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Norman Beats Squillari in France

June 9, 2000

PARIS (AP) _ Steady Swede Magnus Norman earned his first berth in a Grand Slam tournament final today, beating unseeded Franco Squillari 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals at the French Open.

Norman’s opponent Sunday will be the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between fifth-seeded Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, the 1997 champion, and 16th-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain.

In the women’s final Saturday, sixth-seeded Mary Pierce will try to become the first Frenchwoman since Francoise Durr in 1967 to win the title at Roland Garros. Her opponent will be first-time French Open finalist Conchita Martinez of Spain, seeded fifth.

Pierce was treated for severe cramping following her semifinal victory over Martina Hingis, but she recovered and played doubles Friday with Hingis.

The biggest stars on the men’s tour were missing from the semifinals, and the stadium was only one-third full when Norman and Squillari took the court. The third-seeded Norman leads this year’s ATP Champions Race and has won seven tournaments since April 1999, but he reached the final without much fanfare.

``Maybe people are a little surprised,″ said Norman, 24. ``But I’ve had great results this year, so I’m not surprised.″

Now that he has a chance to become the first Swedish champion at Roland Garros since Mats Wilander in 1988, Norman may attract more attention.

``I will give it a try tonight,″ he said. ``I love Paris, just to walk around. We’ll see tonight if they recognize me.″

Serving well despite gusty winds and coming to the net more than usual, Norman won the first set against Squillari in 28 minutes and never wavered from there.

``I played a perfect match,″ Norman said. ``I was very aggressive. I even came to the net a few times, which I normally don’t do. You’ve got to take some risks. That’s what I did.″

Squillari, the first Argentine in 18 years to reach a Grand Slam men’s semifinal, prefers to play five or six steps behind the baseline. But from there he struggled with his service return, and Norman faced only one break point.

``Today was not great tennis,″ Squillari said. ``It was not a very good match for him or for me. He won today because he played the less bad. I had trouble concentrating because there was a lot of wind on center court.″

Pierce barely made it through her 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 victory over the top-seeded Hingis in Thursday’s semifinals. Pierce cramped from dehydration late in the match and admitted she probably couldn’t have played much longer.

Minutes after leaving the court, the cramping became severe and Pierce received intravenous fluids.

``I never had cramps before,″ she said. ``I was really surprised. We only played a little over two hours and it wasn’t very hot. ...

``It started in my thighs, then went to the calves. I thought it might go to my whole body. It was very, very unpleasant.″

The last French player to win the French Open was Yannick Noah in 1983. Pierce, once disdained by Parisians, has become a fan favorite even though she was born in Canada, lives in Florida and speaks with an American accent.

``It’s great to have them behind me,″ Pierce said. ``It makes it different than any other Grand Slam.″

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