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Agassi falls to Grosjean

The Associated Press

PARIS – Andre Agassi usually gives thoughtful, detailed commentary after matches.

Thursday, June 07, 2001

PARIS – Andre Agassi usually gives thoughtful, detailed commentary after matches. He had nothing but empty answers following his French Open loss to Sebastien Grosjean.

What do you wish you could have done, he was asked following his 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 quarterfinal loss Wednesday.

”Won the match,” Agassi said.

How much higher had your expectations been?

”About three matches higher,” he replied.

Was there anything particular that gave you trouble?

”Yes. Sebastien Grosjean.”

It was certainly a contrast from two days earlier, when a relaxed Agassi was sentimental about the romance he has with the French public.

The French fans do love Agassi, especially since his win here in 1999. But on Wednesday, they had a hometown hero to cheer on in Grosjean, and they seemed baffled by the way one of the greatest players in tennis came unraveled before their eyes.

Agassi didn’t do much to explain it.

”I played well,” he said, convincing no one who saw the match. ”He played a lot better.”

Maybe it was the clay? Too quick or too slow? ”No, it felt pretty much like it felt the whole tournament,” Agassi said.

Or maybe it was former President Bill Clinton, sitting in the front row, who distracted him?

”What are you talking about?” Agassi asked. ”I didn’t even know he was there.”

That sounded strange, given the fact that Clinton entered to huge applause and loud cheers, plus a few boos, and sat down at courtside – on Agassi’s side.

Clinton made an obvious point of cheering Agassi. But it seemed even the presidential seal of approval wasn’t enough for the world’s third-ranked player.

At 31, Agassi was going for a second successive Grand Slam championship and a second title at Roland Garros. He won the Australian Open in January.

”It’s pretty disappointing at the moment,” he said, wasting no words. Next question?

Agassi’s opponent couldn’t explain it, either.

”It was strange because sometimes he hit the ball really hard, you know, like tanking,” Grosjean said. ”Maybe he was not really happy that the game wasn’t like the first set.”

Agassi breezed through the first set in 22 minutes and seemed as if he was on his way to a quick victory.

And then, just as Clinton arrived for the second set, the momentum changed.

”In the second set, I won the first game and I felt very confident then,” Grosjean said. ”I felt the crowd supporting me. I really worked on each point.”

The 23-year-old Grosjean was playing the match of his life, running every point down, hitting winners, dusting the lines.

”It’s true, I had the feeling I was not able to miss any point,” he said. I was hitting the ball properly. I was hitting deep. I was giving him problems.

”Every time I was aggressive, I hit a winner. This is something I’ll try for the semifinals.”

The target of these tactics will be No. 13 Alex Corretja, who advanced by beating unseeded 19-year-old Roger Federer 7-5, 6-4, 7-5. The other semifinal Friday pits top-seeded two-time champion Gustavo Kuerten against No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

On Thursday, the resurgent Jennifer Capriati, seeded fourth, aims for a berth in the final with a victory over top-seeded Martina Hingis, who’s still looking for her first French Open crown.

The other women’s semifinal is a matchup of two Belgian teen-agers, No. 12 Kim Clijsters and No. 14 Justine Henin.