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Rios, Korda In Finals 'Down Under'

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Ninth seed Marcelo Rios of Chile advanced to his first Grand Slam final Friday by ending the remarkable run of Frenchman Nicolas Escude, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, at the $7.4 million Australian Open.

The 22-year-old Rios broke Escude eight times and needed just 83 minutes to become the first Chilean to reach a Grand Slam final since Luis Ayala advanced to the French Open final in 1958 and 1960.

Rios will face sixth seed Petr Korda of the Czech Republic in Sunday's final. Korda advanced to his second career Grand Slam final Thursday by holding off the streaking Karol Kucera of Slovakia, 6-1, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

The 21-year-old Escude, ranked 81st in the world, made Grand Slam history by becoming the first player to come back from a two-set deficit three times in one tournament, but could not pull off another comeback today, falling to 0-3 lifetime against top-10 players.

Escude committed 44 unforced errors, won just 52 percent of points on his first serve and 28 percent of points on his second serve. He also won only 58 points to Rios' 93.

Escude, playing in his first Australian Open, was appearing in his first career semifinal. He will vault into the top 40 in next week's ATP Tour rankings.

The 22-year-old Rios, ranked eighth in the world, is undefeated in 11 matches this season, having won the BellSouth Open in Auckland, New Zealand two weeks ago. He is 10-2 lifetime in Melbourne. Last year, Rios earned his first career Super 9 title in Monte Carlo, and will be gunning for his seventh career singles title on Sunday.

Rios and Korda have split six lifetime meetings.

Earlier, Martina Hingis of Switzerland, who will play for the women's singles title on Saturday, teamed with 15-year-old Mirjana Lucic of Croatia to win the doubles title.

Hingis and Lucic stormed back to win the final six games of the match, defeating the top-seeded duo of Lindsay Davenport of the United States and Natasha Zvereva of Belarus, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

It is the second straight Australian Open women's doubles title for Hingis, who last year teamed with Zvereva to beat Davenport and Lisa Raymond.

In singles, Hingis, the defending champion, advanced to her fifth straight Grand Slam final on Thursday by downing 10th seed and 1996 finalist Anke Huber of Germany, 6-1, 2-6, 6-1.

Hingis, the top seed and number one player in the world, will seek her fourth Grand Slam title in the last two years when she faces eighth seed Conchita Martinez of Spain in Saturday's final. Martinez reached a Grand Slam final for the first time in almost four years, rallying past second-seeded American Lindsay Davenport, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

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