2000 – 2001, Australian Open

Australian Open, Melbourne
January 17-30, 2000; 128 Draw (16 seeds); Surface – Hard

All scorelines
First round: Phil Brown

Goran Ivanisevic is one big server who hasn’t been mentioned as a threat on the Australian Open’s faster courts. That could change after he ousted 13th seed Cedric Pioline in the first round. Ivanisevic served 13 of his 32 aces in the final set in today’s 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 9-7 victory. Pete Sampras says the resurfaced Melbourne Park hard courts are playing like grass, and Ivanisevic has ivanisevic_ao00had his best Grand Slam results on that surface, finishing as runner-up three times at Wimbledon. ”It is fast like Wimbledon, which is OK for me,” Ivanisevic said. Then again, Pioline said, ”you never know with Goran. Tomorrow he can lose to his mom.” Not so, said Ivanisevic. ”She never played tennis. But I can lose to some pretty bad guys,” added the 28-year-old Croat, who finished out of the top 20 last year for the first time in 10 years, but reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. He ended the year at 62nd. Ivanisevic saved three break points in the final set’s 9th game, and four in the 13th, where he came back from 0/40 with two aces and a service winner, and closed the game with another ace and service winner. He broke Pioline in the final game at love, finishing with a forehand serve return winner. ”I just need to get my confidence back, my ranking back,” said Ivanisevic, who climbed as high as No. 2 in 1994. ”Every match that I win is good for me, for my confidence. I just think I still belong up there somewhere and I still can play good tennis, so hopefully I can prove that.” Last year, he said, there were so many first-round losses ”you go crazy.” ”I can beat anybody when I play good, when I think that I can, but I lost that kind of feeling. When I come on the court I am struggling too much,” he said. The next seed he might meet would be No. 4 Nicolas Kiefer in the round of 16. Pioline, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, said Ivanisevic is a frustrating opponent when he is playing well. ”It seems he is taking all the risk and making the right shot, and it is not very funny when you play him,” Pioline said. He also joined complaints by many players about the fast courts, saying, ”Everybody wants to slow the game down and here we accelerate the game, so it’s stupid.” Pioline was among three men’s seeds who lost today. No. 5 Gustavo Kuerten had three match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker before losing 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-4 to Spain’s Albert Portas [91] in 2 hours 59 minutes, Kuerten served rochus_ao0030 aces. Belgium’s Christophe Rochus [120] ousted No. 15 Albert Costa 6-3, 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3. Rochus participated in his fourth main-level tournament. Defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov received treatment for a groin pull at 5:4 in the 2nd set and then lost only three more games in a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Jens Knippschild. Nicolas Kiefer defeated Argentina’s Guillermo Canas 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. No. 7 Nicolas Lapentti, a semifinalist here last year, overcame Ukraine’s Andrei Medvedev, the French Open runner-up, 6-3, 5-7, 6-7(2), 6-4, 8-6 in 3 hours, 38 minutes. No. 10 Tommy Haas beat France’s Cyril Saulnier 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, and No. 12 Magnus Norman beat American Cecil Mamiit 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The second-seeded Kafelnikov, also troubled by back pain since last week, said he was proud that he could tough it out. He was aced 20 times, but received help from 74 unforced errors by Knippschild. Kafelnikov called the courts ”ridiculously fast compared to last year,” and said conditions ”definitely favor the big-serve players like Sampras, Philippoussis, Krajicek’ – all won their first-round matches Monday. Michael Chang, runner-up here and at the U.S. Open in 1996, lost 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(5) to Roger Federer – his first match on Centre Court in Melbourne. A year ago, Andre Agassi‘s marriage was ending and his tennis had slipped enough to “look horrific.” Now he has regained a favorite feeling: “Making it a miserable day for your opponent.” Agassi showed off his complete game in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Mariano Puerta in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday. Pete Sampras also was having trouble a year ago, with fatigue, and skipped the Australian Open. This year, he started with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Australian Wayne Arthurs in his campaign to regain the No. 1 ranking he lost last year to Agassi. A back injury just before the U.S. Open set him back, but he arrived in Melbourne saying he felt fresher than ever for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. Puerta at times managed to engage the top-seeded Agassi in slugging duels. But Agassi often caught him flatfooted with blasts down the line, high-kicking serves and top-spin lobs from both sides when the Argentine player thought he had his opponent on the run. Also Monday, No. 8 Todd Martin served 39 aces but had to rebound from two sets down to beat Zimbabwe’s Byron Black 5-7, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 8-6 in 4 hours saving a triple match point at 4:5. No. 9 Richard Krajicek served 21 aces in beating France’s Fabrice Santoro 6-1, 6-2, 7-5.  No. 11 Tim Henman served 30 aces and edged France’s Jerome Golmard 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(7) – Golmard had saved five match points and led 6:3 in the 4th set tie-break. No. 16 Mark Philippoussis, however, served just 10 and needed five sets to beat Israeli qualifier Noam Okun 6-4, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. In the last set, he cut his unforced errors to 6 from 18 in the third and 24 in the fourth. Philippoussis said he had recovered from the stiff neck that caused him to fromberg_ao00withdraw from the final of the Colonial Classic against Agassi last week, but felt weak and lethargic.  “I don’t know how I got out of it,” he said of Monday’s match. “I’m sure I’ll recover fine.An amazing match occurred on Court No. 10 – Richard Fromberg overcame Thomas Enqvist 6-4, 7-6(4), 4-6, 3-6, 10-8 in 3 hours 44 minutes. In the final set Fromberg withstood two match points at *6:7 (15/40). The Australian leveled at 8 games apiece serving four aces in a row. Russia’s Marat Safin has been fined $2,000 by the Australian Open tournament referee for failing to make an appropriate effort in his 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 loss to South African qualifier Grant Stafford. The 19-year-old Muscovite was penalized under a Grand Slam “best effort” rule, which dictates that: “A player shall use his best efforts to win a match… Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine up to $10,000.” The Russian Davis Cup player was warned four times by American chair umpire Norm Chryst for apparently tanking against Stafford. After one warning, Safin caught Stafford’s serve in his hand instead of returning it with his racquet.

