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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kafelnikov in Decisive Mood For Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov underlined his status as one of the leading contenders for the Australian Open title Friday by dismissing emerging Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets at the Kooyong Classic.

Kafelnikov, the Russian ranked fifth in the world, won 6-3 6-4 as a haze of smoke, blown from bushfires in Victoria, descended on Melbourne.

He will meet Andre Agassi in the final of the Classic on Saturday, a repeat of the 2000 Australian Open final which Agassi won in four sets.

"I couldn't be happier with the way I am playing," said Kafelnikov.

"I am looking forward to meeting Agassi again, because he is the kind of player who will push me all the way.

"I need that extra workout to let me know just how good I am feeling before the Open. But my expectations are already high.

"To do well at the Australian Open, you need to be the complete player - and I feel I am one of those."

Kafelnikov, 26, enjoys competing in Australia.

Aside from a runners-up placing at the Open last year, he won the Australian Open in 1999, and secured gold at the Sydney Olympic in September.

Kafelnikov was on Friday drawn to meet Jens Knippschild in the first round of this year's Open, which begins in Melbourne on Monday.

He has also avoided Pete Sampras and Agassi, both of whom are placed in the bottom half of the draw.

Kafelnikov beat Knippschild, of Germany, in the first round last year, before advancing to the final. He said: "That's a good sign - in fact, it's the best piece of news I've had for some time.

"Hopefully I can meet Agassi in the final again this year, but make sure there is a different outcome this time."