Agassi as good as his word

September 06, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Unseeded Andre Agassi has been saying it from the beginning. He issued warnings.

Storm warnings.

"I'm playing well," he said. "I'm moving along. I can win the U.S. Open. Watch out."

No. 6 seed Michael Chang didn't watch out enough yesterday, and Agassi proved a point to himself while delivering a painful five-set defeat to his longtime rival, 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Going into the showdown on Stadium Court yesterday, even Agassi wasn't sure if he could back up his big talk.

"I've said I felt like I've been playing well and focusing and really wanting this," Agassi said later. "But, you don't really know that -- for sure until you are pushed like that. And to get through it is everything to me. It allows me to believe, really believe, that I can win this tournament."

Agassi is in the Open quarterfinals for the first time since 1992 and will take on old friend Thomas Muster.

Muster made the final eight yesterday by upsetting two-time French Open champion and No. 3 seed Sergi Bruguera, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

Muster is the No. 13 seed and whether it is lucky 13 is yet to be determined. But when Agassi first looked at his draw in this tournament, he saw Muster and after winning his first match here noted he could "get a chance to get even with Thomas."

Yesterday, after Muster used an attacking game to oust Bruguera, he watched the final points of the Agassi match on the TV in the interview room and smiled broadly when Agassi won.

"Now he has his chance for sure," said Muster. "You know, I like the confidence he has shown in me that I will get to the quarters. You can see that we are good friends."

Muster, a 26-year-old Austrian, met Agassi for the first time when Agassi was 16 and had been given a wild card into the Lipton Tournament in Florida.

"I remember that match," said Agassi, now 24. "He beat me 7-6, 7-5, 4-6, 0-6, 6-4."

Has he looked that score up recently? "No," he said. "But I've dreamt about it recently."

Muster remembered something else. "When I played him on that hard court and beat him in five sets, [coach] Nick [Bollettieri] told me he is going to be one of the best players in the world and I didn't believe him at the time," Muster said. "But he was right, you see. So now we will get to see again where we stand."

Yesterday, Chang had hoped to reaffirm where he and Agassi stood in the "pecking order" of young Americans. But while Chang started slowly, Agassi, ranked 20th, started fast and finished fast.

"I shouldn't be starting these kind of matches slow, especially against Andre," said Chang. "But for some reason, I wasn't quite used to Andre's ball. I was on my heels and wasn't quite able to set my feet straight and set up for my shots."

But Agassi was setting up his. It was as if he had simply decided the lines were his friends. Everything was good by inches or out by an even slimmer margin.

Though Chang said he believes Agassi has played better, he couldn't say where and in the fifth set, it was Agassi playing Chang's game that made the difference.

It is Chang who gets to everything. And yesterday he gave another demonstration of his great heart. But in the third game of the fifth set, it was Agassi who ran as if chased by the devil to reach a ball out beyond the alley.

And once Agassi got there, he used his fully extended racket to whip the ball around the net post. The ball flew six inches off the ground and curved into the court to land at Chang's planted feet.

It brought the game to break point, which Agassi cashed with a wicked forehand down the line for the first of three breaks in the final set.

"Andre's always been a showman," said Chang. "Even when we were kids and playing in the 12-and-under age group. He'd serve underhanded and things like that. But it wasn't until he bleached his hair, grew it long and got that earring that things really started to go his way."

Things definitely are going his way now. Muster awaits and already is preparing himself for a loss.

"I come in here and no one expects me to make it to the quarters, even though the quarters were my goal," Muster said. "If Andre wins [tomorrow], I am happy for him because I think he deserves to play well here, in the states. Andre is a good guy.

"If I win, it will be a great effort for me, but because we have been friends so long, I will enjoy myself and have a good time on the center court playing Andre and be happy, I think, if he wins."

And so will Agassi, who would then be just one match away from the U.S. Open finals.

MEN

Singles, fourth round Bernd Karbacher, Germany, def. Gianluca Pozzi, Italy, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Thomas Muster (13), Austria, def. Sergi Bruguera (3), Spain, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4. Andre Agassi, Las Vegas, def. Michael Chang (6), Henderson, Nev., 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Todd Martin (9), Palm Coast, Fla., def. Richey Reneberg, Houston, 3-6, retired.

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