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Argentina wins today either way

By Associated Press
Published June 6, 2004

PARIS - Guillermo Coria plays with a lucky racket. And if that's not enough, he wears old sneakers that have helped him through tough matches.

"The important thing is to feel well in the place where you are," he said Saturday when asked about his superstitions.

Today, Coria will be in the French Open final playing fellow Argentine Gaston Gaudio.

While Gaudio is unseeded, Coria's first berth in a Grand Slam final is hardly a surprise. He is seeded third, has won 37 of his past 38 matches, and survived two tumultuous weeks on clay as every other favorite stumbled.

After losing last year in the semifinals, Coria is determined to do better.

"My goal is to win the French Open," he said.

When he and Gaudio meet, it will be the first time two Argentines play in a Grand Slam final.

Until this weekend, Gaudio had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a major event. But he and Coria have dreamed of this moment since they were boys, and they're leading a resurgence in Argentine tennis.

The last man from their country to win a Grand Slam title was Guillermo Vilas at the Australian Open in 1979. He sat in the stands and watched the semifinals Friday.

"It's great to have Vilas over there and watching me," Gaudio said. "It's like too much. ... We started playing tennis because of him. So I think all that is happening to us, we owe him."

After a long dry spell for Argentine tennis, the nation has six men ranked in the top 50.

"The day of the final, the flag of Argentina will come up, and this is the important thing," said Coria, who was boys champion at Roland Garros in 1999.

"It's a historic situation," Gaudio added. "Whatever happens, it's good for the Argentinian people."

MEN'S DOUBLES: Xavier Malisse and Olivier Rochus of Belgium won their first Grand Slam title, beating Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra of France 7-5, 7-5. Llodra and Santoro, two-time Australian Open winners, failed in their bid to become the first French men's doubles champs at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte in 1984.

[Last modified June 6, 2004, 01:01:10]

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