Agassi eases into final Chang out

Wrist injury forces top seed to default

July 26, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Andre Agassi, whose game fell to the point where he competed in a second-level tournament last November (and lost), is back.

All the way back.

With an easy 6-1, 6-0 victory over Wayne Ferreira in the semifinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic yesterday, Agassi became the winningest player on the ATP Tour this year.

Unfortunately, a match area tennis fans have awaited three years to witness, Agassi going against Michael Chang, will not materialize today.

The two-time defending champion had to default his semifinal match against Scott Draper last night after reinjuring his left wrist.

"The wrist was stiff when I woke up and, after treatment, I went out for a hit. Then it got really bad," Chang said. "This being the semifinal

and me being the defending champion, I feel really bad about this, particularly here where I have received such great support."

It now falls to upstart Australian Draper to halt, or slow, the again-dominant Agassi in the tournament final today at 4 p.m.

While Pete Sampras has won Wimbledon and Marcelo Rios has threatened to wrest the No. 1 spot from Sampras most of the spring and summer, almost unnoticed is that Agassi has a match record of 36-9 while winning two tournaments, one in San Jose, Calif., where he defeated Sampras in the final.

Agassi went so far as to compare the way he is playing now to 1995, when he was the No. 1 player in the world for 30 weeks and a winner in seven of 11 tournament finals.

"In the past when things have been going this well [four straight-set victories averaging an hour apiece], I've lost discipline and focus," he said. "I'm much stronger now mentally.

"I know what I need to do to keep things going and I know what I need to do to turn things around. Right now, everything is where I want it to be, and it's a lot sooner than I expected."

It's obvious Agassi's master plan was to crawl up through the ranks and peak at the U.S. Open at the end of August. Based on his performance here, though, it appears he's back among the game's elite.

"I've paid a big price while getting in fantastic shape," he said, "and what has happened is I'm very satisfied with every aspect of the game. I can't wait to get out and play matches now."

Agassi's destruction of Canadian Sebastien Lareau in the quarterfinals Friday night, 6-1, 6-2, barely caused a stir in the face of the wax job he laid on Ferreira, who was among the world's top dozen players between 1991 and 1996.

Ferreira, a finalist here two years ago, held his serve at the outset to even the match at 1-1. Agassi then ran off the next 11 games before heading off "to do my laundry."

Agassi, known as a good, not great, server, put 75 percent of his first serves in and, all told, won 28 of the 35 points required to easily hold serve seven times. He was nearly as dominant on the South African's serve, taking 23 of 37 points.

Nothing the 10-year veteran Ferreira attempted met with any kind of success, so, after a while, he stopped trying. Agassi noticed. "The score of the match is more indicative of the way he played more so than the way I played."

Yes and no. While Agassi said, "it was hard not to notice the tone of the match [Ferreira's stationary position on the baseline], so I didn't have to play great," he did nonetheless.

Against Ferreira and Lareau combined, Agassi won 24 of 28 games and 122 of 178 points. No wonder he couldn't wait to eat, do his laundry, catch a movie, sleep and head out for today's final.

Chang's wrist went on him after a match in the Italian Open on May 14. "I got some bad treatment there and it was up and down after that," he said. "It would feel good for a couple of days, then bad.

"It's peculiar," he said. "You'd guess if this was going to happen it would be to my right wrist because I only use the left to drive through on the [two-hand] backhand."

Upon falling heir to his second final of the year, Draper said: "In a situation like this, there's no feeling since you really haven't earned it. But that's the way it goes. I've played well all week and I was looking forward to it. It would have been a good match."

Agassi and Draper have split their two previous matches. "I played him in Japan when he was No. 1 [1995] and played well, losing, 6-3, 6-4," Draper said. "The other time was last year at Lipton when he was struggling and I won, 7-6, 6-1. He's obviously playing back toward his best now, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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