Nadal beats Puerta to win French Open

6th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 5 (AFP) - Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal became the first man in 23 years to win the French Open on his debut when he put down the brave, injury-hit challenge of Argentina's Mariano Puerta 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 in a thrilling final here on Sunday.

PARIS, June 5 (AFP) - Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal became the first man in 23 years to win the French Open on his debut when he put down the brave, injury-hit challenge of Argentina's Mariano Puerta 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 in a thrilling final here on Sunday.   

The fourth-seeded 19-year-old racked up his 24th successive win to take victory against his unseeded opponent who overcame a groin injury early in the final and then threw away three set points which would have taken the match into a final set decider.   

The win also made the muscular Nadal the sixth youngest Grand Slam winner of the Open era.   

Swedish legend Mats Wilander, in 1982, was the last man to take the title on his first appearance here but Nadal had to call on all his resources to subdue fellow left-hander Puerta who is rebuilding his career after serving a nine-month drugs suspension last year.   

"It's incredible to win at Roland Garros," said a tearful Nadal who leapt into the VIP box to embrace members of his family after his win.   

"It's a dream come true to win on my first appearance here. Mariano was my toughest opponent in the two weeks. It was a great final."   

Puerta paid tribute to Nadal who received the trophy from Real Madrid soccer star Zinedine Zidane.   

"He played great and deserved to win. I didn't win the tournament but it was a great joy to be here," he said.   

Nadal, who put out world number one Roger Federer in the semi-finals, got off to a flying start in front of the watching King Juan Carlos of Spain, breaking Puerta in the opening game to carve out a 2-0 lead.   

He held for 3-1 but midway through the fifth game, and two break points down, the 26-year-old Argentinian called for the trainer and took an injury time-out to have his right thigh bandaged.   

Puerta bravely saved those break points, shrugged off the injury to level the set at 3-3 and then edge ahead 4-3, dictating the play from the baseline.   

The Argentinian, who served a nine-month suspension last year after testing positive for clenbuterol, had spent over seven hours battling through five sets in the quarter-finals and semi-finals to reach his first Grand Slam final.   

Mindful of his injury and fatigue, he opted to go for broke from the back of the court and it paid off as he took the first set to the tiebreak which he secured after 72 minutes when Nadal could only hit wide.   

Constant pressure from Nadal gave him the first break of the second set to lead 3-1.   

A tiring Puerta saved a set point in the eighth game but was powerless to prevent Nadal from levelling the final with a sweeping forehand with the clock standing at 1hr 53min.   

Puerta, bidding to keep the title in Argentinian hands after Gaston Gaudio's victory in 2004, was beginning to pay for his first set heroics as Nadal broke again in the first game of the third set.   

Puerta squandered three break points of his own in the fourth game and was made to pay as Nadal unleashed another driven forehand to break again and lead 4-1.   

Nadal held for 5-1 and then snatched the set 6-1 after just another 26 minutes when Puerta served up his second double fault.   

Incredibly, Puerta, who had come from two sets to one down to win his last two matches here, wasn't finished and gained a decisive break to lead 5-4 in the fourth set.   

In mounting tension, Nadal saved three set points in the tenth game and levelled to 5-5 when he chased down a drop shot and won an exchange of point-blank rallies at the net.   

The Spaniard held for 6-5 and took the title in the next game when Puerta hit a forehand wide after 3hr 24min of thrilling action.

© AFP

Subject: French News

 

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