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Nalbandian ousts Kuerten

Last updated on: June 02, 2004 21:41 IST

Gustavo Kuerten's love affair with Roland Garros turned sour on Wednesday as the three-times champion was upended in the quarter-finals by Argentina's David Nalbandian.

Kuerten has led a charmed life at the French Open since his unlikely run to the first of his trio of titles in 1997, but his luck deserted him on centre court as he fell 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.

The Brazilian's samba style was silenced. Instead the centre court pulsed to the tune of the tango.

Nalbandian joins compatriots Gaston Gaudio and Guillermo Coria in the last four -- the first time there have been three Argentine semi-finalists at a Grand Slam tournament. Briton Tim Henman completes the line-up.

"It's truly unbelievable," Nalbandian said.

Former world number one Kuerten had never lost to a fellow South American in a Grand Slam tournament but Nalbandian proved too solid from the baseline.

"Everybody knows what it means to me to play in this tournament," Kuerten said as he left the court. "I had a tough time today.

"Today he made me run a lot and I really suffered."

In the day's other quarter-final, Lleyton Hewitt found that unflinching determination and bottomless heart were insufficient as his claycourt failings were exploited by Gaudio.

The resolve on which the Australian has built his career was of little use against an Argentine master who ran rings round him on centre court to reach the semi-finals 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

"He was too good," was Hewitt's candid analysis. "Today I just lost to a guy that was too good.

"You know, he's very good at any time, but especially today he was able to get that ball back extremely deep, so he didn't give me a lot of chances to actually attack him out there today. He's a class player on this surface."

For Gaudio, ranked 44th in the world, victory over the former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion propelled him into his first Grand Slam semi-final.

"It has always been my dream to win this tournament," the 25-year-old said. "But there is a long way to go yet because the two most difficult matches are yet to come."

Coria faces Henman in the other semi-final. Coria comfortably saw off Carlos Moya on Tuesday while Henman became the first British man in more than 40 years to reach the French Open semi-finals.

While Coria is the tournament favourite, Henman is a fast-court player with four Wimbledon semi-finals behind him. He had never progressed beyond the fourth round of any Grand Slam tournament outside of Wimbledon, and had never won more than two matches in any of his nine previous visits here.

If Tuesday belonged to Henman, Wednesday was Nalbandian's day.

The 22-year-old barely put a foot wrong on a windswept centre court.

Try as Kuerten might, he was unable to repel the sturdy Argentine who bombarded him with forehand after forehand, punching the ball deeper and deeper into the corners.

Eventually Kuerten could resist no longer. Having failed to serve out the fourth set despite holding three set points he allowed himself to be overhauled in the tie-break to hand the eighth seed victory.

Ossian Shine in Paris
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