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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sanchez, Martinez Dream a Spanish Paris Final

PARIS -- The challenge of Spain's men at the French Open never materialized this year, but their women are far from finished.

While the Spanish clay courters silently disappeared from the men's main draw, Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario have, just as quietly, reached the semifinals for the third straight year, setting up the possibility of an all-Spanish women's final.

Led by Sergi Bruguera, winner of back-to-back French titles in 1993 and 1994, the Paris grand slam had developed a distinct Spanish flavor in recent years, particularly in '94 when Sanchez also claimed the women's crown. It was a trend most expected to continue. Even defending French champion and world number two Thomas Muster, winner of five clay court events this season, had said that if anyone were going to beat him that person would speak Spanish.

But by the time Muster was knocked out in the fourth round by Germany's Michael Stich, the Spanish clay courters had long since departed from Roland Garros.

An armada of 14 Spaniards were sprinkled throughout the men's draw but only one, 1994 finalist Alberto Berasategui, was still alive in the third round.

Disappearing in the second round were Bruguera, promising newcomer Carlos Moya, tricky Alex Corretja and Alberto Costa, pegged by many as the dark horse of the tournament.

The men's stunning collapse contrasts sharply with their countrywomen's remarkable consistency.

While co-number ones Steffi Graf and Monica Seles were stealing the Paris spotlight, Martinez and Sanchez, seeded third and fourth respectively, went about their business almost unnoticed.

But standing in the way of the first all-Spanish final in the 88-year history of the grand slam event are two major hurdles -- Graf, looking for a fifth French crown, and 10th seed Jana Novotna, in search of her first. While Sanchez has been the more successful of the two Spaniards, appearing in four French finals and winning in 1989 and 1994, it could be Martinez's year despite having the unenviable task of taking on Graf in the semifinals.

Martinez tuned up for the French by reaching the finals of Hamburg and Indian Wells and winning her fourth consecutive Italian Open. She has carried that brilliant form over into Roland Garros having yet to drop a set.

"I consider myself one of the favorites," said Martinez, who in 1994 became the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon when she denied Martina Navratilova a 10th title.

"I think I have a great chance. I'm playing very well and my confidence level is way up. As long as I keep going like this, I'll be fine."

A former world number one, Sanchez earned her place in the semifinals for the sixth straight year with a tenacious 6-2 6-7 10-8 win over Slovakia's Karina Habsudova.

Like her teammate, Sanchez had a positive buildup to Roland Garros by winning at Hamburg and Hilton Head, her 23rd and 24th career titles pushing her over the $10 million mark in career earnings.

"Every day I've been feeling better," said Sanchez, who teamed with Martinez to win silver in doubles in the Barcelona.

"The first match is always the one that is the toughest in a grand slam. Every day after that I've been getting better."

(For other results, see Scorecard.)