thought I would be a finalist here," he said. "I thought that I could make the quarterfinals maybe. I had a lucky draw. I don't think I had won if Enqvist had been my first-round opponent."

Sunday's championship match will be Gustafsson's second this year. In March, "Gusten" became the oldest winner of the year (32 years, 5 days) when he captured the Copenhagen Open.

Ranked 68th in the world, Gustafsson also played a tough three-setter in the quarterfinals, winning the decisive set 7-5 against fellow Swede Jonas Bjorkman.

Gambill, ranked 71st in the world, was also trying to reach his second final of the year. He won his first ATP title at Scottsdale, Arizona, in March after beating Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.

"I was was really disappointed with the way I served," Gambill said. "I struggled with it. It's something I'm getting fed up with. I'm going to work on improving it.

"He outplayed me in the first set, then it was my turn to outplay him in the second. I'm not happy with my season, but happy with the way it ended this week.

After a poor clay-court season, Gambill sustained knee and back problems that kept him sidelined throughout the whole grass-court season.Singles Semi-final Results (seeds in brackets)

Thomas Enqvist (1), Sweden, def. Magnus Norman (6), Sweden, 6-3, 6-4.Magnus Gustafsson, Sweden, def. Jan-Michael Gambill, United States, 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4).

Doubles semi-finals

Piet Norval, South Africa and Kevin Ullyett, Zimbabwe, def. Wayne Black, Zimbabwe and Sandon Stolle, Australia, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.

Jan-Michael Gambill and Scott Humphries, United States, def. Nicklas Kulti and Thomas Johansson, Sweden, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7).