Second round: Phil Brown

hewitt_ao00One of the raps against Lleyton Hewitt, the hottest player in tennis, is he burns too much energy on court and is bound to flame out. They used to say that about a kid named Jimmy Connors. Hewitt’s detractors, among them Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, also like to point out that he possesses no “big weapons” – no booming serve, no killer return, no crushing ground-strokes. Sort of like Bjorn Borg, the preeminent human backboard. Then there are the stodgy critics who take offense at Hewitt’s cockiness, his challenges of line calls, even the backward baseball cap that hides his long blond hair. Yet compared to John McEnroe, Hewitt is a veritable choirboy. At 18, Hewitt is a slim, 5-foot-11 Australian who doesn’t volley like Patrick Rafter and doesn’t whack aces like Mark Philippoussis. All he does is win, whittling down opponents tirelessly like a boy chopping trees with a knife. Hewitt won a tournament in his hometown of Adelaide two weeks ago, then he won another in Sydney. Thursday, in the second round of the Australian Open, he ran his winning streak to 12 matches with a masterful 6-0, 6-0, 6-1 performance against Alex Corretja. “Triple bagels” in tennis are as rare as perfect games in baseball. In the 32 years of the Open Era, only five 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 victories have been recorded – the last in 1993. No one in the 95-year history of the Australian Open has ever done it. Against Corretja, who is certainly no slouch and who prides himself on his professionalism, Hewitt came as close to perfection as possible. “I’m out there for every point,” Hewitt said. “I’m not the type of player to hold back on anything. I’m out there to win every game.” Corretja won his single game losing 0:4 in the 3rd set. No. 7 Nicolas Lapentti and No. 10 Tommy Haas, both semifinalists here last year, became the latest seeds to lose in Hewitt’s half of the draw. Lapentti, fighting a cold and feeling sluggish on the fast courts, quit with France’s Arnaud Clement leading 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 4-1. Haas, complaining of a rib injury, lost 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui. But defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, seeded second, fought off three break points in the 7th game and won 13 games in a row on his way to a 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Czech player Daniel Vacek. ”I know Kafelnikov is lurking around,” said Hewitt, who added that he is not looking past his next opponent, 98th-ranked Adrian Voinea of Romania. Hewitt beat Kafelnikov in a Davis Cup meeting last September. Still, Hewitt said, ”it’s hard to be feeling any better or any more self-confident out there on the court.” At the end today, he told Corretja, ”Bad luck, mate.” ”I wouldn’t like to be in that situation. I think anyone could imagine on center court against a guy playing in front of a home crowd, it’s probably a little embarrassing,” Hewitt said later. In his tournament victories earlier this year, Hewitt beat 1999 Australian Open runner-up Thomas Enqvist in the Adelaide final and defeated Corretja 6-4, 6-4 in the Sydney semifinal. Also advancing to the third round were No. 4 Nicolas Kiefer, a 7-6(5), 6-0, 6-2 winner over fellow German Tomas Behrend, and No. 12 Magnus Norman, who beat Italy’s agassi_ao00Gianluca Pozzi 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Andre Agassi beat Dutch player Sjeng Schalken 7-5, 6-0, 6-3, and Pete Sampras followed in the main stadium with a 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-1 victory over Sweden’s Mikael Tillstrom. Tillstrom became fifth player, Sampras had played at all major against (they met six times in total, just once outside majors – Basel 1996). Meanwhile, Spain’s Fernando Vicente won 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in Todd Martin‘s second five-set match here, after Martin blew a 5:2* lead in the 5th. Nicolas Escude, a 1998 Australian Open semifinalist, beat Richard Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. “It’s not only me, but the guys with lesser serves are tougher to break,” Krajicek added. “I don’t think Nicolas has a huge serve, but he was hitting a lot of aces.” On the fast courts, “balls were flying all over the place. So each match is pretty dangerous out there,” Sampras said. “It’s even quicker than Wimbledon in a way,” said Sampras, who has six championships on the Wimbledon grass among his record-equaling 12 Grand Slam titles. “These conditions are pretty ridiculous.” Agassi, who lost his first service game, said he had trouble trying to dictate against Schalken’s deep, solid shots. “I made the necessary adjustments to overcome what could have been a real, real difficult day, and that’s always a good sign for me,” he said. No. 16 Mark Philippoussis, another power server, gave the Australian home fans a scare when he lost the second set and his first service game of the third. He rebounded for a 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 victory over Dutch qualifier Raemon Sluiter, serving 27 aces at speeds of up to 132 mph (211 kph).

Third round: Phil Brown

Pete Sampras, the master of the five-setter, escaped from two sets down once again. Sampras ran up 36 aces as he abandoned caution under pressure against the qualifier Wayne Black of Zimbabwe to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 6-7(9), 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory today. sampras_ao00Sampras is likely to face Black again when the United States plays Zimbabwe in the Davis Cup next month, and if this match was any indication, the Americans may be in for a hard time in Harare. Sampras found it tough to cope with Black’s passing shots and surprisingly difficult serves. Sampras often tried attacking the net, but after losing the first-set tie breaker, 11/9 (had two set points), and dropping the second set, he switched tactics and rallied more. Sampras also began aiming for aces even on second serves, and he produced 25 aces in the final three sets. He broke Black to 4:3 in the 5th set, when he got to love-40 after a brilliant rally, then two points later drilled a forehand return that Black volleyed long. Sampras then held serve for a 5:3 lead and broke Black’s serve to close out the match. ”My serve kind of saved me,” Sampras said. ”I don’t think I’ve ever served this many aces in a match. It’s just a result of the fast court. The ball skids through the court. These are the fastest conditions I’ve ever played in. ‘When you feel like you’re not finding your range, you’re going to struggle. I have to remember who I am, and that I’ve got one of the best serve-and-volley games in the world.” Black, who had only six aces, said, ”He stepped up his serve and I could not touch it for a set and a half.” Sampras owns one of the best records in five-set matches in the Open Era, 28-10, and has come back from 0-2 five times. In the Australian Open, Sampras is 8-0 in five-setters. Yevgeny Kafelnikov proved by winning last year’s Australian Open that he was no one-slam wonder. But the Russian muffed a chance at a third Grand Slam title by losing a U.S. Open semifinal – and he’s not going to let another huge opportunity pass him by. “It was a good thing to win a second Grand Slam,” he said. “Before that I only had the (1996) French Open and people were thinking maybe I was only a shot to win that one, but I proved I can win another.” Last year at Melbourne Park, however, he didn’t have to contend with Sampras. He even thanked Sampras, a winner of 12 Grand Slam titles, for not showing up. Nor did he have a title-chasing Hewitt in his sights. Kafelnikov didn’t have to work hard Saturday during a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Austrian Stefan Koubek. By receiving the No. 2 seed, the defending champion was assured that top-seeded Andre Agassi and No. 3 Sampras were in the other half of the draw. His title hopes improved dramatically when seeded players tumbled out in the opening two rounds, leaving only No. 4 Nicolas Keifer and No. 12 Magnus Norman on his side of the draw. Winning two more matches might bring a semi-final match against Lleyton Hewitt, who has won consecutive tournaments and 13 straight matches – his latest 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 over Romanian Adrian Voinea. And Kafelnikov, who prides himself on playing more tournaments than any of his rivals, is relishing the chance for a rematch against the Australian teenager, who shares his passion for playing as many matches as possible. Late Friday, top-seeded Andre Agassi made a believer of Mariano Zabaleta, handing the Argentine a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 loss. ”He has become exactly the kind of player we would all like to become,’‘ Zabaleta said. ”There were periods of time on the court when I lost my concentration, but that is the difference between Agassi and me – he never lost his. He is playing like he is in another world. I don’t think anyone can beat him here, even (Pete) Sampras.” Agassi said his senses might have been heightened from seeing Sampras struggle against qualifier W.Black, losing two sets before posting a five-set victory. ”It gets your blood norman_ao00going a little,” Agassi said. ”I didn’t want to see that upset because we’re going to be playing Zimbabwe in 10 days’ time (in the Davis Cup). But it just goes to show how strong the field is here.” If Agassi got anything out of his match, it was the knowledge that he could repel Zabaleta’s 130 mph serves on the souped-up court with the roof closed. It was important because Agassi will next face the fastest server in tennis, Mark Philippoussis. Kaflenikov in the round of 16, he meets Belgian qualifier Christophe Rochus, who beat Max Mirnyi of Belarus 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2). No. 4 Nicolas Kiefer beat Morocco’s Karim Alami 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 before the rain. No. 12 Magnus Norman took a 5:1* lead in the 3rd set and then waited out the rain before finishing a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(8) victory over fellow Swede Jonas Bjorkman. After a 4-hour rain delay, Bjorkman won five straight games and led 6:5, afterwards had a set point, but Norman saved it with a forehand passing-shot. Norman next plays Hewitt. France’s Arnaud Clement defeated Swiss player Roger Federer 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

