Friday, December 26
Well-rested Agassi cruises
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Andre Agassi pummelled a patched-up Guillermo Coria in straight sets Friday to reach his ninth U.S. Open semifinal.

Coria, suffering from a left hamstring injury and with blood pouring from a cut thumb, struggled with his movement for most of the contest as the top seed and world No. 1 ran him from side to side under blue Flushing Meadows skies.

Agassi, meanwhile, had fresh legs and it was easy to tell.

Making the most of a two-day break -- a rare notion in the second week of this rain-plagued U.S. Open -- Agassi posted a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 victory over the fifth-seeded Coria under the first sunny sky at the tournament in five days.

Another American star, No. 4 Andy Roddick also reached the semifinals, beating No. 12 Sjeng Schalken 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Like Agassi, Roddick also had the day off Thursday.

Agassi will face French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semifinals Saturday. The third-seeded Ferrero reached his first Open semifinals by beating 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-1 on Friday.

The 33-year-old Agassi has not played since Tuesday when he completed a 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 7-5 victory over fellow American Taylor Dent, who was forced to retire with a leg injury.

Agassi pounded groundstrokes deep into the corners, easily moving Coria around the court, and mixed in some finesse with pretty drop volleys that Coria struggled to chase down.

After Coria's forehand sailed out on match point, Agassi waved, blew kisses and bowed for the crowd, which included his pregnant wife, Steffi Graf, and the couple's toddler son, Jaden.

"I wanted to make the match physical and make him step up and hit big shots consistently, and I did," said Agassi, who avenged a loss to the Argentine on clay in the quarterfinals of this year's French Open.

"It feels like I hadn't played in a week, to be honest. I don't think I started all that great, but then I managed to get into the match and started playing better."

Coria, who needed four sets to finish his delayed fourth-round match against Jonas Bjorkman on Thursday evening, was treated for a deep cut on his right hand after slicing into his finger with a knife during breakfast. He also grabbed his left hamstring several times after stretching for shots.

"I would have cut my finger if it made me hit my shots like that," Agassi said.

Agassi improved to 3-1 lifetime against Coria. He beat the 21-year-old Argentine en route to winning his eighth career Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, but lost to Coria five months later in the quarterfinals of the French Open.

Coria was playing for the second time in as many days due to the rain. He was clearly hampered by a hamstring injury suffered in his second-round match, and played with a deep cut on his right hand after slicing into his finger with a knife during breakfast.

A two-time champion here, Agassi will play either third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain or No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia in Saturday's semifinals.