FERRERO reaches quarterfinals with 14th straight win

Thursday, May 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ Eighth-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain advanced Thursday to the quarterfinals of the dlrs 2.95 million German Open Masters Series event, defeating Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti for his 14th consecutive victory.

Ferrero, fresh off his maiden Masters title in Rome last week, showed no signs of fatigue, handily downing Lapentti 6-4, 6-3.

The Spaniard is looking for his third straight title after prevailing in Rome and Barcelona. He is also seeking to become the first player in almost 30 years to win the back-to-back clay-court Masters events in Rome and Hamburg. The last player to achieve that was fellow Spaniard Manuel Orantes in 1972.

Ferrero was worried earlier in the week he would be unable to maintain his pace with non-stop matches.

On Sunday, he defeated world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten in a gruelling five-set marathon for the Italian Open title. Two days later, the Spaniard overcame a sluggish start to beat compatriot and two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera.

But on Thursday, the 21-year-old appeared fresh and fit.

``It's 14 matches but I'm not tired anymore,'' said Ferrero. ``My hardest match was in the opening round because it was against Bruguera and he's tough and it was right after my final in Rome.

``But yesterday I was OK and today I feel good.''

Ferrero has won four titles this season, three on clay, and with a shining 18-1 record on clay, he will be considered one of the main contenders at the upcoming French Open.

Ferrero was just one of four seeded players left in the tournament.

On Wednesday, third-seeded Andre Agassi and Russia's Marat Safin, seeded second, both crashed out in the second round.

For Agassi, who fell to France's Fabrice Santoro in three sets, the defeat marked his second early exit in as many weeks.

The American has struggled on clay so far this season, crashing out in the opening round at the Masters in Rome last week and losing in the first round in Atlanta before that.

Despite his troubled start, Agassi said he would fully support the French Open if ever it used a special seeding system like Wimbledon.

``I just feel that these tournaments that are so specific to the specialist in any one department, whether it be clay or grass, I think it requires some assessing,'' said Agassi. ``The top six seeds going out here is probably a good testament to it.

``Every draw requires you to play well at different stages of the tournament. So ... if the French (Open) wants to see things differently, no problems with me.''

Feeling they are discriminated against at Wimbledon, clay-court specialists have wanted the French Open to use a special seeding system to benefit them.

Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten, the world's top clay courter, and several Spanish players have raised the possibility of boycotting Wimbledon if the club continues with a policy favoring grass-court specialists.

Wimbledon is the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that does seed players on the basis of the ATP rankings. The All England Club has based its list on a player's grass-court credentials, often relegating clay-courters below their rankings or out of the seedings altogether.

The All England Club is expected to turn to a computer-based formula that takes into account grass-court credentials to determine who gets seeded where, but clay-courters feel that is still unfair.

``I say seed me wherever you want and I am going to show up and try to win,'' said Agassi, only the fifth man ever to complete the Grand Slam when he won the French Open two years ago. ``Stick me wherever you want in the draw, I am going to go out there and realize I have to beat seven players to win and what order they come in doesn't matter to me.''