Tennis: Agassi's power breaks Stich: Unseeded American blasts his way to a straight-sets victory in US Open

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The Independent Online
HAVING had their patience tried for years while the ragamuffin Andre Agassi showed off his latest fashions but failed to deliver the goods, the crowd at the United States Open rose to acclaim the Las Vegan here last night. He finally added another Grand Slam to his 1992 Wimbledon triumph and was once more a player of substance and not only showmanship.

Agassi dismantled the fourth-seeded Michael Stich, who had preceded him as the Wimbledon champion and was also desperate to prove that he was capable of more than one major title. The fact is he encountered an opponent who was irresistible, and became the fifth seed to fall under Agassi's spell. Agassi's 6-1, 7-6, 7-5 win made him the third unseeded player to win the title and the first since the Australian Fred Stolle, in 1966, when only eight were seeded.

After delivering the final blow, Agassi sank to his knees on the rubberised concrete Stadium Court, not quite as overwhelmed as he had been after winning that close-run five- setter against Goran Ivanisevic but near to tears nonetheless. He then ran over to the corner of the stadium to receive the congratulations of his coach, Brad Gilbert, and his girlfriend, the actress Brooke Shields, whose grandfather, Frank Shields, was the first unseeded finalist here in 1930. Agassi then received the trophy and a cheque for dollars 550,000. But his greatest reward was the approbation of a public who had long regarded him as a great sideshow and had now seen him top the bill.

Agassi began aggressively, taking the opening set 6-1 in 24 minutes, only two minutes longer than Steffi Graf's opening set against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the women's final. Stich won only 15 points and spent a good deal of time fretting to the umpire, David Littlefield about line-calling.

Stich found himself completely outmanoeuvred and t The pattern seemed destined to follow in the second set, but after producing three of his total of 10 double-faults in his opening service game Stich endeavoured to save three break points, an experience which had the effect of settling him sufficiently to take care with the placement of his subsequent deliveries rather than relying on the brute force of serves which often rocketed beyond 120mph.

Though Agassi continued to hold serve comfortably, thanks to accuracy rather than power, he was less able to frustrate Stich with his returns at this stage and the set moved into a tie-break. Both players lost serve, Stich crucially for Agassi to take a 4-2 lead, with a backhand service return which clipped the netcord, and the American held his advantage to take the shootout, 7-5. In contrast to the opening set, it took Agassi almost 50 minutes to stretch his lead.

Stich's serve faltered again in the opening game of the third set, but he was able to rescue three break points, the third of them with an ace. The set then went with serve until the 11th game.

On the second point, Agassi belted the ball straight at his opponent, striking Stich on his right arm. The German dropped his racket, and turned away when Agassi made a gesture of apology. Another forehand drive, which Stich parried but could not control gave Agassi two set points, and he secured the first of them when Stich, who totalled 48 unforced errors, directed a backhand volley over the baseline. The American then held serve comfortably to secure victory after an hour and 56 minutes.


Sporting Digest, page 31