Fourth round: Steve Wilstein

A week of upsets claimed 11 of the 16 seeded men in the Australian Open, but the top four are still playing. No. 4 Nicolas Kiefer of Germany beat South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 today to reach the quarterfinals, joining two best Americans who got there a day earlier. To nearly everyone’s wonderment, a third American joined the quarterfinal party – former No. 1.342 Chris Woodruff, who is infamous in tennis circles for… field-goal kicking. Fooling around with Richey Reneberg on a football field in Atlanta in December 1997, Woodruff wrecked his left knee when he fell awkwardly while kicking field goals. A month later, while Sampras was on his way to winning the Australian Open for the second time, Woodruff underwent arthroscopic surgery and began a year of rehab as his ranking plummeted from No. 30 to No. 1.342. It was a miserable period for Woodruff. A month before the knee injury, he underwent a double-hernia woodruff_ao00operation. He had been scuffling around the ATP Tour, without much success, since turning pro after winning the 1993 NCAA singles title at Tennessee. He had played in nine major tournaments and never gone past the third round. In fact, he lost in the first round five times. To say Woodruff’s future in tennis looked dim would be a major understatement. But Woodruff refused to give up , and he worked his way back into tennis shape. Last year, he reached the semifinals at Indian Wells, got to the third round at the French and U.S. Opens, and brought his year-end ranking up to a respectable No. 51 – by far the biggest jump of anyone on the tour. Now, he stands among the final eight players at the Australian Open. Nothing ever seems to be easy for Woodruff, and getting this far in the tournament wasn’t either. He had to overcome a swirling wind, 15 double-faults and some dark moments late in a 3-hour, 46-minute match Sunday to defeat 11th-seeded Tim Henman 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. “I always told myself that if I could make it to the second week of a Grand Slam that I would have to at least consider myself to have a long shot at it,” he said. “I just feel that anything is possible now.” When Woodruff played Sampras a few years ago, “he took care of me easily,” Woodruff said. “I know Chris well,” Sampras said. “He’s been on some Davis Cup teams as a practice partner. He has a good game and plays very well on these courts. I’ve practiced with him over the years and he has a good backhand and serves quite big. He is having a great time.” Against Henman, Woodruff led 4:2 in the final set after three consecutive games in which neither player could hold serve. But Henman then broke again with a backhand passing shot down the line. At 5:5, Woodruff had to save two break points at 15/40. He got back to deuce with a forehand crosscourt passing shot and a net attack that forced Henman into a backhand miss. Then he finished one of his best baseline rallies with an overhead and drew another forehand miss from Henman. Two volley errors by Henman and his 41st forehand miss of the day gave Woodruff match point. Woodruff pounded back a serve return and watched Henman volley into the net. Woodruff raised a fist in triumph and was almost apologetic later. With his history, no one could blame him for celebrating. Next up, however, is Pete Sampras, who is seeking a record 13th Grand Slam title. Sampras advanced to the quarterfinals with 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Slava Dosedel after Andre Agassi downed Mark Philippoussis 6-4, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal match against Morocco’s Hicham Arazi, a straight set victor over Nicolas Escude. It was Philippoussis who first found the chance for a breakthrough in the match. In the eighth game of the first set, his chip-and-charge earned him a breakpoint which he squandered with an ambitious forehand before losing serve in the very next game. In the 2nd set, once again Agassi proved how good a player he was in adversity as he came back from 0/40 on serve to hold to 2:2 and then reeled off six points in elaynaoui_ao00a row from 1:4 down in the tie-break. In frustration, Philippoussis banged his racquet on the court and smashed it. “I was thinking, ‘I am glad I was not his racquet,” Agassi would say later. After once swapping breaks, Philippoussis broke to 6:5 taking advantage of Agassi’s backhand errors and then served out the 3rd set. But when Agassi broke to 2:0 in the 4th, the match was as good as over. Younes El Aynaoui [29] won second consecutive 5-setter to reach his first major quarterfinal: after eliminating Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6(3), 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in 3 hours 14 minutes (only break for the Moroccan occurred in the final set!) he survived another thriller with 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 in 3 hours 29 minutes, rallying from a  1:3 deficit in the final set. El Aynaoui won one point fewer than Ferrero (161-162) and won one more than Clement (166-165). Yevgeny Kafelnikov dispatched Christophe Rochus 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 while Magnus Norman shocked the local fans beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(6).

Quarterfinals: Doug Smith

Australian bookmakers gave top-ranked Andre Agassi a slight edge against No. 3 Sampras in the Australian Open’s marquee men’s semifinal Thursday night. Morocco’s Hicham Arazi, who was beaten by Agassi 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, backs the bettors. ”I don’t know if Sampras can stop him,” Arazi said. ”He’s always putting so much pressure. He’s always putting the ball in. It’s really difficult.” Sampras leads the series 17-11 and beat Agassi in four of five meetings last year. Agassi, however, has been playing a notch above the field. Agassi has lost only one set – to Mark Philippoussis in the fourth round – in five matches. ”All his matches have been too short,” Sampras said. ”You turn it on and it’s just about over. He is playing about as well as you can play.” Still, Sampras usually finds a way to raise his level of play when he sees Agassi on the other side of the net. Agassi expects Sampras to be psyched and ready for their duel. ”Every time we’re playing, it’s at a stage of the tournament when he’s probably the least vulnerable,” Agassi said. ‘‘He’s just a difficult player to beat, period.” By the time Sampras finished his aerial performance in the quarterfinals Tuesday night – flying high for overheads, launching 135 mph serves, rocketing backhands down the lines – he left no doubt he is ready to take on Agassi. “I felt like I was playing one-on-one with Michael Jordan,” Chris Woodruff said after absorbing a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 pounding by Sampras. “He brought the A-game today. He came ready to play from the first ball. I didn’t have a chance.” Sampras had struggled to find his rhythm the first week and nearly crashed out in the third round when he lost the first two sets to Wayne Black. But, as he has so often in the past, kafelnikov_ao00Sampras raised his game match by match. “It took a week and a half, but it definitely came together tonight,” Sampras said. “It was my best match so far. As the match went on, my confidence grew and grew.” Of the 28 times Sampras and Agassi have played against each other in their pro careers, Sampras has won 17, including four of six in Grand Slam tournaments. Agassi believes his best performance against Sampras came in the 1995 Australian Open final, which Agassi won in four sets. Yevgeny Kafelnikov never faced a break point as he won his first set in 19 minutes in beating Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui 6-0, 6-3, 7-6(4). He next plays 12th-seeded Magnus Norman, who beat No. 4 Nicolas Kiefer 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(4) with help from double-faults by Kiefer on a break point in the 2nd set, the third set’s set point and match point – Kiefer’s seventh of the match (the German led 3:1 in the tie-break). On his way to his first Grand Slam semifinal, Norman saved five break points in the second set’s first game and held serve the rest of the way. The 23-year-old Swede reached match point with a low backhand serve return that Kiefer half-volleyed into the net. “That was a huge part of the game,” Norman said. “He had been controlling the points. From then on I played a great match.” Kafelnikov said, “I’m already overjoyed that I’m in the semifinal,” adding that he hoped he was wrong in earlier predicting that he would not keep his title. The matches of Kafelnikov and Norman were played under the roof.

