Agassi promises explosive match

Andre Agassi turns on the the style in his four-set victory over David Wheaton Photograph: Reuter
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The Independent Online
Tennis

Andre Agassi and Thomas Muster are ready to bring the United States Open alive with a quarter-final match between two of the game's hardest hitters.

"It's going to be big tennis," the sixth-seeded Agassi said of his meeting with the third-seeded Austrian. "Big tennis is when you get two guys trying to establish their will out there on the court."

"We both are going to be beating the ball pretty good from the baseline. You'll hear explosions off the racket four, five, six times a point. That's big tennis."

Neither player needed to raise the decibel level of his game on Monday. Muster prevailed over the 13th-seeded Swede, Thomas Enqvist, 7-6 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, despite being weakened by the effects of a stomach upset. There were no such concerns for Agassi after his 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over his American compatriot David Wheaton.

Regardless of Muster's health, Agassi is expecting the gritty left-hander to give his usual all-out effort. "I think he punches the clock every time he steps on the court," Agassi said of the 1995 French Open champion. "Every time he gets out there, he busts his ass to win. I don't expect him to do anything less."

The match has added spice because there is no love lost betwen between the two players who have split their eight previous encounters.

Muster was one of the most vocal critics of the Open's decision to elevate Agassi two places in the seedings from his ATP ranking and drop the Austrian one spot.

Earlier in the year, Agassi questioned Muster's legitimacy as the world No 1 since he had won only on clay, but the American said he did not see the upcoming confrontation between the two former Grand Slam champions in personal terms.

"I think if anyone makes this more than a tennis match, it's their own issue," said Agassi, winner of the 1994 Open as well as the 1995 Australian Open and 1992 Wimbledon.

"Come on, we're in the quarter-finals of the US Open. We both have won big events before. We both want to do it again. That's what we're both going out there and trying to do. To make it anything more than that is a waste of time."

Goran Ivanisevic also made it through to the last eight yesterday. The left-handed Croatian served out 20 aces in his 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 victory over the unseeded Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine.

In another fourth-round match, Spain's Alex Corretja defeated Guy Forget of France 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. The victory earned the unseeded Corretja a match with either the defending champion, Pete Sampras, or the hard-serving Australian Mark Philippoussis. Michael Chang, the No 2 seed, took his place in the with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Switzerland's Jakob Hlasek.

The 24-year-old Chang's next hurdle is 28-year-old Javier Sanchez of Spain, ranked 67 and with a 1996 record of 23-27. He has not played Sanchez in four years, but won all three of their early encounters.

Chang, who improved his match record to 20-2 since Wimbledon, is on course to reach the semi-finals without having to face a seeded opponent.

The seemingly indefatigable 1989 French Open champion said too many tough tests can wear you out. "I think Pete Sampras is a good example of that at the French Open this year. He had so many tough five-set matches going into semis he was very tired." Chang said of the world No 1, who had three five-setters before losing to Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the eventual champion from Russia.

Sanchez, who surprised 20th-ranked Frenchman Arnaud Boetsch 6-4 7-6 7-6, had lost in the first round of eight of his previous nine Grand Slams.

As if it were not surprising enough to find Sanchez in the second week at a major, there is not a bookmaker on the planet who would have predicted he would last longer than his famous sister, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. But that was what happened.

The third-seeded Sanchez Vicario, who won here in 1994, got a look at the future of women's tennis as she fell to 16th-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

In the quarter-finals, the 15-year-old Hingis will face the seventh-seeded Czech, Jana Novotna, who thrashed the 17th seed, Karina Habsudova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-0 in just 50 minutes.

Steffi Graf, the top seed and defending champion, was not about to give way to the youth movement, however. The German world No 1 ended the exciting run of 15-year-old Russian newcomer Anna Kournikova 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals for the 12th consecutive year.

"It's important to have these new faces come up," the four-time champion said of Hingis and Kournikova. "It's good to know the future of women's tennis is going to show up."

Graf continues her quest for a 21st Grand Slam singles title with a quarter- final against Austrian Judith Wiesner, a 6-3, 6-0 winner over Italy's Rita Grande.

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