Agassi wins Cincinnati Masters for third time

Updated: August 9, 2004, 1:28 AM ET
Associated Press

MASON, Ohio -- At an age when most of his contemporaries have retired from championship tennis, Andre Agassi is as good as ever.

"You can't get around the fact that the challenges are different at 34 than they are at 24," Agassi said. "It's uncharted territory for me every year now."

Agassi beat 10th-seeded Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 on Sunday to win the Cincinnati Masters, elevating his game as the week went on.

"Everybody has to choose their own road -- what they're committed to, what's important to them, what their strengths are, their weaknesses, their abilities," Agassi said.

"I mean, if I couldn't do it, then I would be left with a different choice. But the fact that I felt like I can, now it's a function of work ethic and commitment and focus."

Clearly, Agassi can still play. He beat 21-year-old Andy Roddick in the semifinals, then wore down the 23-year-old Hewitt on Sunday.

"This certainly gives me a new life," Agassi said. "I came into this week with a lot of questions. So for me to end up winning was beyond what I could have expected."

He broke Hewitt's serve three times, after the Australian had been broken only once in five matches.

"I've really been doing a good job this week of any time I get a chance to take the offense," Agassi said. "I've really been executing well, and that makes a big difference against the top guys. Because if you're not taking it to them, they're taking it to you."

The win was Agassi's first in 16 months. He hadn't reached an ATP Tour final since November in the Tennis Masters Cup. The first-place money -- $400,000 -- almost doubled his earnings for the year.

The victory eased some of the frustration that had been building since Agassi had to skip Wimbledon because of an inflamed hip. And it put him back on the road to contention in the U.S. Open.

"The last few months, there has been a lot of disappointment," Agassi said. "I certainly have more confidence now than I've had in a long time. I came into this week, arguably, at my lowest point. It's been so many months since I've put together a few matches in a row, and now I'm looking forward to getting out there and reaping the rewards of the work."

Hewitt had problems with his serve in the first set. With Agassi leading 3-2, Hewitt was serving at 40-0, but lost four straight points before rallying to tie the set at 3. Two games later, he lost the first point by double-faulting, then hit the deciding point into the net to put Agassi up 5-3.

Still, Agassi had trouble putting away the set. Serving at 15-40, he won the next four points, including a 120-mph ace.

"I felt I had chances throughout the first set and I just wasn't able to capitalize on them," Hewitt said.

In the second set, Hewitt broke Agassi to take a 5-3 lead. Agassi had seemed to be regaining the pinpoint placement that had gotten better with each match. But when his shot on game point was a fraction wide, Hewitt raised his fists to his chest and let out a scream, then served out the set to even the match.

At that point Hewitt, who won titles earlier this year at Sydney and Rotterdam, thought he had the momentum to beat Agassi.

"I felt like I fought extremely hard to get myself back in the match," Hewitt said. "Then the third set, he came out, held a quick service game first game, and I was sort of on the back foot the whole time."

Agassi broke Hewitt again in the third set to take a 3-1 lead, and Hewitt double- faulted on match point.

That made Agassi the oldest ATP Tour winner since Jimmy Connors won consecutive titles at Toulouse and Tel Aviv at 37 in 1989.

"He hit a lot of first serves and a lot of serves right on the line and corners and stuff," Hewitt said. "I just couldn't get into his service games."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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