Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Agassi to meet Ferreira in semis



The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Andre Agassi now gets to pick on someone his own age.

After easily dismissing a string of younger opponents to reach the Australian Open semifinals. the 32-year-old Agassi will meet 31-year-old Wayne Ferreira, the only unseeded quarterfinalist, who upset French Open runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero on Wednesday 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-1.

Rainer Schuettler, seeded 31st, also reached the semifinals Thursday with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian.

"It's like a dream come true. First time I'm in the semis," said Schuettler, who is in his 18th Grand Slam tournament. "I won it in four, it's unbelievable."

Nalbandian, seeded 10th, fell apart after the second set, missing frequently as he tried to get the ball past the speedy German.

Schuettler gained a free pass into the fourth round when 2002 Australian Open runner-up Marat Safin withdrew with a wrist injury, and then beat James Blake to reach his first ever quarterfinal at a major tournament.

Agassi won the title here in 1995, 2000 and 2001, then skipped last year's tournament with an injury.

Playing a string of opponents 27 and younger, 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 Ferreira, who called Wednesday's victory "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, 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.

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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