Jim Courier moved to within one match of his third straight French Open title, blasting service returns and passing shots past net-charging Richard Krajicek to win four-set semifinal.
Courier, the strong favorite despite his No. 2 seeding, won 6-1, 6-7 (7-2), 7-5, 6-2.He will play for the title Sunday against the winner of the second semifinal between 10th-seeded Sergi Bruguera of Spain and No. 11 Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine, both seeking their first berth in a Grand Slam final.
Courier was so dominant and Krajicek so uncomfortable in the first set that an embarrassing rout appeared likely. But the 6-foot-5 Dutchman, determined to stick with his serve-and-volley tactics, began volleying better in the second set and succeeded briefly in animating the center-court crowd.
But even though Krajicek hit 10 aces in the match, Courier was able to get the service breaks he needed - two in the third set and two in the fourth. Eleven times he fired back service returns for winners, 13 times he scored on passing shots as Krajicek reached the net.
Krajicek also hit a few deadly service returns. One in the third set was so powerful that Courier watched it fly by, then bowed in mock awe to his rival.
It was Courier's 20th straight victory at the French Open and gave him the second leg of this year's Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open in January.
In the women's final Saturday, fifth-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez goes after her first Grand Slam title against Steffi Graf, the top seed and two-time former champion.
Given what has happened, Fernandez's claim that she can beat anyone no longer seems so bold.
The 21-year-old Floridian has made a major breakthrough here, converting newfound aggressiveness into consecutive upsets over third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the semis.
"I can beat anyone," said Fernandez, the No. 5 seed, after a third-round win last week. "It's just matter of believing in yourself and having the faith that when you get to the big matches, to win the last couple of games."
That faith was displayed vividly in her comeback from a 1-6, 1-5 deficit against Sabatini. Fernandez watched replays later on TV and was inspired.
"I have played a defensive game all my life. Since I was a ltitle girl I was taught to hit the ball back and not make any mistakes," she said Thursday. "It takes a while to change that."
Graf scarely got a workout in her semifinal against eighth-seeded Anke Huber, who committed 24 unforced errors during a 6-1, 6-1 rout.
Sanchez Vicario, who captured the French Open in 1989, lost almost as decisively to Fernandez, 6-2, 6-2.
But when asked if Fernandez could win the title, the Spaniard minced no words.
"No," she said. "Steffi is a much stronger player."