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Agassi, Roddick join semis; defending champ tumbles
By Janie McCauley ~ The Associated Press
NEW YORK -- The rain turned out to be just what Andre Agassi needed.
Playing on two days' rest -- a rare notion in the second week of this much-delayed U.S. Open -- the world's top-ranked man breezed into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 victory against fifth-seeded Guillermo Coria on Friday.
The 33-year-old Agassi pounded groundstrokes deep into the corners, easily moving Coria around the court, and mixed in some finesse with pretty drop volleys that Coria struggled to chase down. Agassi is the oldest player seeded No. 1 in the Open era.
Another American star, No. 4 Andy Roddick also reached the semifinals, beating No. 12 Sjeng Schalken 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Like Agassi, Roddick also had the day off Thursday. Roddick is into the semis of the season's final Slam for the first time in four Open appearances.
"I've lost a couple of quarterfinal matches, so I'm pleased," said Roddick, who won his 100th hard-court match. "But, you know, hopefully it's not over yet."
After Coria's forehand sailed out on match point, Agassi waved, blew kisses and bowed for the crowd, which included his pregnant wife, Steffi Graf, and the couple's toddler son, Jaden.
"I wanted to make the match physical and make him step up and hit big shots consistently, and I did," said Agassi, who avenged a loss to the Argentine on clay in the quarterfinals of this year's French Open.
"It feels like I hadn't played in a week, to be honest. I don't think I started all that great, but then I managed to get into the match and started playing better."
Coria, who needed four sets to finish his delayed fourth-round match against Jonas Bjorkman on Thursday evening, was treated for a cut on his right thumb and then grabbed his left hamstring several times after stretching for shots. He cut himself reaching into his racket bag on a tool used to remove calluses from his feet.
"That's no excuse," he said.
"I would have cut my finger if it made me hit my shots like that," Agassi said.
Agassi will face French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semifinals Saturday. The third-seeded Ferrero reached his first Open semifinals by beating 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
"It's exciting," Ferrero said. "I'm playing good tennis here in New York. I didn't play this good of tennis for a long time on the hard courts."
Hewitt was leading 5-4 in the third set when he took a 3-minute injury timeout and popped some pain killers and received massage for his tight left hip flexor that especially bothered him on his serve. He was treated for a second time, and Ferrero then won eight of the final nine games.
"It was tightening up on me ever time I'd go out there to serve," Hewitt said. "So, it was a little disappointing in that regard. It was very tough to hold serve from then on, especially against a guy who's working the ball so well from the baseline."
Roddick hit 15 aces and didn't double fault once, holding at love in six of his 14 service games. He hit 34 winners to 20 unforced errors.
On Thursday night, Martina Navratilova practically galloped down the hall as she followed her doubles partner out to the courts at the U.S. Open -- dry courts!
"How exciting," the 46-year-old Navratilova said with a giant grin. "We get to play."
Dozens of tennis players shared that sentiment as action finally resumed with some regularity after the rain let up and four days of frustration from suspensions and postponements began to ease. The sun returned Friday.
Anastasia Myskina and Francesca Schiavone got to play all right. Twice.
Both women won fourth-round matches that had started Monday and stretched over four days, then took the court again just a few hours later for the quarterfinals. Both lost.
Sixth-seeded Jennifer Capriati overpowered Schiavone 6-1, 6-3, while No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne eliminated Myskina 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semifinals.
World No. 1 Kim Clijsters moved a step closer to her first Grand Slam title, beating No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 6-4 to set up a semifinal against 1998 Open champion Lindsay Davenport, who defeated No. 24 Paola Suarez 6-4, 6-0.
Both women's semis will be played in a special session Friday night.
The Open hyped it in a different way, handing out fliers that read, "Today's forecast: Non-stop tennis."
Clijsters had a 3-0 lead in her quarterfinal when it was suspended by rain Wednesday.
"I just tried to rest as good as possible and try not to worry about the weather, because it was pretty frustrating," she said. "The first few days it happened, the players were laughing. The more we saw the rain coming, we just got more depressed -- all of us."
Schiavone and Ai Sugiyama stopped and started seven times before they were done. The official match time was 2 hours, 36 minutes, but it actually ended 66 1/2 hours after it started.
Myskina defeated Mary Pierce 7-6 (2), 6-1.