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Spanish-American War
Alexander Wolff
June 14, 1993
In a surprise, Spain's Sergi Bruguera sank the U.S.'s main man in Paris, Jim Courier, to win a French Open notable for its no-shows
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June 14, 1993

Spanish-american War

In a surprise, Spain's Sergi Bruguera sank the U.S.'s main man in Paris, Jim Courier, to win a French Open notable for its no-shows

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"You know, she, like, didn't make any errors," said Capriati, sporting a new Katie Couric 'do that, until she opened her mouth, made her come off less like a teenager than a PTA mom getting in a quick set at the club. Nor did Graf make many errors in her 6-1, 6-1 semifinal defeat of countrywoman Anke Huber, 18, who has been touted as "the next Steffi Graf," although the more likely "next Steffi Graf"—or so the joke on the circuit goes—is No. 75 Stephanie Rehe, who is dating Graf's brother Michael.

In Saturday's women's final, Graf did commit a spate of errors, although fifth-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez matched her blunder for blunder. For Fernandez the mistakes at least had some therapeutic value. A frugal, considerate, early-to-bed type who helped organize a benefit exhibition in her hometown of Miami for the victims of Hurricane Andrew, Fernandez has always found it against her nature to do something as reckless as come to the net, much less dictate a point. But her coach, Harold Solomon, has begun to convince her that she can't expect to move higher in the rankings as long as she remains a prim baseliner. Down 6-1, 5-1 to Gabriela Sabatini in the quarterfinals, she ultimately fought off five match points en route to winning 1-6, 7-6, 10-8 in three hours and 35 minutes, making this the longest women's Grand Slam match in the Open era.

Fernandez displayed her new confidence in beating Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the semis, 6-2, 6-2. In the final she again dictated play, but Graf rode out the 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win by picking up her final three points on unforced errors. In victory Graf exhibited a joy that, she acknowledged, was founded mainly on relief. On the podium in Hamburg she had spoken movingly of Seles after having lost to Sanchez Vicario in the final there. In Paris, however, she made no mention of Seles, and the oversight took some aback. Later Graf expressed regret that she hadn't said anything. She said she had meant to but had forgotten. Could it be that there was something subconscious in the constitution of a competitor like Graf that didn't permit such a mention?

Bruguera's happiness, by contrast, was unalloyed, as was that of his father and coach, former Spanish Davis Cup captain Luis. Sergi was 14 when he first beat his dad, and they haven't played since. But about the time they quit playing each other, Luis's primary pupil, Juan Aguilera, became disenchanted with his coach's doting ways and the two parted. After some soul-searching, father and son became coach and player. "It was very hard at the beginning to have him as my coach, because I was young and there's a lot of tension in tennis," says Sergi. "We had the normal problems of a father and son, along with the normal problems of a coach and player. Double problems."

Sergi has also had his problems with the Spanish press. Journalists had seared him for losing his last four Davis Cup singles matches and for flaming out in the second round of the Olympics in his hometown of Barcelona, largely because of an injury suffered while playing soccer. Now all is forgiven.

With the final even at one set apiece, Bruguera picked up a service break in the first game of the third set by outlasting the purportedly indomitable Courier through eight deuces. Then, after dropping the fourth set and going down 2-0 in the fifth, Bruguera gathered himself again and broke back. He did so once more, stringing together 18 of 22 points over one stretch. Grueling matches are supposed to be foregone conclusions for Courier, but he wound up wearing his trademark vertical stripes like the bars of a jail cell.

A lunch-bucket soul like Courier could appreciate as well as any the title won by the man who had wound up flat on his back. Asked moments afterward to say a couple of words about Bruguera, Courier took the request literally.

"French," he said, "champion."

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