Agassi rolls into semifinals


Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 12:44 a.m.
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USA's Andre Agassi removes his cap as he jubilates after his 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, victory against Sebastien Grosjean from France at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament in Melbourne, Tuesday.

The Associated Press

Facts

Tuesday at a glance

  • WEATHER: Sunny, with a high of 75.
  • ATTENDANCE: 19,873 (day).
  • MEN'S SINGLES: No. 2 Andre Agassi, Wayne Ferreira advanced; No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 12 Sebastien Grosjean lost.
  • WOMEN'S SINGLES: No. 2 Venus Williams, No. 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne advanced; No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova lost.
  • STAT OF THE DAY: 125 mph - Venus Williams' serve against Daniela Hantuchova, her fastest since she clocked 127 mph at Zurich in 1998, the fastest recorded in women's tennis.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY: "She always wins. The problem is I can't always keep my eyes on the ball." - Andre Agassi on playing with wife and former No. 1 player Steffi Graf.

  • MELBOURNE, Australia - Now Andre Agassi gets to pick on someone his own age.
    Using the slick strokes and relentlessness that have carried him to seven Grand Slam tournament titles, the 32-year-old Agassi easily dismissed yet another younger opponent Tuesday to reach the Australian Open semifinals.
    The matter-of-fact 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Sebastien Grosjean kept Agassi unbeaten at Melbourne Park since 1999, a 19-match streak. He won the title here in 1995, 2000 and 2001, then skipped last year's tournament with an injury.
    Playing a string of 20-somethings, none older than 27, Agassi has dropped just one set.
    "I make a guy really pay the price to beat me," he said. "Where I feel like it's been a good tournament for me up to now is ... I haven't spent any unnecessary energy."
    And now he has more than 48 hours to rest before playing Wayne Ferreira for a spot in the final.
    The 31-year-old Ferreira, the only unseeded quarterfinalist, upset French Open runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-1. Ferreira called it "one of my greatest wins."
    The South African is playing in his 49th consecutive Grand Slam event, but the match against Agassi will be his first semifinal at a major since the 1992 Australian Open.
    Agassi has dominated Ferreira over their long careers, winning all 10 of their matches - nine in straight sets.
    Agassi worked the 12th-seeded Grosjean around the court and increased the tempo at the decisive moments.
    The second-seeded American never has relied on his serving for success, and he didn't exactly stun Grosjean with sizzlers, either.
    Agassi never hit a serve faster than 117 mph. That's 8 mph slower than what Venus Williams produced en route to her 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Daniela Hantuchova.
    Williams - owner of the fastest recorded serve in women's tennis, 127 mph in a 1998 match - will play Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals.
    During the first set of her victory Tuesday, some spectators yelled to indicate that some of Williams' shots were out, once in the middle of a point.
    She responded by hitting winners on six of 10 points in the next two games to gain a key break.
    "In the middle of a point when the crowd starts to be noisy, it's best just to focus on your shot and not to worry if the ball was really in or out," Williams said. "I'd like to think they were in."
    She's trying to reach a fourth straight major final; younger sister Serena beat her at the past three.
    Henin-Hardenne, recovering from leg cramps and fatigue from her 3-hour victory over Lindsay Davenport, lost the first two games but then beat 63rd-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-2, 6-2.
    Like Agassi's lopsided record against Ferreira, Williams owns a 6-1 career edge over Henin-Hardenne.
    Grosjean, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2001, couldn't match Agassi's consistency, timing or intensity.
    "He never dropped his level," Grosjean said. "I lost against a great Agassi today."
    Grosjean made only 47 percent of his first serves.
    "It was really tough because I had no serve," Grojean said. "When you're up against the best returner of serve in the world, you're in trouble."
    Agassi might have some extra incentive for winning another Grand Slam title.
    He told the Australian Open's official Web site that wife Steffi Graf - who won 22 major championships before retiring - agreed to play mixed doubles with him at the French Open if he wins it all in Melbourne.
    "You think I'm an inspiration at 32? You should see her at 33," Agassi said. "She always wins. ... The problem is, I can't keep my eye on the ball."

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