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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Agassi, Sanchez Vicario Take the Open

NEW YORK -- With the black clothing, the five o'clock shadow and an earring, Andre Agassi won't be mistaken for a knight in shining armor.


But he could possibly be the man who saves tennis.


In the year when the Wimbledon final was criticized for being all serve and almost no volley, when the biggest news in the women's game was the off-court travails of Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles, Andre Agassi breathed some life into the sport.


Agassi won the U.S. Open with pizzazz, with the daring and audacity of a con man, and by beating a bigger man -- Germany's Michael Stich -- at his own game: power. The score was 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.


On Saturday, Germany's other Open finalist also went down to defeat. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the women's title, beating top-seeded and defending champion Steffi Graf 1-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in a thrilling battle. It was the Spaniard's third Grand Slam tournament title; she won the French Open in 1989 and again this past June.


Both winners pocketed $550,000.


Stich's big serves were measured as high as 200 kilometers per hour.Agassi sent the ball back even quicker. And when he found he couldn't go around the huge wingspan of Stich, who is six-foot-four (one meter 97 centimeters tall,) Agassi tried to send the ball through his opponent.


The National Tennis Center crowd of 21,063 loved it.


"I love playing," Agassi said. "And people were really excited. We had a full stadium today, packed the place, really enjoyed it. It was just good for tennis."


Agassi became the first unseeded player to win the crown since Fred Stolle in 1966 and only the third in the 114-year history of the tournament. Agassi beat No. 9 Todd Martin in Saturday's semifinal, while Stich retired Karel Novacek.


It was Agassi's first U.S. Open title and his second Grand Slam tournament crown; he won Wimbledon in 1992.


Against Stich in the opening set, Agassi was brilliant and nearly flawless.


Agassi broke Stich at love to begin the match, then staved off two break points to hold serve in the second game.


Stich lost his serve again in the third game as Agassi jumped out to a 4-0 lead. But it was the seventh game, when Stich again was broken, that Agassi won perhaps the most telling point of the afternoon.


With both players face-to-face at the net, they exchanged a series of reflex volleys that ended with Agassi blocking a shot at his chest into the open court.


There were no more service breaks until the 11th game of the third set. One game later, Agassi had his first U.S. Open title.


"Accomplishing your dreams is a feeling that not just athletes have," Agassi said. "That feeling is one that increases as years go by. It is one that I will feel better about tomorrow than I do today, and so on and so on because of what it represents."


Where Agassi dominated from the start, Sanchez Vicario bounced back from a first-set thrashing. The scrambling Sanchez Vicario blunted the vaunted power of Graf to become the first Spanish woman to win the U.S. title.


"She played more aggressive at times than I did," Graf said. "She is somebody who tries for every point, even if she's down. She never gives up."


In Friday's semifinals, Sanchez Vicario beat No. 8 Gabriela Sabatini on Friday and Graf defeated No. 7 Jana Novotna.


Graf breezed through the opening set in only 22 minutes, winning 20 of the 24 points in the final four games. Sanchez Vicario had only one winner in the first set while committing 10 unforced errors.


But Sanchez Vicario changed her tactics and began forcing the issue instead of engaging in booming baseline battles. She moved the ball around the court, slicing it, sometimes hitting topspin, never giving Graf the same type of ball twice, trying to keep the German's feared forehand from becoming the dominant weapon it usually is.


It worked. Instead of hitting winners, Graf started making unforced errors. Neither was able to hold serve easily, but Sanchez Vicario captured the second-set tiebreak to pull even, then broke Graf for a 5-4 lead in the final set when Graf double-faulted on break point.