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Grosjean defeats Agassi in French

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2001

PARIS -- Former President Clinton showed up at the French Open to root for Andre Agassi, stayed for most of three sets and saw him win three games.

While Clinton had little to cheer about, Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean delighted the partisan Parisians in the capacity crowd with the match of his life Wednesday to win 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 and reach the semifinals.

The shocker ended Agassi's quest for a second successive Grand Slam championship and a second title at Roland Garros. He won the Australian Open in January and the French in 1999.

''It's pretty disappointing at the moment,'' said a terse, sullen Agassi. ''I played well. He played a lot better.''

In truth, the third-seeded Agassi played poorly, particularly after Clinton arrived at the start of the second set. At times, Grosjean said, it appeared as if Agassi wasn't even trying -- perhaps because he was so frustrated.

''It was strange because sometimes he hit the ball really hard, you know, like tanking,'' Grosjean said. ''Maybe he was not really happy that the game wasn't like the first set.''

And maybe -- bizarre though it sounds -- the seven-time Grand Slam champion was unnerved by Clinton's presence.

When the former president left briefly after the third set, Agassi won two of the next three games. Then Clinton returned, and Agassi double-faulted on the next point, double-faulted again on break point and struggled the rest of the way.

Agassi tried to dismiss the notion that Clinton distracted him.

''I didn't know he was there,'' said Agassi -- a curious claim because the former president received a rousing ovation when he arrived and sat in the first row behind the baseline on Agassi's side. Even Grosjean took notice.

''I didn't realize that Bill Clinton was coming,'' the Frenchman said with a grin. ''For me it was very good, because from then on I played very well.''

The 10th-seeded Grosjean's opponent in the semifinals will be No. 13 Alex Corretja, who advanced by beating unseeded 19-year-old Roger Federer 7-5, 6-4, 7-5. The other match Friday pits top-seeded two-time champion Gustavo Kuerten against No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

On Thursday, No. 4 Jennifer Capriati will play in her first French Open semifinal since 1990 when she faces top-seeded Martina Hingis. The other match will be a showdown between two Belgian teen-agers -- No. 12 Kim Clijsters and No. 14 Justine Henin.



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