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Squillari Wins Mercedes Cup

July 23, 2000

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ Franco Squillari of Argentina defeated Gaston Gaudio in five sets Sunday to win the Mercedes Cup, beating a friend who lives down the block from him in Buenos Aires.

He won 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a rain-delayed match to capture the $1 million clay-court tournament. It was his third career title.

Squillari, who reached the French Open semifinals six weeks ago, was the only seeded player left in Stuttgart after the quarterfinals.

``My success in Paris gave me a lot of self-confidence,″ he said. ``I’m mentally better, especially in the last few months.″

Squillari, ranked 17th in the champions race, plays on the same beach soccer team with Gaudio back home. The two live about 200 yards apart on the same avenue.

Squillari appeared headed to a rout against his friend, overpowering him in the first set with groundstrokes.

But Gaudio, with greater finesse on his strokes and occasional drop shots, broke Squillari three straight times to sweep the next two sets. He led 2-1 in the fourth before rain stopped play for 30 minutes. After play resumed, Squillari regrouped and Gaudio was no longer on his game.

Gaudio was playing his first final after reaching four semifinals this year. A little more than a year ago, he was still playing on the Challenger tour.

``It was an experience for me. ... Unfortunately, my performance wasn’t quite good enough this time,″ he said.

Squillari earned $167,000 and a Mercedes sports car for his victory.

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