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Old 07-27-2002, 02:14 AM   #1
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Default How good is Richard Gasquet?

TAMPERE, Finland (AP) -- French tennis sensation Richard Gasquet beat Filip Prpic of Sweden 6-2, 6-4 Friday to reach the semifinals of a Finnish Challenger event on clay.

Playing on his favorite surface, the 16-year-old Gasquet dropped his serve twice in a row at the start of the second set to Prpic, a 20-year-old who made the main draw in the Swedish Open earlier this month.

Trailing 4-1, he came back to break the Swede's serve three straight times, and his serve was never challenged as he won five consecutive games to close out the match.

"I played well in the first set, but couldn't stay focused early in the second," said Gasquet, who is seeded third in the Tampere Imageneering Open. "Then I started playing well again. I didn't want to lose against that guy."

Gasquet won in straight sets for the eighth time in his last nine Challenger matches. Early this month, the world's top junior won a French Challenger at Montauban, then lost the final in his next Challenger.

By reaching the quarterfinals two days earlier in front of a big crowd -- former six-time French Open champion Bjorn Borg of Sweden was among the spectators -- Gasquet broke into the top 200 on the ATP Entry System for the first time.

He has broken several milestones this year.

At the French Open, Gasquet became the youngest player at age 15 to make the men's main draw at Roland Garros.

Earlier, he became the youngest player in the main draw of a Masters Series event (Monte Carlo) and the youngest player ever at the Queen's Club grass-court tournament (London).

Gasquet, whose parents and former coaches Francois and Maruse traveled with him to Finland, will play the winner between Simon Greul of Germany and Radim Zitko of the Czech Republic in Saturday's semis.

In another quarterfinal, France's Julien Varlet topped Mattias Hellstrom of Sweden 6-4, 6-1.

Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, a finalist in last year's Stockholm Open indoor ATP tournament, is the top seed in Tampere.
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