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Sampras, Agassi In Semifinals

Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are one victory from an All-American final on the Fourth of July, and Alexandra Stevenson's remarkable Wimbledon debut keeps right on rolling.

Sampras, chasing his sixth title in seven years, moved into the semifinals when Mark Philippoussis quit with a knee injury today while holding a one-set lead.

Agassi needed no favors. He overpowered Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to edge closer to a rare French Open-Wimbledon double.

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  • One more win apiece would match Sampras and Agassi for the men's title Sunday.

    Stevenson, an 18-year-old Californian, became the first qualifier in Wimbledon history to reach the women's semis. She beat another qualifier, 16-year-old Jelena Dokic, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

    "I'm very excited about that," Stevenson said. "I'm the first woman to do it. (John) McEnroe was the first man (in 1977). I think it's great that it's been two Americans. That's even better. I think it's awesome."

    Shortly after Stevenson's victory, basketball great Julius Erving confirmed that he was the teen-ager's father.

    Erving told The Associated Press he was pleased at Stevenson's success. He said he had met her only once, when she was 3-year-old, and that it was "her call" whether they would see each other again.

    Stevenson graduated from high school in May and is playing her first tournament as a pro. She skipped and hopped to net after Dokic hit a forehand long on match point.

    "I've always hit the ball, just gone for it," she said. "To win, you just have to go for it."

    An aspiring stage performer and ballet dancer, Stevenson curtsied theatrically to all corners of the Court 1 stadium as her mother, Samantha Stevenson, hugged her coach, Craig Kardon.

    Stevenson's mother has stirred Wimbledon since the start of the tournament, with accusations of racism and lesbianism on the women's tour and a dispute over prize money. In addition, the Stevensons have refused to divulge the identity of Alexandra's father.

    "I just focus on my tennis and let everyone else deal with all that," the daughter said. "I'm quite oblivious to most of it. I haven't been reading any newspapers, just playing tennis."

    Sampras will next face Britain's Tim Henman, who ousted an injured Cedric Pioline 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the semifinals for the second straight year.

    Andre Agassi rolls past Gustavo Kuerten and will face Patrick Rafter in the semifinals.
    Andre Agassi rolls past Gustavo Kuerten and will face Patrick Rafter in the semifinals. (AP)

    Agassi will face U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter, who also benefited from an injury to his opponent. He beat a limping Todd Martin 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3).

    The Stevenson-Dokic match, suspended because of rain Thursday, resumed with the Australian up 5-1 in the seccond set. Dokic won three straight points to close the set. But Stevenson, hitting serves up to 113 mph and lashing punishing one-handed backhands, led throughout in the third.

    Stevenson finished with 15 aces, while Dokic hurt herself with five double faults alone in the final set.

    In the other women's quarter, 17-year-old Mirjana Lucic of Croatia overcame Nathalie Tauziat 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. Tauziat served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but Lucic won the last three games.

    In Saturday's semis, Stevenson will play Lindsay Davenport, while Lucic will play seven-time champion Steffi Graf.

    In Friday's first match on Centre Court, Philippoussis won the first set 6-4 against Sampras and was down 2-1 on serve in the second when he decided he could not continue.

    In the last game, after Sampras had saved a break point, the Australian clutched his left knee after hitting a forehand service return at deuce.

    After Sampras won the next point to hold serve, Philippoussis called for the trainer during the changeover.

    "I heard it click," the Australian said.

    The trainer flexed Philippoussis' knee, first as he sat in the chair, and then as he lay on his back on a towel.

    "That hurts," Philippoussis said as ATP Tour trainer Doug Spreen bent his knee outward.

    After the three-minute injury timeout expired, Philippoussis shook his head to show the umpire he couldn't continue. He then went over to shake hands with Sampras, who had been waiting in the shade at the back of the court.

    There were scattered boos from the Centre Court fans when the umpire announced the match was done.

    Philippoussis' injury came while Sampras was in serious trouble against the big-serving Aussie.

    "There's no question he was outplaying me, especially in the first set," Sampras said. "There was still a lot of tennis to be played, but the way he was playing, he was really tough to beat today.

    "I feel like I'm pretty fortunate to be alive in this tournament," he said. "It was a strange, strange day today. One minute you're kind of holding on, the next minute he can't go on any more."

    Sampras double faulted three times in the opening game to lose serve. Philippoussis saved four break points in the sixth game and served out the set in the 10th at love, finishing with an 136 mph ace.

    Sampras had to save a break point in the third game of the second set before Philippoussis quit.

    "I was extremely worried," the Aussie said. "It just got stiffer and stiffer. I knew I had no chance."

    Philippoussis will have an MRI exam to determine the extent of the injury.

    Martin was leading 5-3 in the fourth set when he tumbled and appeared to injure his right knee. From then on, he limped and grimaced.

    But Martin earned three set points at 5-4 against Rafter's serve but couldn't convert. Martin then went up 3-1 in the tiebreak, but Rafter won six straight to win the match.

    Martin later described the injury as minor and refused to blame it for his defeat.

    "I just twisted it a little bit," he said.

    Pioline injured his right knee as his legs buckled while hitting a backhand volley in the sixth game of the second set.

    The Frenchman received treatment during changeovers throughout the final two sets. With his movement restricted, he tried to end points quickly. Despite barely being able to run, he won the third set against a clearly frustrated Henman.

    But Henman took control in the fourth set, breaking in the fourth game, and serving out the match at love, finishing with his 19th ace.

    Henman is bidding to become the first Briton to win the men's title since Fred Perry in 1936. He lost to Sampras in last year's semifinals.

    Agassi was simply too good in all aspects of the game for Kuerten, a clay-court expert who hadn't won a match on grass until last week.

    Agassi was never broken, repeatedly blasting return winners against Kuerten's inconsistent serve. Despite loud support from chanting Brazilian fans, Kuerten never posed a threat and made numerous unforced errors from the baseline.

    Agassi, Wimbledon champion in 1992, is trying to become the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.

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

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