Semifinals: Steve Wilstein

When Andre Agassi finished bowing and blowing kisses, and Pete Sampras moped away, 15,000 delirious, utterly drained fans at the Australian Open stared at each other as if sharing a secret treasure. They knew they had witnessed that rarest of matches when history and greatness agassi_ao00_sfconverge and two players push each other to the limit with the stakes high on a Grand Slam stage. Only Sampras could make the best returner in tennis look feeble in a tie-break shutout. Only Agassi could absorb 37 aces from Sampras and still find a way to win. Only the two of them could produce the most exquisite rallies, point after point for five sets over 3 hours, each taking turns hurling himself horizontally to hit balls that seemed impossibly out of reach. Together they put on a show for the film archives Thursday night, Agassi winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-1 to become the first man to reach four straight Grand Slam finals since Rod Laver swept them all in 1969. “His acing me wasn’t so much of a concern as getting the break points and not converting them. That can get discouraging.” said Agassi. Like all good dramas, this match on a cool, breezy night had everything, even laughter when a flock of seagulls suddenly filled the sky while Agassi was serving early in the third set. Agassi paused, then watched while they bombarded him and the court. “I don’t mind them flying over, it’s just when they decided to drop me a few presents,” said Agassi, who helped mop up the court with a towel. If a five-set match can be distilled to one point that changed everything, it came when Sampras began serving with Agassi leading 1:0 in the final set. Agassi had already saved the match in the fourth-set tiebreaker when Sampras stood two points from victory at 5:4*. Two service winners and a forehand pass on Sampras’ serve gave Agassi the set. Agassi pumped his fist as if delivering a knockout punch, and Sampras sagged in realization of the blown opportunity. Now, when he toed the line to serve in the final set, Sampras tried to ace Agassi up the middle. Instead, Agassi leapt and drilled a return to Sampras’ feet. Sampras hit a volley crosscourt that Agassi caught reflexively on a short hop. Sampras again tried to put it away with a forehand crosscourt, only to see Agassi dive after it and volley it back for a winner. Two amazing shots on one point by Agassi. The crowd cheering wildly. Sampras slumping, staring at his shoes. Everyone feeling that the definitive moment had come. Sampras, broken in spirit if not yet on the scoreboard, netted an easy approach shot on the next point. At 15/30, Sampras uncharacteristically shouted his annoyance at Agassi’s loudly cheering coach, Brad Gilbert, who sat next to Agassi’s girlfriend, Steffi Graf, at courtside. Photographers turned their cameras toward Gilbert, and Graf sank in her seat. Rattled or not by Gilbert, Sampras was sinking fast. A sharp forehand by Agassi led to a long volley by Sampras for 15/40, and a lunging forehand down the line by Agassi produced the only break he would need in the set. “That’s a huge momentum change because a few minutes ago the match was close to being over and all of a sudden there is a break in the fifth,” Agassi said. “A good position for me to be in and difficult for him.” “In the span of five minutes,” Sampras said, “the whole match changed. It was a downhill spiral for me from that point on. I got a little down on myself and he took advantage of it.” It was a stunning capitulation by Sampras, who had one of the best five-set records in history, 28-10 coming in – and had won all eight of his Australian Open five-setters. By the time Agassi broke again for a 5:1 lead, the victory was a foregone conclusion, and he finished out the match with the help of his 12th and 13th aces. “The best feeling is when somebody pushes you to your limit and you dig down a little extra,” Agassi said. “That can happen with any player. Somehow it seems to be asked of you more when you play Pete, like today.” A year ago, Yevgeny Kafelnikov thanked Sampras for not showing up. Now, he’s thanking Agassi for sending Sampras away. Whether Kafelnikov will be so pleased after the Australian Open final, is another matter. For the moment, Kafelnikov is thrilled to be defending his title against Agassi instead of Sampras. It’s more than a matter of numbers, although Kafelnikov’s four victories in nine matches against Agassi is more encouraging than his two in 12 against Sampras. Rather, the issue is one of attitude and style. When the Russian speaks of Sampras, his voice takes on reverential tones and he concedes to being overwhelmed by the prospect of Sampras’ power. When Kafelnikov discusses Agassi , he sounds kafelnikov_norman_ao00eager and optimistic, feeling he has nothing to fear. ”I like to play him,” Kafelnikov said after reaching the final with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Magnus Norman on Friday. ”I would have taken Andre in a heartbeat to play instead of Pete, just because our game matches up against each other. Neither of us can dominate the other. Pete can dominate. If his serve is working, you have no shot at beating him. But with Andre, at least you have a chance.” Despite losing his past three matches to Agassi, all on hard courts, Kafelnikov feels he can keep up with him in long rallies, hold his own on serves, and not be intimidated by Agassi’s serves as he is by Sampras’. ”I can play with him on the baseline all day,” Kafelnikov said, ”although he generates the pace very nicely. That’s why he dominates against other players, because they don’t know what they have to do to use his weakness. And I know how to do it.”

Final: (Sports Illustrated)

Better and better as time goes on, Andre Agassi claimed his second Australian Open and sixth Grand Slam title (45th overall at the time) Sunday in an artistic and bruising victory over Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Five of Agassi’s most exquisite, feathery drop shots and dozens of powerful groundstrokes sapped the strength and spirit from the defending champion in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 triumph. At 29, Agassi left no doubt that he rules men’s tennis. In less than a year, he has won the French, U.S. and Australian Opens and finished runner-up at Wimbledon. This time he put the exclamation point on his win with three aces at up to 123 mph in the last game. “It’s been crazy,” Agassi said of his run to the top the past year after sinking as low as No. 141 near the end of 1997. “It does take a lot out of you, but it also gives you a lot. This is what we play for. I was out there training on Christmas Eve. When you give yourself the best shot and you do it, that’s what makes all your hard work worth it. There’s no feeling like it. It feels to me like the same thing as winning the lottery for everyone else.” Agassi, the first player to reach four straight major finals since Rod Laver won the Grand Slam in 1969, pushed his career earnings to nearly $20 million with the $485,000 winner’s check. “I think he’s hitting his stride right now,” Agassi’s coach, Brad Gilbert, said. “Ultimately he wants to keep improving. There are a lot more titles for him to win. He has three or four more good years left in him.” [Actually had five, so quite good prediction by Gilbert] Agassi thanked Gilbert and his trainer, Gil Reyes, for telling him over and over that his best would be good enough all the time as long as he stayed in peak shape. And though Agassi didn’t mention girlfriend Steffi Graf, who sat between them in the stands, he saluted her as they exchanged smiles. This final proved, agassi_ao00_championas everyone thought, anticlimactic to Agassi’s brilliant and dramatic victory over Sampras in the semifinals. There were too many errors, too many mis-hits by both players this time, and little tension. Agassi’s path to this title was strewn with danger, from the brutal serves of Philippoussis and Sampras to the all-around game of Kafelnikov. “I had to earn it, but that makes it feel that much better,” Agassi said. Kafelnikov raced to a 4:0 lead in the opening set as Agassi struggled to find his range and inflict any damage on serve. But when Agassi broke back twice to make it 4:3, a sense of his ultimate triumph engulfed the match, even though he wound up losing the set. Agassi had gotten a bead on Kafelnikov’s serve, and it was just a matter of time before he started holding his own. “Yevgeny had to come out fast and he did,” Agassi said. “I felt there was much more of a chance for me to run away with the match than for him to. But it quickly turned into a physical match and I liked that.” Agassi’s time came quickly as he yielded only four points through his next four service games, then broke for a 5:3 lead with the help of two of the nine double-faults by Kafelnikov. [ Turning point of the match came a little bit earlier, at 3-all when they exchanged 16 strokes only with backhand crosses and Agassi won that rally after Kafelnikov’s error ]. Agassi then came up with two stunning drop shots from the baseline that caught a flatfooted Kafelnikov by surprise and closed out the second set with a 116 mph serve that Kafelnikov netted. “He’s a good mover and plays five meters behind the baseline and takes a good clean swipe at the ball,” Agassi said. “He’s only looking to come in one time during a point. I thought if I could get him to come in a bit, it would make my power game more effective.” Though the match was even on the scoreboard, there was little doubt in Agassi’s mind or in the thoughts of spectators that he was on his way to victory. He breezed to a 4:0 lead, again slipping in the occasional drop among powerful groundstrokes, and won the set with ease. “My legs started feeling heavy at the end of the third set,” Kafelnikov said. Agassi jumped to a 2:0 lead in the 4th set, he could add another break, but the Russian held at 2:4 after nine deuces (saved four break points). “I felt like somewhere in there, he got his second wind, but I felt like I had another gear to shift into,” Agassi said. Agassi’s victory was his fourth straight over Kafelnikov and similar to the comeback he mounted from a 1-6 first-set loss in the U.S. Open semifinals last September. Kafelnikov said before this match that he was surprised by Agassi’s resilience in the Open, the way he fought back from a set down. Kafelnikov promised he would have to adjust to that this time if in the same position, but Agassi never gave him a chance. “It’s amazing how he can recover from losing the first set and continue to raise his game,” Kafelnikov said. “That’s the aspect he improved the most.” Stats of the final

