Unfriendly matchup next for Agassi and Muster Perceived criticism could drive Austrian

U.S. Open

September 03, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- David Wheaton had the right game plan; he just couldn't execute it yesterday against No. 6 seed Andre Agassi. Next, it will be Thomas Muster's turn.

Wheaton ticked off a two-point plan: Serve well enough to limit the damage Agassi can do with his returns and don't let him control the game from the baseline, because when Agassi does that, he runs his opponents ragged.

That's what Agassi did to Wheaton yesterday, taking a, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 victory to advance to the U.S. Open quarterfinals against Muster.

It promises to be an intriguing match for a couple of reasons. For one, Agassi is perceived as being very critical of Muster for having earned the No. 1 ranking early this year. The feeling has been that the Austrian, now No. 2, has not proven himself on hard courts, a controversy raised again at the start of this tournament when the USTA decided to ignore the world rankings in seeding some players in the Open.

Muster was dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 and Agassi moved up from No. 9 to No. 6.

"I think if anyone makes this more than a tennis match, it's their own issue," Agassi said. "We both have won big events before and we both want to do it again. That's what we're both going out there to do. To make it anything more than that is a waste of time."

But Muster is the kind of guy who likes to prove critics wrong, and Agassi knows Muster thinks he is one of his critics. Yesterday, Agassi said he has great respect for Muster and their troubles arise from an unfortunate misinterpretation of things he has said.

"I've always stated that he deserved the No. 1 ranking for working so hard and accomplishing it, because it's not easy," Agassi said. "Unfortunately, it's always followed with what I think of the ranking system. I've always complained about the ranking system. The guy worked hard for something he finally accomplished and he probably feels like I was dissin' him on it, and I wasn't. I think it has had a very negative effect."

Who'd a thought . . .

. . . That Javier Sanchez, the 67th-best player on the men's tour, would be the first to advance to the quarterfinals here -- he beat Arnaud Boetsch, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), early yesterday -- and that he'd be playing at the Open longer than his sister, Arantxa, the No. 3 women's seed? Sanchez will face No. 2 seed Michael Chang, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 winner over Jakob Hlasek.

Muster disappears

Speaking of Muster, he defeated No. 13 Thomas Enqvist, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, to move into the quarterfinals yesterday and then, pfft!

Muster told officials he wasn't felling well after his match and was allowed to return to the locker room for a visit with his masseur. Afterward, there were some reports that he was spotted on the practice courts and others that he had left the grounds. He never did show up to talk.

Muster's masseur, Kurt Waltl, provided the only insight into how Muster made it through his match.

"He told me, 'The more pain I had, the worse my opponent played,' " Waltl said.

Henman one of two

There are just two players left in the men's field who have not dropped a set. Tim Henman, who was a straight-set winner over No. 12 Todd Martin Sunday night, and Andrei Medvedev, who meets Goran Ivanisevic today.

Coming near you

The Federation Cup final between the United States and Spain is scheduled for Sept. 28-29 at the Atlantic City, N.J., Convention Center.

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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