Sunday, February 16, 2003

Agassi, Sanguinetti meet in finals

The Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Despite all of his accomplishments, Andre Agassi still feels he has to prove himself every time he's on the court. Mission accomplished - again.

Agassi won his 11th straight match of the year Saturday night, beating James Blake, 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals of the Siebel Open.

"I go out with a sense of urgency and need to prove I'm the better player each time out," he said. "It's impossible to get tired of hitting good shots out there."

Agassi will meet Italy's Davide Sanguinetti in Sunday's final. Sanguinetti advanced to the final with a 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 victory over American Justin Gimelstob.

The top-seeded Agassi was nearly surgical in his serve and volley attack against the third-seeded Blake, nine years his younger.

Agassi, ranked No. 2, had more winners (22) than errors (18) and got his first serve in 55 percent of the time.

"I had a healthy respect for how big he can hit from the last time we played," Agassi said. "I knew I had to hit my shots with more conviction to start the match."

Blake, who beat Agassi in a semifinal in Washington last summer, had 24 unforced errors to just 14 winners and was at 46 percent on his first serve.

"He played like the best player in the world and I was trying to go for too much," said Blake, ranked No. 24. "He frustrates you because he makes you run around so much."

Blake did save one match point in the second set and raised his hands over his head in celebration.

"It feels like if you don't play a perfect point you're going to lose it," Blake said. "He sure looks like he's in his prime right now."

Agassi, who won his eighth career Grand Slam at the Australian Open earlier this season, will be going for a record fifth title - in his eighth final - at this event and 56th overall.

"It almost wouldn't feel right to me not playing in the finals," Agassi said. "It's become quite a stepping stone for my year at this tournament."

Agassi, 43-6 lifetime in the Bay Area, has won 29 of 31 sets this year.

Sunday's feature will mark the first time two players 30 years or older will meet in the final of this event since 1971 when Rod Laver beat Ken Rosewall.

Sanguinetti is seeking his third career ATP title, and reached his sixth final overall. He broke Gimelstob's serve twice in the third set, effectively using a serve and volley.

"Everybody knows Agassi is the best athlete," Sanguinetti said. "He's the best player at the moment and at the peak of his career. I'm 0-3 against him so I have to do something different."

Gimelstob played in his first semifinal match since August 2000 in Los Angeles.

"He played a little too good at big points," said Gimelstob, ranked 98th.

Sanguinetti and Gimelstob were both All-Americans at UCLA a few years apart in the 90s.

Sanguinetti is attempting to become the first Italian to win this event since Renzo Furlan in 1994.

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