Federer falls to Guga as Safin survives
Gustavo Kuerten crushed Roger Federer, while Marat Safin also survived his second five-set thriller of the French Open.
Triple champion Gustavo Kuerten crushed top seed and world number one Roger Federer with a stunning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory to move into the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday while wayward genius Marat Safin also survived his second five-set thriller of the competition.
The hugely popular Kuerten, seeded a lowly 28 after having two years of his career savaged by a hip injury, was carried along to his famous victory by a huge wave of support from a packed Philippe Chatrier Court.
His win gave him a match-up against Spain's 23rd seed Feliciano Lopez who put an end to South Korean lucky loser Lee Hyung-Taik's run with a 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 win.
"For me it's a great pleasure to come here and play," said 27-year-old Kuerten, the winner in 1997, 2000 and 2001.
"I didn't expect to play because of my physical condition but this is a very special tournament for me. It makes me go over the limit and if it wasn't for this tournament I wouldn't be here."
The stunning win ended Federer's hopes of adding the Roland Garros title to his Wimbledon and Australian crowns while Safin's extraordinary 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over Italian qualifier Potito Starace, in which he had to save two match points, gave him a fourth round clash against Argentina's David Nalbandian.
Australian Lleyton Hewitt, seeded 12th, also came out tops in a five-set marathon beating last year's runner-up Martin Verkerk, the 19th seeded Dutchman, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
He will now take on either 2002 champion Albert Costa of Spain or Belgium's Xavier Malisse whose tie was suspended because of fading light with the Spaniard having wasted two match points.
Those herics completely overshadowed the relatively sedate progress of former champions Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati as well as Venus Williams into the fourth round of the women's singles.
"I tried but he didn't give me much of a chance," said a dejected Federer.
"Usually I can control these kind of matches but today that wasn't the case."
Kuerten, who needed five sets to make it past the first round, dominated the match leaving the Swiss star scrambling around the court, hussled out of his normal elegant game.
Even needing treatment on a thigh strain and problems with his contact lenses did not interrupt Kuerten's relentless march to victory and he eventually reached match point on his own serve and clinched the tie when a mishit Federer backhand failed to reach the net.
For Federer it was another French flop as he has failed to make it past the quarter-finals here in six appearances.
Also making it through were Argentina's Gaston Gaudio who beat Sweden's Thomas Enqvist and Russia's Igor Andreev, the conqueror of defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, who knocked out France's Julien Benneteau.
Safin saved two match points and was fortunate to survive against the 202 world ranked Starace who bravely saved five match points of his own before Safin grabbed his win after 4hr 25min.
Meanwhile, second seed Serena Williams, the winner in 2002 and who only recently returned to the tour after an eight-month knee injury lay-off, brushed aside the challenge of Croatia's Silvija Talaja 6-0, 6-4 to set up a fourth round meeting with Japan's Shinobu Asagoe.
"I had nine double faults in that match, normally, I don't hit nine in the whole tournament," said Williams. "I was in control up to the middle of the second set and then I got a little tight."
Big sister Venus, who saw off France's 2000 champion Mary Pierce 6-3, 6-1 and now faces Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia for a place in the quarter-finals.
Capriati, the 2001 champion who missed the Australian Open this year because of a back injury, had a tougher time of it needing three sets to defeat Russian 25th seed Elena Bovina 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
She now faces Italy's 17th seed Francesca Schiavone, who defeated Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-2, 6-3.
Asagoe broke down in tears after battling through pain to clinch a place in the last 16 here for the first time with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win over Argentina's Gisela Dulka.
The 27-year-old, playing with her left thigh heavily bandaged, buried her head in her hands and wept at courtside after her marathon 2hr 39min win against the woman who had knocked out Martina Navratilova in the first round.
"I was crying because I was so relieved it was over," said the Japanese player.
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