Groomed for success
Costa beats Ferrero for French Open titlePosted: Sunday June 09, 2002 12:33 PM
Updated: Monday June 10, 2002 8:40 AM
PARIS (AP) -- As he watched a double fault sail by the service line on match point, Albert Costa knew his long wait for a Grand Slam title was over.
Costa won the French Open on Sunday, using steady tennis and benefitting from the error-filled play of fellow Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero for a 6-1, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 victory.
To celebrate the biggest victory of his career, he immediately fell to the red clay and rolled over on his back.
"I didn't know what to do. I said, `OK, I'm going to rest a little bit,' because I was completely dead," Costa said.
"When I was there, I was thinking, 'Did I win?' "
Yes, he did, finally capturing a Grand Slam title on his 26th try.
And his first tournament title of any sort since August 1999 was a great way to start one of the most memorable weeks of his life. He will be married Friday.
"Today I just played great, great tennis," said Costa, who remained on court following the trophy presentation to sign autographs.
"I don't know what happened, but I was playing very good. I was trying, trying, fighting every day. I was preparing to win this tournament. But I didn't believe in myself before."
Costa dominated the first two sets against Ferrero, winning 6-1, 6-0 in just 46 minutes. But Ferrero broke Costa in the 10th game -- when Costa missed a drop shot -- to capture the third 6-4 on a cool day at Roland Garros.
Costa regained control at the end of the fourth. He broke Ferrero at love for a 4-3 lead and then also held his serve at love for 5-3.
He squandered one match point when he missed a forehand, but his victory at the end of the 2 hour, 30-minute match came on Ferrero's double fault.
Costa, who will turn 27 later this month, had never gone past the quarterfinals at Roland Garros until this year, his ninth appearance at the French Open.
The 22-year-old Ferrero was playing for just the third time at Roland Garros and made the semifinals in his first two tries, but he made 60 unforced errors to only 48 for Costa.
Ferrero, who sprained his ankle during practice early in the tournament, said it limited his mobility. He also was bothered by a sore abdominal muscle.
"I couldn't play better than I did the first two sets," Ferrero said. "I thought I could pull it out. He did a lot of drop shots and I missed them. I think it was one of the keys to the match."
Costa finished with seven drop-shot winners, using the strategy against a player who likes to stay back and slug the ball.
"I did that because I know that Juan Carlos, from the baseline, is so fast and sometimes you have to hit a drop shot to bring him to the net because he's not so good from the net," Costa said.
After a 25-minute rain delay in the first set, Costa ran off 11 straight games against a nervous and downtrodden Ferrero, whose frustrations were visible in the first Grand Slam final for each player.
Costa hit an ace to hold his serve for a 2-1 lead and then breezed, twice breaking his younger opponent's serve.
Ferrero's troubles only escalated in the second as the steady groundstrokes that got him the final deserted him.
But in the third, Ferrero, who eliminated Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals, started putting more balls in play and his strokes became a little more consistent against his fellow Spaniard.
Costa eliminated Kuerten in the fourth round and beat fellow Spaniard Alex Corretja -- who will be his best man Friday -- in the semifinals.
All 12 of Costa's tour wins have come on clay where his tireless ground strokes have always made him a threat.
The Costa-Ferrero meeting was the third all-Spanish final at Roland Garros since 1994, when Sergi Brugera beat Alberto Berasategui. Four years ago, Carlos Moya defeated Corretja.
Now Costa's made his mark as one his country's best players, no longer in the shadows of others.
"Now is my moment because I won Roland Garros, that's for
sure," he said. "But I can't say I'm better than them."