Agassi Advances, Ginepri Loses in Los Angeles

July 29, 2005 09:43 PM
Andre Agassi reaches for a return during his win over Paradorn Srichaphan in the quarterfinals of the Mercedes-Benz Cup Friday.© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Andre Agassi arrived earlier this week wanting to test himself both physically and mentally after eight weeks off. So far, he's passed every time.

Agassi beat former top-10 player Paradorn Srichaphan 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Cup quarterfinals.

``Today was a good step for me, to play against a guy that can hit the ball as well and as big as Paradorn,'' Agassi said.

He will meet Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina, a 6-4, 7-6 (3) winner over Xavier Malisse, in the first of Saturday's semifinals. Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia will face Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in the second semifinal.

Hrbaty, the No. 2 seed, saved seven match points in a second-set tiebreaker and beat Ricardo Mello of Brazil 4-6, 7-6 (9), 6-2.

Muller, a left-hander, topped Indianapolis winner Robby Ginepri 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Hrbaty, who trailed 6-1 in the 12-point tiebreaker, said once he rallied to win that he knew the outcome ``would depend on me. You have to be really tough not to think about (wasting seven match points) and fight again a whole set from the beginning.''

Agassi, a three-time tournament champion and this year's top seed, said he has been ``pleasantly surprised'' by his progress this week.

``You don't come here after eight weeks off and have these kind of expectations,'' said Agassi, who lost in the opening round of the French Open after aggravating a chronic sciatic nerve injury.

He then withdrew from Wimbledon to recuperate with the aid of his second cortisone injection of the year.

``You expect to struggle, you expect to make some bad decisions out there on the court and some wrong shot selection and that sort of thing, and not execute confidently when you really need to loosen up and let it go,'' he said after downing Paradorn. ``But I haven't had too much of that. I'm very pleased with how I felt coming out here, even starting with the first round.

``Today was a great test. I managed to let the second set slip away. I think it was a function of not playing a lot of matches in the last few weeks. But getting through this match, now I'm starting to actually feel my game a little bit and believe in it, so I'm hoping to go further.''

Agassi won the first set in 26 minutes and took a 3-1 lead in the second before he ``missed a few shots'' and allowed his Thai opponent to get back in the match.

Paradorn won the second set with a service break on an Agassi double fault. But Agassi regained control with an early break for a 3-1 lead in the final set.

Paradorn fought off four match points and held serve for 5-4, then Agassi closed out the match with his fourth ace.

``It was good to regroup and find my game again in the third set,'' said Agassi, a three-time champion of the Los Angeles tournament.

Chela, whose three ATP Tour titles have come on clay courts, also is on the comeback trail after pulling a groin muscle. Like Agassi, he's pleased with his progress.

``I was very focused on the match,'' Chela said of his 83-minute win over Malisse, who had upset defending champion Tommy Haas on Tuesday. ``I start playing great in the beginning of the match and kept it up. I was really happy.

``I'm lucky because it is not easy to come back. I hope to play great tomorrow.''