MELBOURNE, Australia -- Steve Denton earned his first professional tennis final Saturday when he utilized a strong serve to defeat fellow American Hank Pfister in the semifinals of the $450,000 Australian Open.
The unseeded Denton, a resident of Driscoll, Tex., will meet Johan Kriek of South Africa in Sunday's final for the winner's check of $64,000.
Denton, 25, oulasted Pfister, 7-6 (8-6), 6-7, (7-5), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a 3 -hour match played in a mixture of swirling winds, strong sunshine and rain.
Kriek completely outplayed former Australian champion Mark Edmondson in their second semi-final match, playing contolled tennis to win, 6-0, 7-6, (7-5), 7-5.
The players shielded their eyes from the sun in their warm-ups, tried to control the gusty southwesterly wind that again affected their volleys and serving tosses, and then were forced to wait out a rain delay at the end of the first set.
A capacity crowd of 12,000 clapped and cheered on as the participants played without the arguments with linesmen and referees that has plagued the 70th Australian championships the past nine days.
Pfister had no excuses for his defeat by Denton.
'He served so awesomely well,' said Pfister. 'I think he's about 20 miles per hour faster than Roscoe Tanner. If he serves that well tomorrow, he will win.
Denton payed great tribute to his coach, Warren Jacques. Jacques has put Denton on a diet that resulted in a weight loss of 20 pounds and the gangling 6-foot-2-inch Texan.
In November 1980, Denton was ranked 400th in the world, but Sunday he will face Kriek for the Australian singles crown.
Kriek's game depends more on finesse. The South African is faster around the court and is considered to have a strong volley game.