AUSTRALIAN OPEN

What's next for Agassi?


Andre Agassi is congratulated by Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the men's final at the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, Sunday. The second seed American won the match 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 and captured his fourth Australian Open title.

AP Photo/Steve Holland
Published: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 1:38 a.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia- Andre Agassi was ranked 141st in the world in 1997 before he began his remarkable career resurgence.

Agassi has won five of his last 15 major tournaments, the latest triumph coming in the Australian Open. Agassi needed only 76 minutes to beat Germany's Rainer Schuettler 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 early Sunday.

Now comes another challenge for Agassi: Coaxing his wife, Steffi, out of retirement. Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles - 14 more than her husband - said she would play mixed doubles with him at the French Open if he won the Aussie.

Graf hasn't played since retiring in July 1999, weeks after winning her sixth French Open title. She and Agassi married in 2001, and they have a 15-month-old son, Jaden Gil.

``I don't think anybody appreciates how hard this is going to be for me to get her out there,'' Agassi said.

Agassi, 32, held up his end of the deal by carving through the competition at Melbourne Park, even before the final. He won 18 straight games in a 6-1, 6-0, 6-0 second-round win over South Korea's Lee Hyung-taik, and he lost just 48 games in all seven of his matches.

The 26-year-old Schuettler, seeded 31st and playing in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, was outmatched from the start. Agassi won the first eight points before hitting a backhand long, prompting Schuettler to raise in arms in mock triumph. Schuettler held service four times the entire match.

``Over the past two weeks, I've been hitting the ball better than I ever have. I feel stronger and better. It's a great feeling to work hard and have it pay off,'' Agassi said.

Schuettler said he's never faced a better player.

``It's as if he puts you on a carousel and you just can't get off,'' he said. From the first point on, I was under pressure. It's a bit disappointing to play a final and lose easy like that.''

Agassi, the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title since Ken Rosewall won the Australian in 1972 at age 37, makes some concessions to age.

While he is ready to work hard for major tournaments, he is not interested in ``grinding through a lot of different circumstances and difficulties'' to pursue the No. 1 ranking again, he said.

``No. 1 will be a result of a lot of things going right, and it's a long year,'' said Agassi, who is ranked second behind 21-year-old Lleyton Hewitt.

Besides, Agassi said, ``the year is a complete success for me now. I'm over the moon with it.''

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