Sunday, August 15, 1999

Agassi's end familiar


Loses 3rd in a row to Sampras

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

agassi
Andre Agassi reacts to a missed shot.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — The Andre Agassi comeback trail appears to have only one roadblock: Pete Sampras.

        Though Agassi improved his ranking from a low of No.141 in November 1997 to the top spot last month, Sampras has had his number since. Since mid-May, Agassi is 23-1 against the rest of the world and 0-3 vs. Sampras.

        Sampras is now No.1 and has knocked Agassi out of three of the past four tournaments, including a 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 beating Saturday in a Great American Insurance ATP semifinal. Sampras has swept all seven sets in that span.

        Agassi tried to keep a post-match poker face but couldn't conceal some frustration. When Sampras plays well, Agassi said, he's pretty powerless to stop him.

        “If we're on a fast court and it's playing quick, I have to play well and get lucky,” Agassi said. “There's not much else I can do.”

        Sampras leads their series 16-10. Three losses to Sampras in six weeks is making Agassi's a bummer summer, knocking him down to the No.3 ranking, though he said he won't be intimidated if he meets Sampras next month in the U.S. Open.

        “While it's not ideal to lose to him going into the Open, it is always different every week, every court,” Agassi said. “If I could have only one (victory), I would take it at the Open. That's how I choose to look at it.”

        Sampras beat Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in the Wimbledon finals July 4, a match Agassi said was the best Sampras ever played against him. Their meeting two weeks ago in the Los Angeles final was much closer: 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-1).

        After the first set Saturday, Sampras had claimed three consecutive tiebreaker sets on Agassi. After Sampras broke him at love to open the next set, Agassi grew impatient and quickly fell behind 4-0.

        “I got down, and then my game dropped off a lot,” Agassi said. “It kind of takes the wind out of you a little bit to get down a break early in the second against Pete. A set and two breaks, it is just mere formality finishing the match.”

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