Pushed, Agassi pulls out win

5-time Legg Mason champ tops Enqvist, makes semis

Blake, Rios, Srichaphan in

Tennis

August 17, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Andre Agassi's bid for a record sixth Legg Mason Tennis Classic crown is still alive, but only after a struggle.

Agassi, the tournament's top seed who last won the championship in 1999, outlasted No. 7 seed Thomas Enqvist of Sweden, 6-7 (10-8), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, in a quarterfinal match at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park last night.

Agassi, who hadn't dropped a set this week, was pushed to the limit by Enqvist, who was making his first appearance here since 1994.

Agassi, who needed a second-set tiebreaker to extend a quarterfinal match against Greg Rusedski to a third set and an eventual victory last year, pulled off the same tricks last night.

"It's amazing to be out there and feel that intensity again, because it's very familiar," said Agassi, referring to last year's marathon against Rusedski. "I've been here so many times, it feels like a week can't go by without that happening."

Trailing 5-4 in the second set with Enqvist serving for the match, Agassi blasted a forehand winner down a line to break back and knot the score.

With the tiebreaker knotted at four, Enqvist hit an errant lob and double-faulted, giving Agassi a 6-4 lead. Although Enqvist nailed a backhand winner down a line to shave the lead to one, Agassi won the tiebreaker and the second set when an Enqvist forehand dropped back off the tape.

"I was just intent on making him make great shots to win it," Agassi said of his mindset during the second-set tiebreak. "He had made great shots to get there. I didn't feel I would be doing him any justice if I didn't make him try to go for it."

Agassi broke Enqvist twice - in the third and ninth service games - to end the match, which took 2 hours, 27 minutes. He registered the match's first break in the seventh game. With Agassi serving for the set at 5-4, Enqvist converted his first break-point chance by blasting a backhand winner down a line to even the score at five.

Both players held serve and were tied at eight in the tiebreaker. But an Agassi forehand that sailed long and an Enqvist forehand winner down one line helped the Swede claim the first set.

Agassi let his emotions show after missing on a forehand that gave Enqvist an early break at 1-0. He smashed an electric fan near his chair with his racket.

When the chair umpire issued a warning to Agassi, he took a couple of whacks at a beverage cooler - earning him a point penalty.

Agassi's win put him into a 7 p.m. semifinal today with No. 6 seed James Blake, who beat fourth-seeded Alex Corretja of Spain, 6-4, 6-4.

Blake struggled at the outset of both sets, falling behind 3-0 in each frame. But Blake, who is ranked 32nd in the world, converted two of three break-point opportunities to win six of the next seven games in the first set.

Trailing 4-1 in the second set, Blake broke Corretja, the 2000 tournament titlist who is ranked 22nd, twice and capture five straight games and the match.

Afterward, Blake could afford to joke about his two rallies: "I worked on that with my coach beforehand - fall behind and fight right back. During the changeovers, I ... thought, `As well as he's playing, I'm only down a break. I might as well fight for it and see what I can do.' "

In other quarterfinals, fifth-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile ended Fernando Meligeni's run with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win that took 1 hour, 59 minutes.

Meligeni, the No. 16 seed from Brazil who toppled 2001 Legg Mason champion Andy Roddick Thursday night, started fast, breaking Rios twice to claim the first set.

But Rios, 23rd in the world, broke Meligeni in the seventh game of the second set and registered three of the five breaks in the third to set a semifinal date with Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand at 1 p.m. today.

Srichaphan, the No. 14 seed, continued to blaze through the draw, advancing to his first semifinal in the United States with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over eighth-seeded Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.

Srichaphan, 54th in the world, used a powerful serve and wicked forehand to convert four of his eight break-point chances.

Results, schedule

Quarterfinals

Paradorn Srichaphan (14) def. Jarkko Nieminen (8), 6-3, 7-5

Marcelo Rios (5) def. Fernando Meligeni (16), 3-6, 6-4, 7-5

James Blake (6) def. Alex Corretja (4), 6-4, 6-4

Andre Agassi (1) def. Thomas Enqvist (7), 6-7 (10-8), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3

Today's semifinals

Paradorn Srichaphan (14) vs. Marcelo Rios (5), 1 p.m.; Andre Agassi (1) vs. James Blake (6), 7 p.m.

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