************************************

Australian Open, Melbourne
 January 15-28, 2001; 128 Draw (16 seeds); Surface – Hard

All scorelines
First round: (AP)

The tournament opened with mild, sunny weather and no upsets among the early matches. Defending champion Andre Agassi, seeded sixth, sailed through the first set in 19 minutes and went on to beat Jiri Vanek 6-0, 7-5, 6-3. “I felt like I stayed solid from start to finish,” Agassi said. “I’ve had so many good results here that it’s hard for me not be confident.” U.S. Open champion Marat Safin, showing no signs of the sore elbow that bothered him in a match last week, beat Galo Blanco 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) on fifth match point. Safin’s serve improved as the match progressed, and he fired aces at up to 131 mph. “The elbow for the moment is OK,” Safin said. “Hopefully I will serve like this the whole two weeks.” Yevgeny Kafelnikov extended his streak of success Down Under by beating Jens Knippschild 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 Tuesday in the first round of the Australian Open. A year before Kafelnikov won in the first round sets to 1, 4 & 2  (different order) to Knippschild, after losing a first set. Kafelnikov has a 20-3 record in Australia since 1998. He won the Australian Open title in 1999, lost last year’s final to Agassi and won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in September. On the second consecutive mild, sunny day of the tournament, the center court stands were less kuerten_ao01than half full for the first match. Kafelnikov broke serve six times, slammed 30 winners and even won 15 points at the net, where he ventures infrequently. Knippschild, a German who finished last year ranked 108th, complained several times about rulings by linesmen. “Every call you do is against me,” Knippschild told chair umpire Norm Chryst in the third set. The top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten, who finished 2000 as the year-end No. 1, overcame a thigh injury early on to out-duel fellow South American Gaston Gaudio of Argentina, 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5, in a match that lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours. Kuerten, the reigning French Open champion, received treatment on his left thigh late in the first set, but managed to play through his discomfort to gut out the win. The Brazilian fired 18 aces, but had to overcome a whopping 78 unforced errors and nine double faults. “I just felt a little bit tight at the start of the match. It wasn’t anything that got me worried,” said Kuerten, who has not advanced past the second round in four previous Australian Opens. “It’s always tough for me to play well here. so I knew it would be a difficult match, my first match this year. He played some good points and I had ups and downs for most of the match.” The Brazilian broke his racquet after losing his serve for a 3:5 deficit in the 4th set. In the 10th game Gaudio had two set points on return; the Argentinian suffered 11th defeat in a row! Kuerten, who never has advanced past the second round at an Australian Open, next plays big-serving Greg Rusedski, a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-2 winner over South African Marcos Ondruska. The Australian Open has been hard for him, Kuerten said, because it comes after a long layoff, and the far different time zone means “when I wake up, I want to sleep.” He also felt tightness in his leg after a “bad movement” but it improved as the match went on. Magnus Norman, who injured his hip before the tournament, rebounded for a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, 7-6(5) victory over 114th-ranked Stephane Huet of France (Huet led *4:1 in the 2nd set!), missing on three match points in the final tiebreaker before winning with a forehand. “It was a little bit of a nightmare at the beginning,” Norman said, as Huet played more aggressively than he had expected. Hometown favorite Lleyton Hewitt beat Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman 7-5, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 (3 hours, 42 minutes) in an epic first-round match at the Australian Open on Tuesday. The Adelaide teenager, ranked seventh in the world, overcame a thigh injury to fight his way back from two sets to one down saving three break points at 2:3 in the 4th set. “I was really hurting out there. sampras_kucera_ao01I came out there and gave it everything I had and thank God it was enough,” Hewitt said. “It really was a tough fight out there.” Pete Sampras faced 17 break points in his 3-hour, 17-minute match as he watched shot after shot zip past him while charging the net. He finally prevailed 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) over Karol Kucera, who beat him here in the 1998 quarterfinals. In the final-set tiebreaker, a double fault and half-volley miss by Kucera gave Sampras match point, and the No. 3 seed put away a sharply angled forehand volley. Only about 2,000 spectators remained in the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena. Sampras said it was the toughest first round he had faced in an Australian Open, and “it’s not easy on the body.” “I had to withstand a barrage of great returns, passing shots,” Sampras said. “The way he moves and passes on the run, it’s some of the best I’ve seen.” Kucera blamed a lack of match practice for his inability to seize his breakpoint chances “It was a pity it was the first round,” he said.

Second round: (New York Times)

