King Juan Carlos
Spain salutes new Roland Garros championPosted: Monday June 09, 2003 7:16 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 10, 2003 6:52 AM
MADRID (Reuters) -- Spain paid homage to French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero on Monday after the 23-year-old succeeded compatriot Albert Costa as king of Roland Garros.
"Juan Carlos I -- King of France," proclaimed the banner headline in sports daily Marca accompanied by a photograph of the Spaniard kissing the trophy after his 6-1 6-3 6-2 victory over unseeded Dutchman Martin Verkerk.
"Ferrero was crowned the undisputed king of the clay court after crushing the giant Dutchman," trumpeted Marca's rival As.
Despite a brief fightback in the second set, there was little Verkerk could do to prevent the Spaniard sweeping to the most one-sided Open victory since Bjorn Borg beat Guillermo Vilas in 1978.
The Valencian is the sixth Spanish player to win the men's singles at Paris. King Juan Carlos of Spain and his wife Queen Sofia sent the player a congratulatory telegram while on a flight to Bulgaria.
"We are delighted and wish we could congratulate you personally, but we will have to do so from an altitude of 32,000 feet," they said.
Ferrero's first grand slam triumph has swept away any doubts about his ability to win on the big occasions. "It's the tournament I have always wanted to win, ever since I first came here when I was just 12 years old," he said.
Favorite in last year's final, Ferrero lost in four sets to fellow countryman Costa. Later in the year he succumbed to Lleyton Hewitt in a five-set thriller in the final of the Masters Cup in Shanghai.
But early season wins at Monte Carlo and in his home tournament in Valencia helped give Ferrero confidence.
"Now that I have won in Paris I am already looking forward to repeating the experience and winning other grand slams... I want to become one of the best players in the world, win more tournaments and become the number one."
Ferrero paid a special tribute to his mother whose death from cancer when he was 16 almost made him give up the sport.
"This is for her," he told Spanish television as he went up to collect the huge silver trophy.
"I think she will have been watching this from the front row up there," he said, glancing skywards.
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