Tennis: Agassi dominates Martin in thriller

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The Independent Online
ANDRE AGASSI booked his place in the final of the Legg Mason Classic by beating fellow American Todd Martin 6-4, 6-2, on Saturday night, guaranteeing him a showdown with Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who beat Nicolas Kiefer to win his semi-final 6-2, 2-6, 6- 3.

Agassi and Martin staged a battle worthy of a Grand Slam final, fighting from the baseline and mixing robust rallies with devastating serving that earned them 12 aces apiece.

Agassi placed Martin under pressure from the beginning, holding five break points in the opening game. But, Martin led 2-1 and forced Agassi to save three break points, and it was not until the ninth game that Agassi got the vital breakthrough as Martin netted a forehand volley.

In the second set, Agassi managed to put the match out of Martin's reach.

"I served well and I returned well, and that's a rough combination," said Agassi, who has now saved all of the nine break points that he faced at the tournament. "I felt like I was making him play a lot on his serve, and I was getting early leads in my service games. That's important, because Todd thrives when you get a little tentative."

Kafelnikov, was the steadier player against Kiefer, which enabled him to counteract the German's 16 aces. In the final set, Kiefer crashed down four aces in a row to win the sixth game without Kafelnikov getting near the ball.

At 5-2 Kiefer held off a match point, but Kafelnikov then served out to love for a place in the final.

"I didn't have the easy ride that I would like to have, but I'm just happy to be through and hope I can collect my third title of the year," said the No 1 seed.

In the du Maurier Open, in Toronto, Monica Seles defeated Anne-Gaelle Sidot of France 6-3, 6-4, on Saturday, to set up a clash with the top- seed Martina Hingis of Switzerland, in the final, in an attempt to win her fifth consecutive title.

Hingis beat Mary Pierce of France, 7-6, 6-3, in a thrilling semi-final match. Pierce started well getting the early break for 4-2, but Hingis broke straight back, and a tie-break ensued.

"In today's match, I was happy to get it done," Hingis said. "You just have to put her on the run but it's not so easy. She hits the ball so good and hard. You have to make her move and take your chances."

The players appeared to have fun, laughing and hamming it up for the full house at the National Tennis Centre, most of whom supported the Canadian- born Pierce.

"You don't usually see her having so much fun," Hingis said of Pierce. "She's very serious and focused, but it probably changes when she's playing here in Canada."

Seles did not come into this tournament feeling optimistic about defending her title, because she had only five days practice after injuries kept her idle for several weeks. She said she was not confident about the stress fracture in her right foot going into the final. "It's going to be a very difficult match for me," she said.

Hingis, who stopped the American's winning streak at the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, is ready to do it again. "She's almost unbeaten at this tournament and has won it four times in a row so it's about time someone else gets on the board in the winner list," said Hingis with a laugh.