Back to the game, Kucera bounces Agassi On Monday, extra tosses provided mutual irritation

September 09, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- No. 9 seed Karol Kucera took his time. Down 2-0 and facing two break points at 15-40 in the fifth set against No. 8 Andre Agassi, he knew he was in big trouble.

So Kucera bounced the ball again and thought about it.

"I knew it was not really about the serve," he said. "It was really about the baseline rallies. I was thinking, that's my only chance to win."

Kucera won the rallies, and then won the set, ousting Agassi, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 1-6, 6-3, yesterday to move into the quarterfinals.

The fact that Kucera has gotten to tonight's match with No. 1 Pete Sampras is a testament to his fortitude. To get here, he had to overcome the crowd, Agassi and a first-class demonstration of gamesmanship, that Kucera considered "a little bit unfair."

Also advancing to the quarterfinals was No. 3 Patrick Rafter, the defending champion, as well as Swedes Jonas Bjorkman, Magnus Larsson and Thomas Johansson.

On Monday night, Agassi had been irked by Kucera's ball toss. Despite a windless night, the Slovak had mis-tossed his ball countless times and retossed. After more than a dozen such incidents, Agassi complained to the umpire and began mocking Kucera with errant tosses of his own. He followed those with a series of moonballs that further disrupted Kucera's game and helped Agassi stave off elimination in the third set and get up 3-0 in the fourth before rain forced the match to be suspended.

"I did not for one minute think Karol was doing the toss intentionally," said Agassi. "But that doesn't mean that when you toss the ball and don't hit it 18 times, that it doesn't have an impact on me. At some stage, whether he meant it or not, it's not acceptable."

And so Agassi began his antics and worked his way back into the game. By the time the rain came, Agassi said what was happening on court was no longer about tennis.

"It was about competing," he said. "We could have put on boxing gloves, thrown darts. Last night, it was just about doing whatever you had to do to win the next point. Today, it was about tennis."

And it was about saying good-bye to Agassi, a situation that certainly disappointed many who were looking forward to a quarterfinal match between him and Sampras.

"To be out in the fourth round, it [stinks]," Agassi said. "But I've got to keep it all in context because of how long it's been since I've even been competitive. The year has certainly set me up with a platform for going into next year believing I not only can, but should win these tournaments. And when you think about the fact that I played Kucera, a good player who has been playing phenomenal this year -- I don't have any problems losing to a guy who is really good and plays ever better."

Pub Date: 9/09/98

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