Agassi beats Muller to win fourth Los Angeles title

July 31, 2005 08:28 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Andre Agassi won his fourth Los Angeles title, and avenged a loss, by defeating Gilles Muller in straight sets Sunday.

Coming back from a two-month layoff because of a chronic sciatic nerve problem, the 35-year-old Agassi downed the young left-hander from Luxembourg 6-4, 7-5 in the Mercedes-Benz Cup final.

Muller, a rangy 6-foot-5, 183-pounder, had beaten Agassi 6-4, 7-5 in their only previous match, a semifinal at Washington last August. Muller lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the title match.

The Los Angeles final was only the second on the tour for the 22-year-old Muller, who turned pro in 2001.

Although the field was depleted this year by upsets and withdrawals, Agassi capped an impressive run through the tournament that he also won in 1998, 2001 and 2002.

He was playing for the first time since losing in the opening round of the French Open in May after aggravating the sciatic nerve injury. He also missed Wimbledon for the second consecutive year.

Patient against Muller, Agassi came back from 40-love in the 11th game of the second set to finally break Muller for just the second time in the match.

Muller then essentially self-destructed, hitting a forehand long, stroking consecutive shots into the net, then double-faulting before hitting a forehand wide to lose the game.

Agassi then held serve, finishing the match with a powerful forehand that Muller had no chance of reaching.

On the way to winning his 60th career title, Agassi had jumped on Muller, who was error-prone early, to break service in the opening game of the match. Agassi finished off the first set with a hard backhand behind Muller, who seemed frozen at the baseline as he watched the ball land just inside the corner.

Muller is ranked 75th, the first player from Luxembourg to break into the top 100. Agassi is No. 6.

Agassi's toughest test _ and lone three-set match _ was a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 quarterfinals victory over former top 10 player Paradorn Srichaphan.

Andy Roddick pulled out before the tournament began because of soreness in his right knee; defending champion Tommy Haas lost in the second round; 2004 runner-up Nicolas Kiefer retired because of respiratory problems after five games of his opening match; fifth-seeded Taylor Dent (lingering effects of heat illness) and Mardy Fish (wrist) both withdrew hours before they were scheduled to meet on Wednesday night.

Muller then thinned the competition even more when he knocked off second-seeded Dominik Hrbaty in the semifinals.

Agassi joined Frank Parker (1941, 1942, 1944, 1945), Roy Emerson (1959, 1962, 1964, 1967) and Jimmy Connors (1973, 1974, 1982, 1984) as the only four-time champions of the Los Angeles tournament.