BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, AP
It’s David vs. Goliath in Sunday’s AT&T Cup final as Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, last year’s world No. 1, takes on 18-year-old Argentine Jose Acasuso, who is playing his first ever ATP tour tournament. Kuerten went through Saturday after a semifinal match in which he again struggled to find his rhythm but held on to beat Spaniard Fernando Vicente 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. For the second straight match, Kuerten surrendered the first set to his opponent, again demonstrating the lapses of concentration that have afflicted him so far this season. Vicente, meanwhile, was displaying the solid tennis which won him the Colombian Open earlier this month. His powerful serve and pace around the court helped him break Kuerten’s serve and claim the first set. But in the second set, Kuerten raised his game, serving more consistently and gradually wearing out his opponent with precise ground-strokes that had the Spaniard rushing around the court. Having broken Vicente early in the set, Kuerten never looked back, holding his own serve and breaking the Spaniard again as he pulled the match level. At the start of the final set, just when Kuerten seemed likely to brush his opponent aside, Vicente rallied — breaking Kuerten’s serve after he had lost his own in the opening game of the set. Kuerten broke back after a long game that went to several deuces and then the 24-year-old Brazilian went on to open up a 3-1 lead by holding his serve in the next game. Still, Vicente refused to give up, delighting the crowd and frustrating Kuerten with several hair-raising passing-shots and some delicate drop-shots. At one point, an agitated Kuerten smashed his racket on the ground after the umpire had made a late call that denied him the point — a reaction that brought heckling from the 5,000 strong audience at the Lawn Tennis club. Kuerten soon regained his composure as he broke an exhausted Vicente again and went on to clinch the set 6-2. “He made me nervous and frustrated me,” Kuerten told a local television station after the 1-hour, 50-minute match. “But I wanted to win enough that I eventually found a way through.” With the AT&T cup worth 40 points in the ATP tour standings, Kuerten’s victory Saturday will help boost his ranking after the star’s poor showing in the Australian Open last month. Kuerten’s victory also means the player would have returned to the No. 1 spot under the old entry system rankings, which rates a player according to his performance over the past 12 months. In the other semifinal, surprise star Acasuso overcame compatriot Gaston Gaudio 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.