rusedski_ao01Greg Rusedski saved a fifth-set match point with a big serve and knocked top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten out of the Australian Open in the second round Thursday. Rusedski won 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 in a 2-hour, 44-minute match that pitted his net rushing against Kuerten’s baseline sharpshooting. Kuerten, who rose to No. 1 late last year, still has not advanced past the second round at an Australian Open. He also has beaten the big-serving Rusedski only once in five tries. Serving at 5:6 in the final set, Rusedski double-faulted twice, giving Kuerten a match point at 30/40. He saved it with a good serve that Kuerten returned into the net, held for 6-all and broke the Brazilian in the next game with net-charging tactics that forced misses. Then Rusedski, a British star who put in 70 percent of first serves for the match, faltered again, giving Kuerten chances to pound in more of his favorite passing shots. Serving at 7-all, Kuerten moved to 40/0 but double-faulted and missed the next four points, ending with a lob just long off a drop volley by Rusedski. Leading 8:7, Rusedski made no mistake on his serve, holding at love. The crowd of 15,000 appeared largely on Rusedski’s side after an ace by Kuerten that Rusedski and many spectators thought was out helped Kuerten hold for 6:5 in the last set. The decision was roundly booed. ”I’m more surprised than anybody… to play such a fantastic match against the world No. 1,” Rusedski said. ”When was the last time you saw me scamper for five sets around the court? Physically, it was fantastic,” he added. Rusedski, who was set back by injuries last year, didn’t win a title for the first time since 1994, and ended the year at 64th. He had been as high as No. 4 in 1997. ”There were a lot of times I could have lost my cool out there,” he said. Kuerten said the match came down to one point – his match point. ”He is dangerous. I didn’t do the right thing that time,” the two-time French Open champion said. Second consecutive year he was ousted in Melbourne after squandering a match point. Yevgeny Kafelnikov was helped the most by a ball he slammed out of the court in disgust. His frustration vented, the 1999 champion and 2000 runner-up settled down, turned a losing match around and advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory Thursday over Nicolas Kiefer. hewitt_ao01Kafelnikov, the Olympic gold medalist, finished his three-hour match with three aces. Kiefer slid downhill after he thought he served an ace for 30-all in the fourth set’s eighth game (3:4). The umpire overruled the call, and Kiefer won only 10 points the rest of the match. Nothing helped Tommy Haas, who led in every set: blew a 5:0* lead in the 1st (two set points at 5:2), missed two set points in the 2nd at 6:5 earlier leading 3:0* (40/30) and 4:2 (40/0) in the 3rd with a chance for a double break (!), before losing to No. 7 seed Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-4 in 3 hours 3 minutes. In the tiebreaker, Haas, the Olympic silver medalist, missed an easy volley and double faulted on the next point, falling behind 5:3. Hewitt finished that bizarre match with a winning backhand lob. ”It’s stupid to let situations like this slip away,” Haas said. ”I definitely had my chances to get further here. I guess I will never know.” Hewitt, one of the home country’s hopes for its first Australian Open title since 1976, had to come from behind to beat Jonas Bjorkman in the first round. He next faces unseeded Carlos Moya, the 1997 runner-up and a former No. 1. Moya breezed past Marc Rosset 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. Canada’s Daniel Nestor, who has an Olympic gold medal in doubles, upset No. 11 Franco Squillari 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5. The Argentine player was the second men’s seed to fall in the first two rounds. No. 4 Magnus Norman, a semifinalist here and runner-up at the French Open last year, defeated France’s Fabrice Santoro 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-0. Marat Safin, the U.S. Open champion, won second consecutive match with a help of the 4th set tie-break as he overcame Andrei Pavel 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(5).  In the last eight years, Sampras and Agassi each have gone on twice from U.S. Open safin_ao01victories to Australian Open titles. Safin believes he can, too. “I have enough game, I have enough power – I have everything to win a Grand Slam tournament,” he said. Pete Sampras battled to victory against Bohdan Ulihrach in the Australian Open yesterday then admitted to feeling sore afterwards. Sampras beat the Czech, runner-up to Marcelo Rios in Qatar two weeks ago, 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5 in three hours to set up a third-round meeting with Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela. SamPe said: “Bohdan was playing some good tennis, so you have to give him credit. I didn’t feel like I was playing badly, but I felt sore after the match. It was good to pass the latest test – although physically, it is not necessarily a good thing to be pushed hard on these courts early in a Grand Slam. The hard courts here have been notoriously tough on my body in the past.” Sampras, the winner of a record 13 Grand Slam titles, has won seven Wimbledons, four US Opens and two Australian Open titles but never the clay-court French Open. Moreover, discounting Wimbledon, he has not won a Grand Slam title at the other three majors for four years – the last occasion being his 1997 Australian Open triumph. Sampras added: “Everyone knows that I am concentrating on the Grand Slams and making sure my body is in the best of shape for those events. I will play in about five or six of the Masters Series again this season, although I intend to play more on clay this year.” Andre Agassi, 9-2 favourite, joined Sampras in the last 32 with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory over fellow American Paul Goldstein in just 77 minutes. Qualifier Nikolay Davydenko, played first major match on Centre Court and left good impression – Patrick Rafter defeated him 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).

Third round: (Sports Illustrated)

Pete Sampras might not have much energy left for the tough opponents yet to come in the Australian Open. The two-time champion survived his third consecutive tough match Friday, outlasting unheralded Juan Ignacio Chela 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the fourth round. Sampras’ first three matches took more than three hours, and this one was even more arduous. “I’m definitely earning my paycheck this week,” he said. “There’s room for improvement, but I’m still in the tournament, and I’ve always had a belief I can get my game going at the right time.” Sampras struggled to hold serve and was slow-footed and sloppy at the net against Chela, an Argentine who sampras_ao01won one hardcourt match last year. In the fifth set, the sunny, warm weather briefly seemed to bother Sampras. After breaking serve for a 3:1 lead, he sat down in the shade in a lineswoman’s chair for several seconds and wiped his forehead. Then in the next game, he fired three aces in a row to hold serve at love. The third-seeded American closed out the win in 3:08 and improved to 29-12 in five-setters. “I felt pretty good in the fifth set,” he said. “Physically I feel I’m coming through these matches pretty well. I feel like I’m pretty fit here. Hopefully I can get through it.” No. 6 Andre Agassi followed Sampras on center court, and he won when David Prinosil retired because of heat exhaustion after just 68 minutes. Agassi, who overcame a 6:2 deficit (saved six set points in total) in the first set tiebreaker, led 7-6(11), 5-0 when Prinosil quit. “I hate to see a match end like that… you don’t want to see anyone in physical danger,” Agassi said. “But he’s OK and I’m onto the next round, so it’s all good.” Sampras’ next opponent will be fellow American Todd Martin, who upset No. 13 Cedric Pioline 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. No. 2 Marat Safin had his easiest match so far, beating Michal Tabara 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. No. 12 Patrick Rafter swept Michel Kratochvil 6-4, 6-1, 7-5. No. 14 Dominik Hrbaty defeated Christophe Rochus 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Tabara was the only Czech to make it through two rounds, knocking off Italy’s Andrea Gaudenzi and Argentina’s Guillermo Canas before world No. 2 Marat Safin of Russia bounced him out with ease in the third round. “I’m very, very satisfied with what I’ve accomplished over the last three weeks,” Tabara told The Prague Post. “My recent results proved that I’m on the way up, and I believe that I’ll climb higher and higher.” His January showing was all the more impressive since Tabara [69] won only two of his eight ATP matches last year. But Tabara and his coach, Dan Trcka, were determined to make 2001 special. “Basically, the goal was to win at least three matches on the tour, plus to win an ATP tournament this year,” Tabara said in Melbourne. “I’m surprised that fulfilling all of this became a matter of only three weeks.” Although Tabara’s resolution might have looked unrealistic, he has been heralded as a bright light. He began playing at age 3 and broke through as a 17-year-old junior when he advanced to the French Open youth singles semifinals. That gave him the No. 2 world spot among juniors. “The French Open [in 1996] was a turning point in my career,” Tabara said. “I then realized that I could compete against virtually anyone.” The 21-year-old Tabara seemed like a new big thing having won a title (Chennai) and reaching third round in Melbourne, but 2001 was his only year finished in the Top 100… For nearly four hours, moya_ao01Lleyton Hewitt was a fist-pumping, chest-thumping, racket-abusing firebrand, while Carlos Moya waited until the final point to unleash his emotions. When Moya closed out a five-set thriller at the Australian Open with a lunging forehand volley, he shook his fists and kneeled to the court screaming, then ripped off his wristband and headband and joyfully slammed them to the ground. The win was worth such a celebration. Moya prevailed 4-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in the final match of the third round. It took 3 hours, 48 minutes, ending at 1:16 a.m. Sunday, and even at that hour there were few empty seats at center court. The partisan crowd, though disappointed by the elimination of Australia’s best hope for a title, lustily applauded both players as Hewitt walked to Moya’s side of the net to shake hands. Moya  hit the line with his forehand trailing *4:5 (15/30) in the 5th set. “It was a great match to watch,” Moya said. “I’m sorry for the Australian fans that it was my turn to win. I never gave up, I kept fighting, and at the end I got paid off. It’s unbelievable the feeling of being the winner.” The elimination of the seventh-seeded Hewitt left 10 seeded men in the round of 16.  “I don’t have any problem with Lleyton,” Moya said. norman_ao01“I respect him. We’re just different, and he’s used to showing his feelings.” In the final two sets, Hewitt threw his racket a half-dozen times, once drawing a warning for racket abuse when he flung it against a sideboard. Toward the finish, he directed his emotions at chair umpire Rudi Berger, who overruled a line call that would have given Hewitt a 5:4 lead in the final set. Hewitt argued in vain, and when the point was replayed, he lost it, then needed four more points to win the game. Other men advancing Saturday included No. 4 Magnus Norman and No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Norman beat Alex Calatrava 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, and Kafelnikov rallied past American Chris Woodruff 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. Norman came back from a 0:4 deficit in the 3rd set thanks to Calatrava’s physical problems. Norman’s second set won at Aussie Open ’01 from a  double break disadvantage. Aranud Clement second year running ousted Roger Federer in the Australian Open third round in straight sets, this time 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 (a year before 6-1, 6-4, 6-3). 

