Tennis: Agassi getting by with a little less help from his friends: Two former Wimbledon champions are in fine fettle as they prepare for a showdown

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The Independent Online
BY WAY of a change after all the fuss surrounding Nick Bollettieri, neither Andre Agassi nor Stefan Edberg will have a coach at the courtside when the former Wimbledon champions meet in the quarter- finals of the Lipton tournament here today.

Agassi is travelling lighter, physically and also in terms of his entourage. He has been working with Fritz Nau, a former employee of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy, who has not been seen so far this week. Edberg, who no longer tours extensively with Tony Pickard between Grand Slam championships, is accompanied by his wife, Annette, and their daughter, Emilie.

The big question for many spectators is whether Agassi's latest Hollywood friend, Brooke Shields, will make an appearance. Barbra Streisand, who briefly starred at Wimbledon last summer, seems to have been upstaged.

While there is little evidence of tennis in Streisand's background, the game runs in the Shields family, and limped on one notable occasion. In 1931, Frank Shields, the actress's grandfather, defeated Jean Borotra in the Wimbledon singles semi-finals. Shields fell and injured a leg late in the match and was unable to compete in the final. Sidney Wood, an American compatriot, won the title on a walk-over.

Agassi, having thrashed Boris Becker and verbally beaten Bollettieri, appreciates that the match with Edberg is an important examination of how far his game has advanced since his return following wrist surgery. Moreover, a win for Edberg would restore the Swede to No 2 in the world behind Pete Sampras.

The last Agassi-Edberg confrontation was in a Davis Cup tie two years ago, the American winning in four sets on clay to take a

3-2 lead in their head-to-head series.

Agassi's only defeat in 10 matches since his comeback was against the scurrying Fabrice Santoro, of France, in Indian Wells, California, a fortnight ago. A patient performance against another Frenchman, Cedric Pioline, ensured that the Becker match would not be followed by an anticlimax. The Las Vegan defeated the United States Open finalist, 6-4, 6-2.

'I have always played well against Stefan,' Agassi said, 'and he has always played well against me, too. It is a great contrast, an exciting match to watch, real similar to when I play Boris.

'It's very important to keep Stefan pinned at the baseline, because when he gets to the net, nodody does it better.'

True, though Sampras's attacking style is equally impressive, and the Wimbledon champion's baseline game improves by the tournament. The title-holder was the first man through to the semi-finals, defeating Petr Korda, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Korda achieved an extraordinary victory against Sampras in the semi-finals of the Grand Slam Cup in Munich last December, hopping around with cramp in the closing stages of a five-set win in four and a half hours. The Czech left-hander then went on to defeat Michael Stich in five sets in the final.

An ankle injury did not help Korda yesterday. The strapping had to be replaced after he had levelled the match, the three-minute delay costing him rhythm and timing on his shots when play resumed. Sampras sped through the final set to win in 98 minutes.

Bollettieri is not the only personality to get it in the neck from someone he considered a friend. Goran Ivanisevic was hit by a serve from his doubles partner, Marc Rosset, and had to retire hurt with the pair leading 2-1 in the opening set of a third-round match.

Ivanisevic was fortunate that it was only a second serve. Rosset, the Olympic singles champion, is credited with the fastest serve recorded on the ATP Tour: 134mph.

Monica Seles took United States citizenship yesterday. Born in Novi Sad, in what was Yugoslavia, Seles, 20, has been based in America since moving to Florida for tennis training in 1983. She has not played since being stabbed during the Hamburg tournament last April.