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Agassi and Federer arrange final date

September 11, 2005 18:38 IST
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The longed-for showdown between Roger Federer, the world number one, and Andre Agassi, the old stager playing possibly for the last time at Flushing Meadows, will come to pass on Sunday in the U.S. Open men's singles final.

Semi-final opponents Robby Ginepri and Lleyton Hewitt did their best to thwart them on Super Saturday but, as suspected, their fate was to play no more than supporting roles in a much bigger drama.

At 35, Agassi became the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam final since Australian Ken Rosewall in 1974 when he outlasted unseeded U.S. compatriot Ginepri 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Sunday will be the 1994 and 1999 champion's sixth U.S. Open final and his first Grand Slam final since he won the last of his eight Grand Slams at the 2003 Australian Open.

"I'm in the finals, it's awesome," said Agassi after treating an enraptured Arthur Ashe Court crowd to an impromptu little victory jig.

Defending champion and top seed Federer was extended for three hours by third seed Hewitt but still stretched his run of consecutive victories over the Australian to nine by winning their semi-final 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3.

"It was a difficult match," said the triple Wimbledon champion, whose victory meant he matched Pete Sampras's professional era record of 34 consecutive hardcourt wins.

"Today I definitely had to survive more tough moments than in the past against him. But what better final could I wish for? An American in a U.S. Open final."

Played on the day the host nation marks the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York, Sunday's final promises to be an occasion of high emotion.

A sense of destiny has accompanied seventh seed Agassi through the tournament ever since 2003 champion Andy Roddick was removed from his half of the draw in the first round, quickly followed by Spanish second seed Rafael Nadal.

It was confirmed with his classic five-set quarter-final win over another compatriot, James Blake, when Agassi won a breathless tiebreak decider having recovered from two sets and a break down.

On Saturday the first four sets against Ginepri were relatively ordinary but in the fifth Agassi lifted his game to a level too high for his 22-year-opponent, who was playing his first Grand Slam semi-final.

The deftest of drop shots secured the decisive break for 4-2 and Agassi then reeled off a barrage of aces, the last of which sealed an ultimately convincing victory.

In his 20th U.S. Open, it marked the first time Agassi has won three successive five-setters at a Grand Slam, some feat for a player who is showing no sign of the chronic back problem that has prompted talk of his retirement this year.

"Going into the fifth you never know, it might have been the last set I ever play at the U.S. Open," he said.

"You never know when it's going to be your last match, and you just want to give it your all. We're down to the home stretch. I'll be out here tomorrow and let it all hang out."


In a tournament laden with five-set thrillers, six of the last seven contests in the bottom half of the draw have gone the full distance.

Federer, as usual, has stood serene amid the mayhem, dropping only two sets en route to the final.

Hewitt is heartily sick of the Swiss, having been thrashed in last year's final by him and knocked out of Wimbledon this year and last by the world number one.

The Australian, who won his first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows in 2001, played outstanding tennis to earn five sets points in the second set but Federer saved them all. Then, almost cruelly, the Swiss humiliated the Australian 7-0 in the tiebreak with one stupendous winner after another.

Hewitt would not give in, though, and took the third set after breaking for 4-3 with a well-placed lob. It ended his run of losing 17 consecutive sets against Federer.

The 24-year-old Swiss quickly dismissed any thought of an upset, breaking to love for 4-2 in the fourth set and completing his victory on serve.

Federer has won the last seven of his 10 previous meetings with Agassi, including their quarter-finals at this year's Australian Open and last year at Flushing Meadows, when the Swiss won in five sets. Incredibly, he has also won his last 22 finals.

Logic, form and statistics suggest the younger man will prevail again on Sunday. Those of a romantic bent, however, will hope for a different outcome.

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