Focused Agassi breezes into Legg Mason semis Top seed Chang gains upper hand over Courier


WASHINGTON -- With a world ranking of 107, his highest in a couple of years, and a trio of straight-set victories since Monday, Sebastien Lareau had to be feeling pretty good about himself.

Then came Andre Agassi, headache Nos. one through 10 for the young Canadian.

Agassi enjoyed batting practice against Lareau while easing to a 6-1, 6-2 triumph in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic last night.

In the final quarterfinal pairing, top seed Michael Chang gained the upper hand in his rivalry with seventh seed Jim Courier with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Chang, a two-time defending champion of the tournament, advanced to the semifinals against Australian Scott Draper.

How dominant was Agassi? After losing the first two points of the match, he won 20 of the next 25 and led 5-0. Quicker than you could say double fault, one of Lareau's favorite shots early, Agassi was winging, 6-1, 4-0.

"Things are beautiful right now," said Agassi, who has been terrible in appearances here the past two years. "And the way things are going, things can only get better."

As opposed to 1997, when Agassi's focus was elsewhere, he says, "that and my movement are there now and that makes me tough to contend with. An easy win like this in a quarterfinal tells you how you're playing."

Agassi (2) meets third-seeded Wayne Ferreira in the first semifinal at 1 p.m. today.

Ferreira of South Africa advanced yesterday with his three-set quarterfinal victory over Vince Spadea, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.

Chang increased his winning streak to 15 straight matches at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center with a variety of

breathtaking shots against Courier.

Chang earned a standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 7,000 with a razzle-dazzle winner that captured the first set.

Draper zapped No. 5 seed Filip Dewulf, 6-3, 6-2, in the other quarterfinal.

Being Australian is not only a nationality, it's an attitude. Men like Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe and so many more were not only great players, but they loved and respected the game totally.

Draper appears to be in that tradition. He stumbled to a 4-9 match record to start the year due to a bum knee.

In the past five weeks, however, things have turned around for pTC the 24-year-old lefty from Queensland. He's 14-3 in matches since the start of winning a pre-Wimbledon tournament on grass.

"The knee problem seemed to come out of nowhere, and I guess it hurt me more than I thought it would," he said. "Movement is a big part of my game, and, although I was striking the ball well, I wasn't winning. I considered getting something done about the injury, but then [fellow Aussie] Jason Stoltenberg talked me into completing the grass season. It just seemed to improve on its own after that."

Even without Draper's rapidly returning mobility, Dewulf would have been lucky to stay with him the way he was hammering his serve. The Queensland native won 25 of 29 first-serve points, Dewulf walking back and forth across the baseline as if on guard duty.

NOTE: The Bryan twins, NCAA singles champ Bob and brother Mike Bryan (they won the collegiate doubles at Stanford), continued their triumphal march as pros, winning their 17th straight doubles match with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over David DiLucia and Mike Sell yesterday.

Singles, quarterfinals

Scott Draper (14), def. Filip Dewulf (5), 6-3, 6-2; Wayne Ferreira (3), def. Vincent Spadea (6), 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1; Andre Agassi (2) def. Sebastien Lareau, 6-1, 6-2; Michael Chang (1) def. Jim Courier (7), 6-3, 6-4.

Pub Date: 7/25/98

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