Fourth round: John Parsons

Arnaud Clement shattered Greg Rusedski‘s hopes of reaching the Australian Open quarter-final with a straight sets victory over the British number two. Rusedski, who lost to Clement in the Olympics last September, was the last British hope in the men’s singles after Henman crashed out of the tournament on Sunday. The inspired Clement has yet to drop a set in the championship and eventually won 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to book his place in the quarter-finals. Rusedski failed to discover the rich vein of form which he had showed on his way to the fourth round. He was broken in the fourth game of the first set and, after losing that , went 0:4 down in the second. The world number 15, a quarter-finalist in the US Open last year, had no trouble holding serve to take the set, but when Rusedski broke for 3:1 in the 3rd he sensed a chance to make a comeback. “He played as well as I have ever seen him play.” said Rusedski. Sebastien Grosjean paid tribute to fourth seed Magnus Norman on Monday after the Swedish player ignored a let call on match point to allow the Frenchman to go into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Grosjean, the 16th grosjean_morrisey_norman_ao01seed, sent down what appeared to be an ace on his third match point against Norman. But as he celebrated and Norman walked towards the net to shake hands, chair umpire Mike Morrisey strode on to court to inform the players that the ball had clipped the top of the net. It should have given Norman a reprieve, and forced Grosjean to take his first serve again, but the world number four rejected the opportunity and insisted the match was over – handing Grosjean a 7-6(7), 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 victory. He shook Grosjean’s hand to let the 22-year-old Frenchman know he could enjoy his achievement of reaching the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. Grosjean said: “The net machine was on but Magnus told me that he had not heard any noise. I did not hear anything either. He told the umpire and then said ‘the match is over’. That has never happened to me, certainly not on match point. I don’t know why he did it – but Magnus is a nice guy. He is a competitive player but he is very fair.” Norman wasted five set points in the 1st set, he led 4:3 in the 4th. Tim Henman was left regretting another wasted opportunity after he was whipped 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 by Patrick Rafter at the Australian Open on Sunday. Henman missed two early break points on Rafter’s serve then twice dropped his own service to concede the 1st set in 41 minutes when he pushed a simple volley wide. Rafter took the 2nd set in 42 minutes with a single break as Henman’s game began to unravel under pressure. The 26-year-old twice let balls go by that fell inside the baseline then lost his service with two double-faults. Rafter, 28, sealed a straight sets win with another two breaks in the rafter_henman_ao013rd. He got the first when he hit a backhand winner cross-court off Henman’s serve then broke again when Henman double-faulted on match-point. “He certainly stamped his authority on the match and it was an uphill battle pretty much from the start,” Henman said. “But there’s probably a lot of good lessons to be learned from this. You’ve got to try and have the belief in your game and let it take its course.” 14th seed Dominik Hrbaty, from Slovakia, was consistency personified as he beat the erratic Marat Safin 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-4. Safin led *6:5 (40/15) in the 2nd set, blew another set point on return in the tie-break. It is four years since Pete Sampras won a Grand Slam title outside Wimbledon, and the frequency with which he lost his serve here (17 in three matches) was a factor in his 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 defeat by fellow American Todd Martin, against whom he had a 17-2 record (Martin broke for 5:3, 2:1 & 3:2 respectively; they exchanged a break of serve in the 1st set). Sampras established a record for the most tie-breaks won in a row – 16 – it’ll be overcome by Andy Roddick six years later. The crowd relished the entertainment in Andre Agassi‘s 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 defeat of Andrew Ilie more than the defending champion’s match, because they had the best of both worlds. For a set and a half they sat back and roared their approval as Ilie drove, sliced and hammered winners past Agassi from all corner of the court. Then they admired Agassi’s brilliance. When asked why Ilie, who had been broken in the 9th game of the opening set, not only broke straight back but them romped through the tie-break 7/1, Agassi replied honestly: “He played some spectacular tennis. I have to say it’s much more enjoyable watching him than playing against him. Sometimes you feel you’re just watching when you’re out there playing against him because he hits some shots that you can’t believe a person can attempt, let alone make.”

Quarterfinals: (AP)

The red shirt came off after a set, followed by the yellow later on and finally the pink one. The pink shirt went flying into the crowd at Rod Laver Arena. Excited female supporters chased after his shirt as if they were fighting for the bouquet at a wedding. Arnaud Clement [18] likes to travel light, and Wednesday he did it with French panache, stripping off his shirt, his headband, his shoes and his clement_ao01socks and throwing them into the stands after his  3 hour-11-minute 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-6(3) quarterfinal victory against fifth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia at the Australian Open. For the record, Clement’s strip stopped after the socks. It turned out the 15th-seeded Clement staged the display because of a side bet with his former coach, although the details of that transaction were not disclosed. Regardless, with all the revealing outfits on the women’s side and shirt-stripping on the men’s, this is turning into the Beach Volleyball Australian Open. There’s no telling what Clement will do when he plays his friend, doubles partner and countryman, 16th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean, in the semifinals Friday. They have ensured there will be a Frenchman in the final of this event for the first time since 1928, when Jean Borotra won it. “I can’t believe it, can’t believe this match today,” Clement said of the victory. “I think it is a miracle.” Grosjean, who defeated Carlos Moya of Spain earlier (6-1, 6-4, 6-2), cheered for Clement against Kafelnikov. Clement was a crowd favorite for several reasons – but primarily, he has charisma and he’s not Kafelnikov. This will be the first time in three years Kafelnikov won’t be in the final at the Australian Open. He won the title two years ago and lost to Agassi in the final in 2000, and lost any visible crowd support in Melbourne after contending that the players aren’t making enough money on the tour. He had 79 unforced errors and missed a key overhead on the first point of the third-set tiebreaker and another one on match point. In the 4th set Clement fought off three set points at 3:5. Defending champion Andre Agassi raced past fellow American Todd Martin 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday to be the first man through to the semifinals of the Australian Open. Sixth seed Agassi sealed the quarterfinal victory on his second match point when he ended a stirring rally with a running backhand lob. It was his 13th win in 18 matches with Martin, who upset third seed and former world number one Pete Sampras in the fourth round. Agassi always had Martin struggling with his fearsome return of serve and big groundstrokes, making Martin work hard for any points. Martin did manage to break Agassi for a 4:3 lead in the final set but immediately surrendered the advantage and Agassi quickly sped to victory. Home favourite Patrick Rafter put on an exciting display on a hot and humid night in Melbourne to overcome 14th seed Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-0. The players might have been close in rankings for this tournament, but no-one imagined the resilient Slovakian would put up such a hard fight for a place in the semi-finals. The intensity of this nail-biting clash was only periodically interrupted by ball-boys picking wandering bugs, attracted by the heat and lights of this big event, off the court. Hrbaty, achieving his highest ever position in the tournament, showed experience rafter_ao01beyond his years, coming back from a disastrous start to give the 12th seed a nasty fright. The 22-year-old clinched the 2nd set and had a three-game lead in the third, but Rafter produced a dramatic turnaround, winning 12 of the last 13 games to go through to the last four. “I got a little bit frustrated. I had a chance at 6:5 (in the second set),” said Rafter. “He got momentum going again, but I knew that if I could hang in and break him my serve would hold up.” Hrbaty was in the driving seat, breaking the Australian to take a 4:1 lead in the 3rd set. However, the 28-year-old was down, but not out and rallied back to 5-all. Rafter, egged on a euphoric crowd, then took the set, for a vital confidence boost. By the 4rth set the 28-year-old was back in control and though Hrbaty was fighting hard, he was clearly a dwindling package, allowing Rafter to clinch victory with a devastating 6-0 scoreline in the last set, making just 24% first serve-in within three service games.

