HALLE, Germany -- Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Patrick Rafter, the
two highest seeded players in the tournament, were beaten Saturday
in the semifinals of the Gerry Weber Open.
Sweden's Thomas Johansson defeated Kafalnikov 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, his
seventh straight victory over the Russian. France's Fabrice Santoro
downed Rafter 7-5, 6-4 at the $1 million tuneup for Wimbledon.
Sunday's title match will pit Santoro, ranked 29th in the ATP
Champions Race, against Johansson, who is ranked 32nd.
Kafelnikov, a former champion at the Australian Open and French
Open, has won this tournament twice.
Johansson, seeded seventh, advanced to his first final this
year. His winning streak against Kafelnikov began at the 1998 U.S.
Open and includes a victory at last year's Wimbledon.
Kafelnikov appeared troubled by the Swede's flat straight shots.
He double faulted three straight times to lose the first set, then
needed 10 chances before he finally broke to lead 6-5 and win the
But Kafelnikov promptly dropped his first service game to set
the tone for the final set.
Santoro, who ousted Marat Safin at the French Open two weeks
ago, was playing his first semifinal of the year.
"Truthfully, after the match point, I thought, what's going on
here?" he said. "I just beat Pat Rafter on grass."
While Rafter struggled with his passing shots, Santoro made 73
percent of his first serves and had just six unforced errors.
"He made a lot of errors, I hardly made any, that was the
key," Santoro said.
Santoro frustrated the hard-hitting Aussie by chasing down his
slams and volleys, putting back winners from every corner. He also
traded volleys at the net with the two-time U.S. Open champion.
"Everybody thinks I can't play at the net, but that's false,"
Santoro said. "I play doubles regularly and I've been in nine
finals in my career -- eight of them have been on fast surfaces."
Rafter dropped just one point in his first three service games
while Santoro struggled to avoid a break.
But Santoro suddenly broke for a 4-3 lead and added two more
breaks, including one to start the second set. Rafter began to
shout and slam his racket as he vainly chased the break he needed
to get back into the match.