Agassi makes a miracle recovery

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The Independent Online

Andre Agassi won a dramatic five-set quarter-final against Jim Courier in the Australian Open yesterday to regain the world No 1 ranking from Pete Sampras.

For the first time in a major tournament, Agassi clawed his way back from two sets down. He said: "In men's tennis, when you're two sets and a break down, it's time for a miracle."

The miracle he needed came with the immediate break of his old rival's serve after Courier had broken in the first game of the third set. Agassi, who at his best can demoralise any opponent with his returns of serve, suddenly raised his game and never looked in serious jeopardy for the remainder of the match.

He broke Courier a further four times to win 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in three hours 18 minutes of ferocious tennis and set up a semi-final against Michael Chang. Courier had won their six previous meetings and Agassi said: "It was nice to get over that hurdle."

Agassi was joined in the last four by the unseeded Australian Mark Woodforde - a surprise winner over the seventh seed Thomas Enqvist - and Boris Becker, who thrashed Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Woodforde's 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Enqvist was built around his near- flawless serving and play at the net, forcing his more powerful opponent on to the back foot. Woodforde is the first Australian to play in a semi- final at Flinders Park since Pat Cash in 1988, and he was cheered to victory by a fiercely partisan crowd.

Woodforde, ranked 67 in the world, collapsed on his back in disbelief as he reached a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time at the 38th attempt. "It is quite incredible - I don't have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how I feel about it," he said. "It's such a sweet feeling."

Kafelnikov's prediction that he could win his first Grand Slam title was made to look rather foolish by Becker, who was in irresistible form during his 6-4, 7-6, 6-1 victory.

Becker overwhelmed Kafelnikov with booming serves and a barrage of sharp volleys. Kafelnikov could only watch in awe and he conceded: "That's what makes the difference between a great player and a good player. There is no question Boris is a great player."

Results, Sporting Digest, page 23