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Agassi Reaches Final, Closes In on 50th Title

March 10, 2002|From Associated Press

For the second week in a row, Andre Agassi advanced to the final of an ATP event.

Agassi, seeded No. 1, defeated seventh-seeded Xavier Malisse, 6-4, 6-4, in the semifinals of the Franklin Templeton Tennis Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Saturday.

He will face Juan Balcells, who completed his surprising march through the bracket with a 6-3, 6-1 semifinal rout of Rainer Schuetter in a match that took only 52 minutes.

Balcells, whose lone victory and only other final appearance on the ATP Tour came two years ago in Bucharest, Romania, has never played Agassi.

"I've been watching matches of Andre since I was 15," the 26-year-old Spaniard said. "Now tomorrow I'm going to play against him and that's going to be like a dream come true. I mean, he's like an idol to me."

After skipping the Australian Open because of an injured right wrist, Agassi has come on strong. He thinks his mixture of experience and skill could bring on a big season.

"I consider myself to be in a real rare situation here where I feel healthy, I feel strong, I'm moving well and I can bring my experience to the court," he said. "It's a hard package to play against."

If he wins today, the 31-year-old Agassi will become the eighth player to have 50 tournament championships in the open era, which began in 1968.

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Top-seeded Andy Roddick beat France's Anthony Dupuis, 7-6 (4) 6-4, to advance to the final of the International Tennis Championships in Delray Beach, Fla.

Roddick, who lives in nearby Boca Raton, is seeking his fifth ATP Tour title since joining the circuit full-time last year. The 19-year-old star has won 14 of his last 15 matches.

Roddick, who won the Memphis tournament two weeks ago and reached the semifinals in San Jose last week, will meet fifth-seeded Davide Sanguinetti of Italy.

Wearing a pair of borrowed sneakers, Sanguinetti beat defending champion Jan-Michael Gambill, 7-6 (8), 6-3.

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