Andre Agassi is unstoppable

Posted: Monday, April 02, 2001

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Perhaps the only player at the Ericsson Open who could have given Andre Agassi any difficulty Sunday was watching from the president's box: Rod Laver.

Even Laver would have had his hands full, partly because he's 62, and partly because Agassi is playing the best tennis of his life. The latest evidence: a 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-0 drubbing of Jan-Michael Gambill in the Ericsson final.

''I don't think anybody in the world could have beaten him today,'' Gambill said.

Agassi has won the three biggest tournaments so far this year -- Key Biscayne, Indian Wells two weeks ago and the Australian Open in January. He's the first man to sweep all three since Pete Sampras in 1994, and he's a runaway leader in this year's ATP champions race.

''This is a great point to be right now,'' said Agassi, who heads into the clay court season hoping to make a run at his second French Open title. ''I just hope that I continue to be at my best and make somebody play well to beat me and get a little lucky every now and then.''

Seeded third, Agassi became the first four-time men's champion at Key Biscayne. After surviving a close first set, he dominated every phase, serving well, keeping Gambill away from the net and controlling the baseline rallies to sweep the final nine games.

A gracious Gambill raved about his opponent's ability to keep points going.

''I have a lot to learn from Andre,'' Gambill said. ''He fielded some balls that I just can't even fathom how he does it. I'll hit a ball 100 mph and somehow he fields it back and I'm running for the next one thinking, 'How does he do that?'''

The No. 19-seeded Gambill recovered from an early 2-0 deficit, serving well to reach 6-6. But he committed two unforced errors in the tiebreaker and Agassi seized the opening. A deft drop volley put him up 4-3, and he smacked a forehand winner and service winner on the final two points to take the set.

From there the rout was on. Gambill saved five match points on his way to the final, but Agassi put him away on the first one Sunday with a forehand crosscourt winner from behind the baseline.

''Andre is maybe the best thinker the game has ever had,'' Gambill said. ''He knows the angles. He sees shots other guys just don't.''

Agassi improved to 22-2 this year, his best start since 1995, when he was 29-2. He said he's a better player than six years ago because he's a better athlete.

Agassi, who turns 31 on April 29, became the oldest Key Biscayne men's champion. He also won the title in 1990, 1995 and 1996.

Agassi earned $444,000. Gambill won $233,000.



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