Agassi sets up duel with Sampras U.S. OPEN

September 10, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- No. 1 seed Andre Agassi had no sooner finished disposing of No. 4 Boris Becker in the U.S. Open semifinals last night when he turned his attention to his top rival Pete Sampras.

"I'm not tired and I've got plenty of time to get ready for the final," Agassi said into the television cameras after ousting Becker, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-4. "And Pete, if you're watching, I'm coming."

Today, tennis fans will be treated to a contrast in styles and temperament on the U.S. Tennis Center's Stadium Court when Agassi and Sampras meet for the third time in their careers in the Open final.

"The U.S. Open title is on the line now," said No. 2 Sampras, after beating No. 14 Jim Courier, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. "And I have a chance to beat the best player in the world, and I know I'm going to feel the electricity when I walk on the court with him."

Yesterday, the fans here also were treated to two tremendous semifinals, in which tiebreakers and single break points decided the outcomes.

Sampras needled Courier after their match -- "It's about time you played a match like this" -- because Courier is a fellow American and a former No. 1 player who is in the midst of a comeback.

"Basically, he just gave me a hard time," said Courier. "But he evidently wasn't so interested in me getting ahead that he was willing to give me a few points when I needed them.

"But he's right, and it is time I won one of these things."

But it wasn't going to be yesterday. On a rare cool day here, Courier seemed in control in each set until it mattered. In the first set, perhaps the most devastating, he lost three total points in his first five service games.

Then in the sixth, when he was serving to force a tiebreaker, he went up 30-0 and then lost the next four points and lost the set on a net-cord winner.

It was the first sign that this might not be Courier's day.

"All of our matches come down to a few big points," said Courier, the No. 14 seed. "Big points didn't go my way and, you know, that is my responsibility to make them go my way.

"That first set, it's pretty deflating to have a let-cord winner on set point, but them's the breaks, you know. The bottom line for me here is that I've got the feeling back that I'm on the right track. . . . I hope I don't lose the feeling."

It was quality tennis, but it got even more exciting in the Agassi-Becker match.

Becker had, as he said, "come back from the dead" against Agassi at Wimbledon, and after two tiebreaker losses in the first set seemed about to pull the miracle act again.

"We played an absolutely great match," said Agassi. "I mean, two tiebreakers and he raised his game in the third set. He deserved to win the third and then I started returning better.

"When you lose a match like that, you have to feel bad in one sense because it is a heartbreak. But you have to tip your hat, too, and say you got outplayed."

Becker had no quarrel with that.

"The tiebreaker is like going to the casino a little bit," Becker said. "But it is very hard to swallow when you lose two sets like that without losing your serve once."

As for today's final, Sampras has the biggest serve in the game and Agassi has the best return.

A matchup between these two men is all anyone has talked about for two weeks. They have the burning rivalry, though they've met in Grand Slam finals only twice, and split, with Sampras winning here in 1990, and Agassi winning the #i Australian Open last January.

They are Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. Agassi replaced Sampras as No. 1 after the Australian Open and Sampras, who won Wimbledon, is trying to reclaim the position.

"Whoever wins here is No. 1, no matter what the computer says," said Agassi, who has seven titles this season to Sampras' three. "That's just the way I feel. We're both Americans, this is our Grand Slam. We've each won one Grand Slam this year."

So this is it, the big one.

"I think we know each other's game so well, that he knows how to avoid my strengths and I know how to avoid his," Agassi said. "The question is, will he execute or will I?"


Who: No. 1 seed Andre Agassi vs. No. 2 seed Pete Sampras

When: Today, 4 p.m.

TV: Channels 13, 9

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