Semifinals: (AP)

Andre Agassi pounded shots that made Patrick Rafter lunge, dive, scamper and jump. It was all too much. With cramps destroying Rafter’s acrobatic serve-and-volley attack, Agassi, the defending champion, rallied for a 7-5, 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 victory last night that put him in the Australian agassi_rafter_ao01Open final. It will be his fifth in the last eight Grand Slam tournaments. Beside last year’s Australian, he also won the 1999 French and U.S. Opens and was runner-up at Wimbledon. “It’s tough when you want to chase it down but your legs just seize up,” said Rafter, a two-time U.S. Open champion who suffered a similar fate in Australia’s 3-1 loss to Spain in last month’s Davis Cup finals. “He really wore me down,” said Rafter, the first Australian since 1996 to reach the semifinals of his home country’s Grand Slam tournament. Rafter kept attacking to the end of the 3-hour, 7-minute match. “You never know what might happen out there, and you’ve got to try,” he said. “I wasn’t going to walk off possibly playing my last match of the Australian Open with an injury.” Agassi lost to Rafter in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals, said the 28-year-old Rafter should stick around. Agassi won the first set thanks to an 11th-game break, when Rafter double-faulted and volleyed long. Rafter took control of the 2nd by breaking in the fourth game with help from two drop shots and a double fault by Agassi. In the 3rd, both sides played their contrasting styles to perfection, and a missed backhand by Agassi in the tiebreaker decided the set. Rafter already was feeling the onset of cramps, however, and by late in the 4th set had slowed noticeably. He called for the trainer to massage his legs before the final set. Agassi never was in trouble after breaking Rafter for 3:1 in the fourth set with a backhand return down the line. He broke again for 3:1 in the final set and served out, reaching match point with a backhand pass and finishing when Rafter floated a backhand just long. Agassi called winning the first set “quite significant, because once Pat sees the light at the end of the tunnel, he becomes very, very effective.Arnaud Clement staged the best recovery of his life in the biggest match of his life today to reach the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne. On the very brink of defeat against fellow Frenchman and doubles partner Sebastien Grosjean in the third set, Clement saved two match points and came back to win a dramatic four-hour battle 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-2. Yet he needed five match points of his own in that final game before clinching a remarkable victory over his close friend. The 15th seed, never beyond the quarter-finals in a Grand Slam before, will start as a huge underdog when he faces defending champion Agassi on Sunday. But it is worth remembering that only four months ago he knocked Agassi out of the US Open. And the American was the holder then as well. At 4 hours and 8 minutes it had been clement_ao01_the longest match of this Australian Open and for the 22-year-old Grosjean it was a traumatic defeat. He appeared to have victory in the bag, but his nerve seemed to get worse the nearer the winning line came into view. His first match point was at 5:3 in the 3rd (earlier he had a triple mini-match point at 4:2) and even when that went begging, he still had his service game to come. He got to 40/30 in it and all seemed well, but Clement came to the net, hit a volley winner – and never looked back. Clement won the tie-break 7/4, made the decisive 4th set break in the 11th game – after serving to save the match again at 4:5 (15/30) – and knew then it was Grosjean who was on the ropes. Clement showed no mercy as he built a 5:1 lead, but getting to the line himself needed all his nerve. One of the four match points he lost was a double fault, but it was all over when Grosjean netted a forehand. When Clement broke at the start of the fourth, the momentum had changed completely. From dominating the first two sets, Grosjean seemed a beaten man and eventually, after one last defiant try to turn the match around again, he was. The last Frenchman to appear in any Grand Slam final was Cedric Pioline, who lost to Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 1997.

Final: Phil Brown

Crushed by Andre Agassi‘s pinpoint heavy hitting, Arnaud Clement wanted to know whether it was a normal effort or something special by his opponent in the Australian Open final. So he asked Agassi as they waited for the trophy presentation. “He seemed pretty surprised at the question,” the French speedster recounted. “Then he said, ‘Oh, it was pretty good.'” Agassi appeared to be in agassi_ao01his comfort zone through most of the 1-hour, 46-minute match, running the No. 15 seed from side to side in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory. It was Agassi’s fourth title in his last eight Grand Slam tournaments, and came at an age – 30 – when many players have retired or, like his semifinal victim, 28-year-old Patrick Rafter, are seriously considering it. Agassi has won three Australian Opens, including the last two, and seven Grand Slam tournament titles in all. “This must look a lot easier than it feels,” said Agassi, who played in the tennis equivalent of the minor leagues and put in strenuous physical training to work back up from a ranking of 141st in 1997. He rates Clement as probably the fastest player on the tour, adding, “He can really hurt you with his speed. There’s a whole different rhythm to the match. I had to answer his weapons and establish mine. I felt like I did that pretty effectively,” Agassi continued, “I think if I really play my cards right, this can be the start of an incredible year.” Last year, the Australian Open was the only tournament Agassi won. Back, hamstring and hip injuries set him back, and Clement accounted for Agassi’s second-round exit at the U.S. Open, beating the defending champion 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. “Today his game was two or three levels higher,” said Clement, whose best previous Grand Slam performance was reaching the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. “For me, it was impossible to beat him today.” Clement, 23, the first Frenchman to reach the final in Australia since Jean Borotra won in 1928, had to fight off two match points in the third set to win a five-set semifinal Friday against friend and doubles partner Sebastien Grosjean. But he said he wasn’t tired, and cited the beginning of the third set as evidence of his energy. In the 11-minute, 16-point first game of that set, he saved four break points before losing his serve. In the fourth game, he forced Agassi to struggle through 10 minutes, 18 points, four break points and six deuces to hold for a 3:1 lead. Agassi won 10 straight points in closing out the first set and taking a 2:0 lead in the second. He finished the second set by serving a love game with three aces. “You never know when the last time agassi_clement_ao01you’re going to be here is,” Agassi said during the trophy ceremony. “It never ceases to be overwhelming. All the work and all the training that goes into putting yourself in this position is difficult and hard, but it’s worth it.” By winning his seventh Grand Slam tournament, Agassi moved ahead of Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. Others with seven major titles include John Newcombe, John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. Pete Sampras, who heads the list with 13, lost to fellow American Todd Martin in the round of 16. Agassi then beat Martin in four sets and two-time U.S. Open champion Rafter in five on his way to the final. After receiving his runner-up plate, Clement shuffled two pieces of paper to laughter from the crowd and said he had to read his speech because of his difficulties with English. “To compete in a Grand Slam final is something that seems unreal to me,” Clement said. He then paused, choking back tears. “I would like to congratulate Andre for his tournament and his fantastic career.” Asked later if he had prepared two speeches, he said, “Just one. I just have to change a few words if I win.” Stats of the final

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