Andre the giant
Agassi advances to Open final with 4-set win over HewittPosted: Saturday September 07, 2002 5:00 PM
Updated: Sunday September 08, 2002 12:11 AM
FLUSHING, N.Y. (Reuters) -- An inspired Andre Agassi tamed defending champion and world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 on Saturday, setting up a dream U.S. Open final between two U.S. tennis greats.
Earlier on the same sun-kissed Arthur Ashe stadium court, Pete Sampras did his part as he continued his unlikely run to the final with an efficient 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 win over Dutchman Sjeng Schalken.
Agassi will go into Sunday's final chasing his third U.S. Open crown against rival Sampras, who owns four Flushing Meadows titles but has not tasted victory of any description in over two years -- a stretch of futility going back 33 tournaments to Wimbledon 2000.
With the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, meeting in the women's final later on Saturday, it marks the first time since 1979 that both men's and women's titles will be contested by Americans, leaving New Yorkers with a patriot weekend just days ahead of the Sept. 11 anniversary.
Sunday's final will also be the fifth time Agassi and Sampras have met to decide a grand slam title.
Sampras won three of those four meetings, including the 1995 U.S. Open.
"I couldn't be more thrilled about it," said Agassi, 0-3 against Sampras at the U.S. Open. "This is less about what we pull out of each other tomorrow and more about a nice toast to the past. It's going to be a great day.
"I've played some of the most memorable matches of my career against Pete and come out on both sides. There's been nothing like it in my career that compares to playing against Pete.
"Pete, in my opinion, is the best I have ever played against. That forces you to get that rush of blood that makes you do a little something special."
Like Sampras, Agassi appeared to draw strength and boundless energy from the raucous New York crowd, running down seemingly unreturnable balls and outhustling Hewitt.
The afternoon didn't get off to a promising start for Agassi as Hewitt, who was riding on a 23-match winning streak against U.S. opponents, looked set to carve up another victim. The Australian broke the 32-year-old at the first opportunity to surge in front 3-0 but the veteran American would not be rattled.
With his wife, Steffi Graf, applauding from the shadows of the cavernous stadium, Agassi punished his 21-year-old opponent with his usual assortment of laser like returns and pin-point passing shots breaking back at 3-2. When Agassi broke again to go up 5-4 and served out the set with an unreturnable rocket down the line, the 23,000 spectators erupted with approval.
A relentless Hewitt, however, refused to be discouraged and took the initiative in the second with an early break. But Hewitt knew he was in for a long afternoon when the pigeon-toed Agassi, with all the grace of a dump truck, raced to the net and flashed a cross-court winner as he immediately broke back.
The first cracks in Agassi's quest began to show when he squandered two set points as Hewitt broke to force a tiebreak. Agassi, though, wasn't rattled and clinched the tiebreak 7-5.
With shadows now starting to stretch across the court, Agassi reasserted his control racing ahead 3-0 to open the third. Hewitt would not disappear, clawing his way back winning the set in a tiebreak 7-1.
With Hewitt showing new signs of life and sweat pouring off a fatiguing Agassi's bald head, the crowd shuttled in their seats fearing a comeback by the defending champion.
But Agassi, his dream final with Sampras now in sight, would not be denied sweeping through the final five games to complete the fairytale script."Tomorrow is an opportunity for both of us," said Agassi. "I hope more importantly that it's a great day for tennis. I go out there with the knowledge that if I bring my game together that I expect to find a way to win.
"We're opposites. We're opposite in everything we do.
Out there on the court we're two styles going against each
It's exciting to play against Pete because every point,
something special seems like it can happen."
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