Agassi's drawing-card win is ace-in-hole U.S. OPEN

September 08, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Andre Agassi kept the smile on the faces of U.S. Open officials last night by advancing to the semifinals with a solid victory over Thomas Muster, the No. 13 seed.

With two spots left to fill in the semifinals and such name players as Jaime Yzaga, Karel Novacek and Jonas Bjorkman still having a chance at those spots, the last thing officials here wanted was for Muster, a nice but low-key guy, to oust the biggest drawing card left in the tournament.

At this point, the best the Open can hope for is a final showdown between Agassi and No. 4 seed Michael Stich.

Last night, Muster fought hard for every point, in the 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-0 Agassi sweep.

"He was playing great tennis," said Muster. "He was controlling the game and I have not seen him play this well in 1 1/2 years. I think he has a good chance to win the tournament."

Muster seemed to want to help the tournament as much as he could. While serving to stay in the second set, he overruled a linesman on a call that would have brought him to game point.

By insisting Agassi's ball was good and asking to replay the point, the score stayed at deuce. With a second chance, Agassi earned the advantage and then won the next point to take the set.

From there, Agassi swept through the third set.

"I went out with a lot of respect for Thomas," said Agassi. "And I stuck with my game plan. I thought the key was controlling the baseline points. . . . And then, when we got to the first-set tiebreaker, I thought if I could win it, his confidence would drop."

No unseeded player has beaten more than three seeded players at the Open, and if Agassi is to advance to the final, he will have to beat a fourth, No. 9 Todd Martin.

Happy to play

Martin may be the most misunderstood player in men's tennis.

He walks into the post-match interview yesterday, after beating Bernd Karbacher, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, and deadpans:

"I feel terrible."

Excuse me?

"I feel terrible about how this went," he said.

"You do feel terrible?

"Oh, come on," said Martin, wondering why no one can recognize a joke.

L "I feel good," he said. "I'm pleased I get to play a match."

Martin was given a pass into the quarterfinals when his opponent, Richey Reneberg, had to retire from the match with a groin injury.

Reneberg was leading, 6-3, 0-3, at the time.

Yesterday, Martin had to earn his way to the Open semifinals. But when it was over, the No. 9 seed said he isn't impressed with his play.

"I think I got here because I'm not very impressed with it," he said. "By the end of today, there will still be four of us with a chance, so I don't think my chance is any better than one-in-four. And what I've done at past tournaments and in past rounds and in the past months and years, don't really matter."

Martin, the runner-up at the Australian Open and a semifinalist at Wimbledon, will show his stuff in Baltimore, Sept. 29, no matter how things turn out here. Martin will play an exhibition match with Jim Courier at the Baltimore Arena in the Signet Bank Tennis Challenge, organized by Pam Shriver.

Martin may have beaten Karbacher yesterday, but the German isn't betting on his conqueror to win this tournament.

"I don't think so," Karbacher said. "He will have a very tough match with either Thomas Muster or Andre Agassi and I was very impressed by Michael Stich's match the day before. Of course, anyone can win, but if you ask me to bet money, I won't bet money on Todd Martin."

Champion-beater

When Yzaga beat Pete Sampras Tuesday, he became the sixth man in the 114-year history of the U.S. men's singles championships to beat both of the previous year's two finalists the next year. Now he is the company of H. L. "Laurie" Doherty (1903), Beals C. Wright (1905), Bill Johnston (1915 and 1919), John Doeg (1930) and John McEnroe (1984).

She's excited

When Jana Novotna was asked when the women's side of the U.S. Open draw was going to provide a great match and a great upset, like the men's side has produced here over the past 11 days, Novotna looked taken aback.

"Today's match," she said. "I beat the No. 4 seed in the tournament [Mary Pierce]. I'm excited about that."

Slam on track

Gigi Fernandez and Natalia Zvereva rolled into the women's doubles semifinals yesterday, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Katrina Adams and Manon Bollegraf.

Fernandez and Zvereva are now two victories from a doubles Grand Slam.

I= They will meet Katerina Maleeva and Robin White tomorrow.

Always thinking

Asked before last night's match if there was anything special he would have to do to prepare for his match against left-hander Muster, Agassi said, "Yeah, I'm going to have to spend a couple hours thinking backward."

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