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No Delaying Agassi's Departure This Time

Tennis: Ferrero, upset at postponement, finishes four-set quarterfinal victory over American.

June 07, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — If, indeed, the Spaniard had been iced overnight--as it appeared for the better part of two sets Thursday--evidence mounted that Juan Carlos Ferrero was thawing by the fifth game of the fourth set.

There was a loud scream from Andre Agassi when he knocked a forehand long in that game. Two points later, Agassi missed a backhand volley, and then, theatrically, mimicked a timid volley and stuck out his tongue.

For the fourth-seeded Agassi, it went from a whisper of a match Wednesday to a scream Thursday afternoon, and he fell out of the French Open in four sets against No. 11 Ferrero. Ferrero beat Agassi, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, in 2 hours 46 minutes. Amazingly, the weather held and the remaining men's quarterfinals were completed.

Alex Corretja of Spain, a two-time French Open finalist, finished off a twice-delayed, 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-5 victory over Romanian Andrei Pavel and will play his close friend Albert Costa of Spain today in the semifinals. The other semifinal will feature Ferrero against No. 2 Marat Safin of Russia. Safin had little trouble against 10th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean of France, who was hobbled by a leg injury. Safin won, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in 1 hour 44 minutes.

Pavel returned from Germany in the morning, having become a father the previous evening. Physically and mentally exhausted from the back-and-forth drive and joy of seeing his son, Marius, he played three more games against Corretja. Their match had been stopped late in the third set because of darkness Tuesday night and rain wiped out most of the play on the main court Wednesday, enabling Pavel to go to Germany.

"I'm really tired," said Pavel, who had to persuade Roland Garros security guards to let him on the grounds early in the morning. "I had maybe an hour of sleep in the car and two hours sleeping on the couch in the lounge. I've been drinking Coke and eating PowerBars all night long. I have a cafe au lait."

The day was remarkably free of controversy, unlike Wednesday, when Ferrero felt that Agassi was allowed to call the shots in having the match stopped with Ferrero leading, 6-3, 1-0. The day featured rain delays of nearly 6 1/2 hours and, as it turned out, Agassi did not want to resume play in the drizzle in the first place.

Ferrero said in a television interview Thursday: "But [officials] decided with Andre it was raining enough. They just decided to stop. It was kind of strange, but not important."

At first, the overnight break appeared to benefit Agassi, who was able to work his way into the match.

He broke Ferrero twice in the second set after the resumption, the second time at love in the 11th game, and held his serve at 15, taking the set, 7-5, when Ferrero hit a return long.

The momentum shifted a couple of times in the third. Ferrero took a 4-1 lead, but Agassi fought back to win four of the next five games. At 5-5, Ferrero fought off three break points and then broke Agassi in the next game, capturing the set, 7-5.

"He stepped up his game more than me being deflated," Agassi said of Ferrero's play after surviving the three break points. "I felt like he kind of got out of jail there and let a few shots start to fly. He plays a lot of matches, it seems, 6-7, 6-2, 6-7. All of a sudden, he lets his game fly. He hits a big ball."

Agassi, though disappointed, was not devastated or angered as he was last year after losing to Grosjean in the quarters or to Karol Kucera in the second round in 2000.

"I'm certainly aware of the opportunities being fewer and fewer," he said. "I suppose for me this one has always been the most difficult one to win, and I felt I was here giving myself a chance.... But I still like my game in most scenarios out there and like my chances if I keep working hard."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Day 11 Highlights

Men: No. 2 Marat Safin, No. 11 Juan Carlos Ferrero and No. 18 Alex Corretja advanced to the semifinals. Andre Agassi, the only previous champion left in the field, lost to Ferrero.

Women: No. 2 Venus Williams and No. 3 Serena Williams will face each other in the women's final.

Men's semifinals: Today--Safin vs. Ferrero and Corretja vs. Albert Costa.

Stat of the day: 19--number of minutes it took Venus Williams to win first set over Clarisa Fernandez.

Quote of the day: "I'd like to stay No. 1, but I'd like to see Serena No. 1 also. I'm not giving it up, but I'm sure she'll get there."--Venus Williams on sharing the top two spots in women's tennis with her younger sister.

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