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Tennis: Agassi beats Becker to title

ANDRE AGASSI beat Boris Becker 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the Hong Kong Open final yesterday to win his first ATP tournament of the year.

When rain halted play on Sunday night in Hong Kong the third seeded Agassi was a service break up and leading 2-0 in the decisive third set. He needed just 36 minutes to complete his victory.

"I'm really pleased," said Agassi, who entered the tournament on a wild card. "We both played really well today. The thing about Boris is that you can't let your guard down at any time."

His victory brought to an end a turbulent week, during which he and his actress-wife Brooke Shields ended their two-year marriage with a mutual divorce agreement.

It was the first time Agassi and Becker had met in four years since their four-set struggle in the semi-finals of the 1995 US Open when Agassi won 3-1. The German, who said he will retire from professional tennis later this year, was attempting to win the 50th title of his career.

Agassi broke Becker in the fifth game and then held his subsequent serve to take a 5-1 lead, but the three-times Wimbledon champion refused to give up. Becker held his serve in the seventh game and broke Agassi, serving for the match, at 0-40 in the eighth to trail 5-3 and conjure up the possibility of a sensational comeback.

Becker saved two championship points in the ninth before holding his service by relying on his 10th and 11th aces of the morning.

With his old rival showing signs of a recovery, Agassi dug deep in the 10th game. He sped to a 40-30 lead but Becker grimly hung on, taking the game to deuce. The 32-year-old German saved one more championship point, but Agassi converted his fourth match point to win his first Asian title.

"He beat me today. I didn't lose the match. I gave everything I had," Becker said.

Results, Digest, page 25