Originally created 05/12/02

Agassi, Haas advance to Rome final

ROME -- Andre Agassi will attempt to erase the memory of a defeat 13 years ago.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion defeated Jiri Novak 7-5, 6-4 Saturday to advance to the final at the Italian Open for the first time since a five-set loss to Alberto Mancini in 1989.

Agassi will play Germany's Tommy Haas, a 6-1, 7-5 winner over Andy Roddick, in the final of the Masters Series event. The tournament has never had two Americans in the final since it started in 1930.

Agassi used sharp groundstrokes and strong return of serve to break the 14th-seeded Czech player once in each set in front of a sellout crowd on center court.

"This is a great opportunity for me," Agassi said. "To get through all the matches so far has been great."

The two breaks were all the 32-year-old Agassi needed in an otherwise even match. The No. 9 seed extended his record against Novak to 4-0 with a service winner on his fourth match point.

As a 19-year-old clay-court neophyte in 1989, Agassi produced his best previous result here, losing in five sets to Mancini after squandering a match point.

"That was 13 years ago, so I've managed to forget a bit," Agassi said. "It feels so great to be back in the finals, I can't even tell you, it's truly like a dream."

Many professional tennis players retire by the time they reach 30, whereas Agassi is still a top contender at major events.

"Thirty-two is certainly old by tennis standards," Agassi said. "But there are many athletes that find their best stuff in their mid-30s and that's been proven a number of times."

Neither Haas nor Agassi has lost a set in the tournament this week. Agassi holds a 3-2 edge over Haas in their previous meetings.

"Tom is not missing any easy shots," Roddick said. "He's very solid."

The last time an American and a German played the Italian final was in 1994, when Pete Sampras defeated Boris Becker in straight sets.

Haas won the first set against the 19-year-old Roddick in just 20 minutes, the third time this week that Roddick dropped the first set.

In the second set, the German broke the American's serve in the 11th game and served out the match.

The 24-year-old Haas, who began the year by reaching the Australian Open semifinals, ended Roddick's best run yet at a Masters Series event.

"This whole tournament has been good for me. This is probably my best result on clay," said Haas, who had never before advanced past the third round here.


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