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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Agassi Beats Sampras to Reach Final

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Andre Agassi produced a majestic performance to beat Pete Sampras 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in a nail-biting Australian Open semifinal Thursday that underlined his billing as the world's best player.

Top seed Agassi will now meet either Russian defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov or 12th-seeded Swede Magnus Norman in Sunday's final.

In the women's semifinal, world No. 2 Lindsay Davenport downed resurgent Jennifer Capriati 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) to set up a final against Martina Hingis, who beat Spain's Conchita Martinez 6-3, 6-2 Thursday.

Agassi's win foiled Sampras' bid to improve his record of 12 Grand Slam titles which he shares with Australian Roy Emerson.

The match, on a cold and windy night at Melbourne Park, had been billed as "the final before the final," and it certainly lived up to the hype as Sampras, the world's most potent server, faced off against the game's best returner of the ball.

Sampras fired down 37 aces during the match, many on his second serve, but Agassi was always prepared to put pressure on the former No. 1.

The match was tight and explosive during its early stages, both players scrambling to hold serve, before Agassi - 0-40 down on his own serve early on - grabbed the only break of the first set in the fifth game.

Sampras grabbed an unexpected break in the following set to even up the score and looked increasingly confident as he came up to the net and moved Agassi around the court.

Neither player was able to break serve in the third set and Sampras, who had not lost a tiebreak against Agassi since 1995, fired through the tiebreak with a series of clean winners to win 7-0.

The next set saw successive breaks of serve and could have gone either way. When the tiebreak finally arrived, Agassi was in no mood to throw it away, however, and scored a minibreak on the 12th point to capture it 7-5.

In 28 previous meetings, the pair had only ever fought through one five-setter, won by Sampras in the 1993 Wimbledon quarterfinals. Sampras had also never lost in eight career five-setters at Melbourne Park.

But Agassi imposed himself on the match and broke the Sampras serve with a stunning backhand passing shot in the second game to go 2-0 up. He never looked back.

"That was a great moment of change," Agassi said of the break and Sampras's dejected stance afterward.

"It's not often you see Pete down a break in the fifth set, so we didn't know how well he'd react in that situation."

Capriati drew Davenport into an old-fashioned streetfight before she was beaten by her fellow American in straight sets.

"I knew she would always hang in there, I'm pretty lucky to get through in two sets," Davenport said of her opponent.

The Wimbledon champion blasted Capriati with bullet serves and heavy, flat groundstrokes to the corners of the court in the first set.

Unseeded Capriati, 26, began slowly, dropped serve twice in the first set and again at the start of the second set.

But then the feisty New York-born Capriati fought back hard, unleashing a barrage of her own with stinging backhand and forehand winners across the court.

She broke Davenport's serve for the first time in the second game of the second set and an engrossing fight ensued as the pair punched and counter-punched their way through another four service breaks on their way to a tiebreaker.

But Davenport, 26, capitalized on two Capriati errors to take the tiebreaker 7-4 and reach her first Australian Open final.

Hingis completely outclassed 10th seed Martinez, pushing the tiring 27-year-old baseliner around the court.

The world No. 1. now has a winning streak of 27 singles matches at Melbourne Park stretching back to 1997.

"That's a pretty good record. I hope I can keep on like that," said Hingis, who beat Martinez for the 1998 Australian Open title.

Neither she nor Davenport have dropped a set on their way to the final, with Hingis dropping just three sets in the past three years.

"I think this is the dream final," Hingis said. "I will try to give it a shot - I've got nothing to lose."

In doubles play, Davenport retired from her semifinal on Thursday with a hamstring strain but said the injury would not stop her playing in Saturday's singles final against Hingis.

Playing with Corina Morariu, the American pair were trailing Hingis and Mary Pierce 5-0 in the first set when Davenport called it a day.