Agassi beats Chela to reach final

July 30, 2005 10:05 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Andre Agassi used a dazzling mix of shots to defeat Juan Ignacio Chela in straight sets Saturday and move into the Mercedes-Benz Cup final.

The 35-year-old Agassi, his sights set on next month's U.S. Open, needed just 1 hour, 9 minutes to beat his 25-year-old foe from Argentina 6-4, 6-2.

Andre Agassi gets set to serve against Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina during their semifinal mach on Day 6 of the Mercedes-Benz Cup July 30, 2005 in Straus Stadium at the Los Angeles Tennis Center-UCLA in Westwood, California. Agassi won 6-4, 6-2 to adva© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The top-seeded Agassi will go for his fourth Los Angeles title on Sunday, facing the winner of Saturday night's semifinal between second-seeded Dominik Hrbaty and Gilles Muller.

Agassi has surprised even himself with his solid play in the tournament, his first in two months. He lost in the opening round of the French Open in May after aggravating a chronic sciatic nerve injury, and missed Wimbledon for the second consecutive year.

He said he is pain-free, and he looked plenty limber and agile against Chela, who was sent scurrying from side to side much of the match. Agassi mixed in drop shots, an occasional overhead, and hard, accurate groundstrokes down the lines.

Agassi also covered the court well, chasing down shots along the baseline and sprinting to the net several times to reach drop shots by Chela.

"Today was a big day, coming off two hours yesterday of real violent movements and throwing myself at everything I could get my racket on. I was really interested to see how I was going to play today,'' said Agassi, who beat former top-10 player Paradorn Srichaphan 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

"To be able to go out there and feel that good and move around against a guy that was letting the ball fly (Chela) was a great feeling for me,'' he said. "It gives me a lot of confidence, certainly for tomorrow but as the summer unfolds, just to go out there and bring my game without hesitation.''

Agassi is looking for his first title since winning at Cincinnati last August.

The Los Angeles champion in 1998, 2001 and 2002, grinned and said of the upcoming final, "I hope I'm not nervous,'' then added seriously, "I'll certainly be excited.''

Chela said Agassi "hits the ball so hard it's hard to hit shots back,'' and "he's very steady.''

His three tour titles have all come on clay. Chela had been sidelined by a groin injury, and the Los Angeles tournament was his first since the French Open.

"I was playing very well at the beginning, but then Agassi picked up his game,'' Chela said through a translator.

Agassi said he realized early in the match that he needed to raise his game a notch.

"He came out firing, and when I sort of weathered that storm, he missed a few shots that he was going for a little too much, I thought,'' Agassi said. "I served well, especially in the second set, and my game picked up.''

Agassi served five aces to Chela's six, but won 27 of 34 first serves to Chela's 27 of 39.

"If there's ever a tournament where you can say, `Each match I've gotten better,' this is one of those tournaments,''' Agassi said. "I've needed to and have done so.''