Agassi to face Nadal to finals

August 14, 2005 12:00 AM
MONTREAL (AP) - Andre Agassi beat Greg Rusedski 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup on Saturday night, setting up a championship matchup with French Open winner Rafael Nadal.

The top-seeded Nadal advanced to his first meeting with Agassi by beating unseeded Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 7-5.

It is the final Nadal said he hoped for all week and an appealing matchup for fans between one of tennis' all-time greats and one of its rising starts.

"I hope they're excited,'' said Agassi, who has 60 career ATP tournament wins, including eight grand slam titles, in his 19-year career. "I don't get to be in too many finals any more."

The clay-court specialist, looking for his first hardcourt title, is No. 2 in the ATP rankings with eight titles this year, including the French Open, but all were on clay. The 19-year-old Spaniard reached the final of a hardcourt event in Miami in March, but lost in five sets to top-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland.

"He (Nadal) hits what seems to be a very mean ball _ hard for a lot of guys to do much with,'' said Agassi, who won the Canadian event in 1992, '94 and '95. "He moves incredibly well.

"I'm going to have to pick my shots and play great tennis.''

Against Mathieu, who beat third-ranked Andy Roddick in the opening round, Nadal's most spectacular moment was on game point in the second set, when he lunged and chipped a backhand that fell behind the 23-year-old Frenchman to make it 2-2.

Mathieu made a string of unforced errors to lose his serve in the next game.

However, with Nadal serving for the match, Mathieu won four straight points to hand the Spaniard his first loss in 52 service games of the tournament and tie the set 5-5. Mathieu handed it back the next game, double-faulting on game point, and Nadal served out for his ATP-leading 64th match win of the season.

"It was the first time in the tournament I was a bit nervous,'' Nadal said. "I was (trying to) play in the final of a Masters Series tournament, so it was normal to be nervous<

"It wasn't the best moment to lose my serve.''

Earlier in the day, the fourth-seeded Agassi defeated sixth-seeded Gaston Gaudio of Argentina 6-3, 6-4 in the completion of a quarterfinal that was postponed Friday night by rain. Agassi began the day ahead 6-3 and 15-15.

Rusedski, of Britain, needed just 67 minutes to beat Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 6-4 in their postponed match.

Agassi said the sunny, windy conditions at Uniprix Stadium made it a difficult match.

"If it looked easy, I worked hard to make it look that way,'' he said at courtside. "It was a tough match, especially in these conditions.''

Agassi won the Canadian event in 1992, 1994 and 1995, but had not advanced to the semifinals since 1999.

In doubles, third-seeded Daniel Nestor of Toronto and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas were eliminated in the quarterfinals, 4-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (4) by Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel. Nestor was playing in his first tournament since injuring his left wrist at the French Open.

Erlich and Ram were scheduled to meet Bob and Mike Bryan of the U.S. later Saturday.

In the other doubles semifinal, Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe defeated Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.