Agassi loses to Coria at French Open

PARIS (AP) -- Andre Agassi ran out of comebacks at the French Open.<br><br>Outplayed from the baseline, Agassi fell short in his bid for a ninth major title, losing to Guillermo Coria 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

Tuesday, June 3rd 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) -- Andre Agassi ran out of comebacks at the French Open.

Outplayed from the baseline, Agassi fell short in his bid for a ninth major title, losing to Guillermo Coria 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

Agassi, who overcame a two-set deficit in his second-round match, fell behind in every set against the No. 7-seeded Coria. Down 4-1, Agassi won five consecutive games to salvage the opening set, and he twice rallied from a break down in the fourth set.

But while Coria played well, Agassi simply wasn't sharp, especially at the finish. He blew a volley and hit two errant groundstrokes to lose his serve and fall behind 5-4, then sent easy forehands sailing out on the final two points.

Coria fell to his knees, then ran to the net. He put his arm around Agassi, the player he idolized growing up in Argentina, then buried his head on the net cord.

"He's right up there with the best clay-courters," Agassi said. "Today he really was hitting a good variety of shots and executing real well. At the end of the day, he deserved to win that match. He played good tennis."

In the women's quarterfinals, an uncharacteristically stern Serena Williams took a partisan crowd out of the match and sent Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo out of the tournament with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Williams glared at the ball, the lines and even her towel. Only after winning the final point did she crack a smile. With her 33rd consecutive victory in Grand Slam play, Williams avenged a loss to Mauresmo at Rome on May 17.

"I'm on a mission," Williams said. "I plan on reaching it."

In the women's semifinals Thursday, she'll face the only other player to beat her this year, Justine Henin-Hardenne. The No. 4-seeded Belgian beat No. 8 Chanda Rubin 6-3, 6-2.

Williams won her first 21 matches this year before losing to Henin-Hardenne in the final at Charleston, S.C., on April 13.

"She's the favorite, for sure," Henin-Hardenne said. "She has great motivation. She wants to win the French Open. But we'll see on the court."

Also advancing was Henin-Hardenne's compatriot, No. 2 Kim Clijsters, who beat Conchita Martinez 6-2, 6-1.

"For the Belgians, it feels like a Belgian Grand Slam," said Clijsters, the runner-up at the 2001 French Open.

On Thursday, Clijsters will play unseeded Nadia Petrova, the first female Russian semifinalist at the French Open in 28 years. She beat compatriot Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Coria's opponent Friday will be unseeded Martin Verkerk, who hit 27 aces to upset 1998 champion Carlos Moya 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 8-6. Verkerk collapsed to the clay in glee after his nearly four-hour victory.

"I won," the Dutchman said. "It's amazing. I don't know how it happened."

Coria, the 1999 French Open juniors champion, showed remarkable poise in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. He kept Agassi off-balance with drop shots and looked fresh at the finish despite playing a third straight day.

"I really wanted to win this match," Coria said. "I just forgot my fatigue."

Agassi committed 72 unforced errors and lost his serve nine times. The defeat was his first in 12 Grand Slam matches this year, but Agassi didn't take the defeat as badly as some of his others in major events.

"It's disappointing from a standpoint of not being able to win," said Agassi, the 1999 French Open champion. "But some losses are easier to swallow based on what you feel you did or didn't do. ... He played the bigger points well and executed better."

Williams' match was her first since her sister lost in the fourth round, preventing a fifth consecutive all-Williams Grand Slam final. Serena is bidding for her fifth major title in a row, a streak that began at last year's French Open.

The center-court crowd was eager for an upset by the fifth-seeded Mauresmo. Instead, Williams was overpowering in racing to a 4-0 lead and winning 16 of the first 19 points. After Mauresmo made it 4-1, Williams won six games in a row and again led 4-0.

The rout ended with Mauresmo dumping a backhand into the net on match point.

"I didn't play my best tennis," she said. "I was feeling a bit nervous."

Mauresmo committed 34 unforced errors, double-faulted six times and hit just five winners to 24 for Williams.

"I've seen Amelie play a little bit better, but I also played well," Williams said. "It's hard to play your best when I'm playing really well."

Petrova had the edge in her grueling baseline duel with Zvonareva, who was coming off her upset of Venus Williams.

"I gave every bit of energy I have into this match," said Petrova, who is ranked 76th.

The last Russian woman to play in the semifinals at Roland Garros was Olga Morozova in 1975.

Petrova, who upset Jennifer Capriati in the fourth round, won despite struggling with her serve. Six consecutive breaks in the final set made the score 3-all before Petrova held with an ace.

She broke again by winning a 49-stroke rally, which she finished with a forehand winner to lead 5-3. Petrova raised her arms in jubilation, then pounded her chest with her fist.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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