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express
Apr 1st, 2002, 01:17 PM
Agassi joins Steffi in Key Biscayne recordbook

By Sandra Harwitt
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FROM THE NASDAQ-100 – Retired champion Steffi Graf no longer holds bragging rights over husband Andre Agassi at the Key Biscayne event that is the fifth largest tournament in the world. Securing a very solid 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Roger Federer in the Nasdaq-100 Open final, Agassi equaled Graf’s record of winning this prestigious title five times.

“The way things are going, I have a shot at passing her because I know she’s not going to win another won,” said Agassi, laughing. So you know I’ll be moving up in the household.”

Agassi, who said Steffi and infant son, Jaden, didn’t make the Nasdaq scene because both are down with an upper respiratory infection, admits he keeps tabs on where he stands tennis-wise in the family pecking order.

“I suppose in my own mind there is (a little rivalry),” he said. “I think we take separate approaches towards it. She certainly wants the best for me and she doesn’t really think much about the stats over the years. I kind of know more about them than she does. But, yeah, I know mine pretty well. I’m relatively quick to remind her. But I don’t get very far.”

The victory over Federer also provided Agassi with his 700th career match victory; it was only last month that he won his 50th career title at Scottsdale and now he’s increased his tournament tally to 51.

While many people might think that, at one month shy of turning 32, Agassi might be getting too old to play tennis at the highest level of competition, his performances seem to still be of championship quality. A right wrist injury earlier in the year has subsided and Agassi believes the victory here offers great momentum for the upcoming clay-court season.

“No question I needed this here to really give myself that platform,” said Agassi, who will play Houston, Hamburg and Rome leading into the French Open. “I’ll use it for a sense of motivation and confidence. For me, I need to establish my game out here on the hardcourt, then go into the clay working hard and willing to pay the price. I certainly feel ready for that, And I think it’s going to mean some good things.
There’s no denying that Federer has great potential to join the upper echelon of the game and he showed off his abilities in the third set and through most of the fourth set before Agassi hunkered down and closed out the match. The Swiss is blessed with great movement, quick hands and variety in his shot making choices – all weapons he is likely to use in the future to rise in the rankings.

But experience often does the talking and it did so for Agassi against Federer on Sunday. The Ameican might be considered over the hill to some for a professional athlete, but Agassi looks like a walking endorsement for a fitness ad and his desire to win has not waned at all.

PICKS ON THE FEDERER BACKHAND
Where Agassi was really able to exploit Federer on Sunday was on his backhand. The Swiss appeared to have limited reach on the shot that he hits one-handed and that gave Agassi leverage to continually place the ball out of his reach.

After exchanging service breaks in the second and third games of the first set, Agassi capably kept Federer out of the way for the first two setS. It was in the third set that Federer turned up the heat and looked like the player who just mauled No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in a 6-3, 6-4 semifinal decision.

The Swiss looked likely to push the match into a decisive fifth set when Agassi stepped up the pressure, broke serve to even the score at 4-4 in the fourth set when Federer netted a forehand. Two games later, on a second match point on Federer’s serve in the final game, henetted a forehand approach shot and lost his chances to compete in a fifth set.

While age isn’t taking its toll on Agassi’s game or spirit, it is bringing a positive element to his tennis career in the way he looks at winning titles.

“I think one of the things I’m getting better at as I get older is enjoying it,” Agassi said. “I’m going to enjoy it (tonight), probably with a margarita.”

i don't think Sandra Hewitt really saw this match. i think she went with the game plan that Agassi usually uses. in this match, Agassi did the intelligent thing -- he picked on Federer's forehand. that's the side that is inconsistent, not the backhand. what the heck is this writer talking about?