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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kafelnikov Set to Play for Gold

SYDNEY, Australia Yevgeny Kafelnikov talked of skipping the Olympics. He wasnt happy with his game and wasnt sure he wanted to make the long trip.

Now hes glad he came.

To his astonishment and delight, the fifth-seeded Russian will play for the gold medal Thursday against unseeded Tommy Haas of Germany, another surprising finalist.

Kafelnikov beat Arnaud Di Pasquale of France 6-4, 6-4, while Haas defeated Roger Federer of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2.

The 26-year-old Russian got crucial breaks on Di Pasquales serve in the seventh game of each set and won in one hour, 18 minutes in cold, damp conditions.

"Im absolutely delighted," he said. "Before the tournament I didnt expect to win a few matches, but now my confidence has come back.

"The conditions didnt worry me. Ive got to do what Ive got to do. I will consider this the best year of my career if I win the gold medal here. Thats how important this is to me."

Kafelnikov said he expects Haas to be a tough final opponent despite having a 3-1 career record against the German.

"It will be extremely difficult," he said. "It is not very often you get the chance to play for a gold medal just once every four years.

"I may still be playing professional tennis at 30, but probably wont be a medal contender, so Im treating this as my last chance."

The two-time Grand Slam champion has enjoyed a lot of success on Australias hardcourts. He won the Australian Open last year and was runner-up in January, losing in the final to Andre Agassi.

Kafelnikov hasnt won a tournament this year and failed to reach even the semifinals at the French or U.S. Open. But a gold medal would make 2000 a success.

Haas also regards the Olympics as an opportunity to salvage a disappointing year. He blames hip and back injuries for his decline in the rankings to 48th from 11th in January.

Like Kafelnikov, Haas hasnt won a tournament this year. Also like Kafelnikov, he nearly skipped the trip to Sydney.

"I was totally out of shape," Haas said. "I was really considering not coming because its the Olympics, and if you play, you want to play well."

Haas has already beaten two seeded players: South African 14th seed Wayne Ferreira and eighth-seeded Spaniard Alex Corretja.

His match with Federer was delayed for over three hours by rain and was twice briefly interrupted by showers when it finally got under way.

The German took control from 3-3 in the first set, winning five straight games and establishing a stranglehold Federer was never able to break.

"So far, so good," Haas said. "It is good to know you already have a medal in your pocket."

In womens action, Monica Seles beat Australian teenager Jelena Dokic 6-1, 6-4 in only 59 minutes in the third-place playoff for the womens singles.

Seles said the win made up for some of the disappointment of her semifinal loss to U.S. teammate Venus Williams.

"Im just happy that I won a medal," said the Yugoslavia-born former world No. 1. "Ive never had a medal in my life before, and Im really excited that Ill be coming back for the medal ceremony tomorrow."

Seles will be presented with her medal after Wednesdays womens singles final between Williams and Russias Yelena Dementieva.

"I really didnt want to play today I was really down," she said. "But you cant always get the gold. Bronze is good."

Dokic, whose controversial father, Damir, did not attend her matches here, said she had been happy with her performances in her first Olympic Games despite missing out on a medal.

"Its been a great experience and something I can learn from," she said.

"I thought Monica played really well today. She served well, was hitting the lines and hardly gave me anything."

(AP, Reuters)