Agassi, Korda melt down foes in Sovran semis No. 1, 12 seeds to meet today for title

July 21, 1991|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- After a virtual evening stroll through his first four matches of the Sovran Bank Classic, today's the day that Andre Agassi finally gets to feel the heat.

Agassi advanced to today's championship, barely extending himself in last night's 6-3, 6-2 semifinal win over sixth-seeded Jaime Yzaga of Peru. The top seed will face No. 12 seed Petr Korda, who earlier beat Markus Zoecke, 6-2, 6-4.

It will be Agassi's first day match of the tournament, where temperatures yesterday afternoon reached 108 degrees at courtside. But if Agassi keeps dominating as he has -- the defending champion has yet to drop a set in two years -- he may not have to worry about staying in the sun too long.

"Hopefully, it'll be really hot," Agassi said. "You can't lose any more fluids than [last night] with this humidity. With the sun, it's not physical. Just mental."

Agassi, facing his first seeded opponent, broke Yzaga's serve four times and needed just 67 minutes to win, tossing his shirt into the crowd afterward.

"I didn't get a good start, and he wasn't missing," said Yzaga, whose winless streak against Agassi reached six. "My strokes weren't as sharp as they were the whole week, probably because his ball was coming at me a lot harder."

Even after his fourth straight win, Agassi continued his "If I didn't feel challenged, I wouldn't be winning as easy as I've been" line.

"I won early, and I won easy," Agassi said. "But that's just me reaching my level of play. He came out wanting to hit with me, but that was his mistake. I felt great. I'm looking forward to the rest of the summer if I keep playing like this."

Agassi will have a different look in today's final when he faces Korda, a left-hander who hasn't dropped a set since the first of his opening match, when he beat Nicolas Pereira, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Korda, a 23-year-old from Prague, Czechoslovakia, was playing yesterday when the thermometer reached 108. The only thing resembling a breeze on the court was the way he handled Zoecke.

"I played well enough to win," Korda said. "I had a good return [he won 72 percent of the points returning Zoecke's second serve] and a good passing game."

Zoecke's serve has been clocked close to 130 mph, and he had 11 aces against Korda. But when the 23-year-old German got into any prolonged rallies with Korda, he looked like a player participating in his first singles semifinal.

"I was very tired," said Zoecke, who turned professional in 1988. "I entered this tournament expecting to win one or two rounds, and I was too tired [yesterday] to play my best tennis."

Korda has had a good year, reaching his only career final in April when he lost to Richey Reneberg in the championship of the ATP stop in Tampa, Fla. He notched perhaps his biggest win of the year on Friday when he defeated No. 3 seed Brad Gilbert, the No. 20 player in the world.

"He's a good player wit a lot of talent," Gilbert said. "If he can play consistently, he's a top-15 player with a lot of ability."

Agassi has played Korda twice before, winning this year at the French Open, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2; and last year at the U.S. Open, 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, 6-4.

"I like to turn it into a physical match when I play him because he doesn't rely on sheer power," Agassi. "He relies on kind of snaking around and sneaking in a little bit, and if he wants to win the match, I want to make him feel like he'll have to pay the price physically."

Korda said he'll do what he has to to be competitive.

"I enjoy my tennis and I'm going to play my game," Korda said of the possibility of playing Agassi. "I'm hitting the ball well and I'm very strong mentally. I'm going to enjoy it, [even if] Agassi beats me. I've had a great week, and I'll just keep trying."

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