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Agassi Heads To French Semis

Andre Agassi surged into the French Open semifinals, beating Marcelo Filippini today in a match so one-sided the fans jeered his opponent.

Agassi defeated the Uruguayan 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 for his first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal since 1996, when he reached the semis at the U.S. and Australian Opens.

"It feels quite amazing," Agassi said. "I'm certainly not only thrilled to be here, but I'm ready to be here. I'm looking forward to the opportunity ahead of me."

Among the women, Steffi Graf showed some of her power and resilience from years past, defeating Lindsay Davenport in three sets to also reach the semis.

There, she'll be joined by three familiar faces: top-ranked Martina Hingis, defending champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Monica Seles, her next opponent.

The French Open is the only major Agassi has not won, and a victory in Paris would give him a career Grand Slam. The last time Agassi reached the semifinals in Paris was in 1992.

The last American man to go this far at Roland Garros was Pete Sampras, whose 1996 semifinal appearance remains his best showing there.

Agassi next faces Dominik Hrbaty, the Slovakian who upset Marcelo Rios today and before that top-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Asked about the possibility of a career Grand Slam, Agassi said, "It would certainly be the greatest thing that I could achieve."

Filppini paid tribute to Agassi's play, but said he was hampered by a strained abdominal muscle that troubled him throughout the 72-minute match.

"Everywhere time I was trying to hit hard, I had pain," he said.

Filippini, a qualifier ranked 140th, beat Greg Rusedski to reach the quarterfinals, but against Agassi he botched shot after shot.

In the third set, fans began taunting him. He could barely win a point, let alone hold serve. Agassi closed the match with two straight aces.

Looking toward the semis, Agassi dismissed his loss to Hrbaty at this year's Lipton Championships in Florida.

"I'm not too concerned with that result," he said, adding he hadn't completely recovered from a hamstring injury.

Hrbaty, one of the season's big surprises, was convincing in dispatching Rios, who seemed primed to win this tournament. The ninth-seeded Chilean fell 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3.

"I think he played better than me today," Rios said. "Losing is always sad. I'll try again next year."

Graf, a five-time champion in Paris, missed last's year's French Open because of one of her many injuries. But against Davenport, the world's No. 2 player, she produced one of her best victories of late.

In their first meeting on clay, Graf was overpowering in the first set, but Davenport came back in the second, winning in a tiebreaker. Graf broke Davenport twice in the third set to win 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 on her fifth match point.

Davenport has a distaste for clay which limits her mobility.

"I really don't like this stuff and I'm not shy to say it," she said. "I don't like anything about it. It's just such a different game. It slows everything down."

Next up for Graf is Seles. A finalist last year, Seles had an easy time with Conchita Martinez of Spain. She won 6-1, 6-4, closing the match with an ace. Martinez, who once won Wimbledon but is now ranked 22nd, offered little resistance to Seles' powerful groundstrokes.

Hingis enjoyed a commanding 6-2, 6-2 victory over the player who upset Venus Williams, Barbara Schwartz, an Austrian qualifier ranked 125th. She'll next meet Sanchez-Vicario.

"It's the best match so far I've played," Hingis said. "I had to think a lot on the court."

After Schwartz broke serve at the beginning of the match, Hingis won seven straight games and never was in trouble after that.

Sanchez-Vicario had almost as easy a time defeating another Austrian, Sylvia Plischke, 6-2, 6-4. Plischke earlier downed Jana Novotna.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Sanchez-Vicario blew two match points but finally converted on her third, when Plischke netted her final shot.

In his quarterfinal, Rios made more errors than usual against a player at the top of his game. Hrbaty never lost a service game, and Rios was unable to control the baseline.

After a close first set, Hrbaty easily won the second. In the third, the players fought to 6-6, and Rios took a 2-0 lead in the tiebreaker.

Rios had two set points at 6-4 in the tiebreaker but failed to capitalize. At 6-6, Hrbaty netted a shot and hit a forehand long, giving Rios the set.

In the final set, Hrabty rolled to a 5-2 lead. At 5-3, with the Slovakian serving for the match, Rios made three consecutive errors the last a backhand that hit the net cord and landed wide.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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