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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Capriati, Agassi Find Old Form




MELBOURNE, Australia -- It felt like 1990 at the 2000 Australian Open on Tuesday, as Andre Agassi and Jennifer Capriati raced into the semifinals of the year's first Grand Slam tournament.


Agassi, lost in the tennis wilderness three years ago, was in supremely confident form as he beat Morocco's Hicham Arazi 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to set up a tantalizing semifinal against great U.S. rival Pete Sampras, who beat American Chris Woodruff 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 Tuesday.


Former teen prodigy Capriati trounced Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-0, 6-2 to set up a showdown against world No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, who beat Julie Halard-Decugis of France 6-1, 6-2.


It was the first time Agassi and Capriati had reached the final four of the same Grand Slam tournament since the French Open 10 years ago - when Capriati was just 14.


Agassi hopes to build on a banner 1999 in which he captured the U.S. and French Open titles and finished the year ranked No. 1. Two years ago, he had fallen to a career year-end low of 122.


And the unseeded Capriati said she admired the way Agassi had fought back from the brink.


"It just so happened that it was just at the same time that we were both trying to make a comeback," Capriati said.


"He has been an inspiration."


Although happy with his progress so far, Agassi said he was taking nothing for granted with Sampras and defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov still in the draw of the season's first slam.


"He's won these tournaments 12 times before so I have to respect him," said Agassi of Sampras, who is seeking a record 13th Grand Slam title.


Sampras eased his way past Woodruff in one hour, 49 minutes.


Although he did not produce his best, Sampras was always in control against his fellow American on Center Court.


Agassi, the 1995 Australian champion, suffered only a slight wobble early in the second set when the pair traded service breaks but quickly reduced Arazi to the role of court jester in the later stages of a lopsided match.


"I've been around too long to take any match for granted," Agassi said. "But I did what I had to do. I am happy with the way I am going."


Capriati was equally emphatic against a hapless Sugiyama.


Early rain forced tournament officials to close the retractable roof over Melbourne Park's Center Court and it soon became a dismal day all round for Sugiyama.


Sugiyama admitted to big-match nerves despite seven years on the tour.


"I was tense. She played unbelievably good," said Sugiyama, who upset fourth seed Mary Pierce in the previous round.


Capriati was in a bubbly mood after making her first Grand Slam semifinal since she reached the same stage at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1991 as a 15-year-old.


"I'm so happy, I can't believe it," the 23-year-old said.


Capriati is in the second stage of a career almost ruined by arrests for marijuana possession and shoplifting during troubled teen years.


Capriati said the true test of her comeback, which began in 1996 but gained momentum only last year as she climbed from 112 to 21 in the rankings, would come against the likes of Davenport.


"We'll see in a real competition if I can keep up with that level," Capriati said.


Davenport has yet to drop a set at Melbourne Park this year in the quest for her first Australian Open title and closed out the match in 46 minutes.


"I played great tennis - the best match I've played this year - and it's definitely getting better and better as this tournament is going on," she said.