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Agassi coasts to fourth Aussie Open title

| Monday, Jan. 27, 2003

MELBOURNE, Australia — Andre Agassi just keeps getting better with age.

The 32-year-old Agassi overwhelmed Rainer Schuettler right from the start and breezed to his fourth Australian Open title, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, on Saturday, becoming the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles crown in 31 years.

"There's not a single day that's guaranteed or promised to us, and certainly days like this are very rare," Agassi said.

Agassi won his eighth Grand Slam championship. And the victory might also have been enough to lure his wife, Steffi Graf, out of retirement.

Agassi had said earlier that if he won this tournament, Graf would be his partner for mixed doubles in the French Open. After the final point, Agassi gave a quick wink into the stands at Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles before she stopped playing three years ago.

"There's one positive thing: I think everyone's looking forward to the French Open," Schuettler said, said drawing laughs from Agassi, Graf and the fans.

Agassi was the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972 at 37.

"You never know when it's your last, but I'll never forget being here," Agassi told the crowd at the trophy ceremony. "I'll never forget playing for you. I'll never forget the love and support here. I feel like I'm half Australian."

It was a mismatch from the beginning.

Agassi sent back Schuettler's first serve back so hard that the German player could only push it long.

Agassi won the first eight points of the match. When Schuettler finally won a point to start the third game, he raised his hands in mock triumph.

Agassi now has won the Australian Open four of the seven times he has entered. He also had won in 1995, 2000 and 2001, but injured his wrist on the eve of last year's Australian.

The second-seeded Agassi was in complete control throughout the match, finishing off the 31st-seeded Schuettler in one hour, 16 minutes.

Agassi matched the most-lopsided victory ever at the Australian Open. By losing only five games, he tied the mark last done in 1926 when John Hawkes defeated Jim Willard, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

Overall, it was the most-lopsided Grand Slam men's final since John McEnroe lost just four games to Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1984.

"There's not a lot to say," Schuettler said. "I tried my best, but he was simply too good for me today."

To go with his four Australian wins, Agassi has won two U.S. Open titles and once each at Wimbledon and the French Open. He's also lost six Grand Slam finals.

His eight Grand Slam titles tie him at sixth with Rosewall, Connors, Ivan Lendl and Fred Perry.

Agassi also is the fourth man to win at least four Australian titles. Roy Emerson had six, and Rosewall and Jack Crawford four each.

In extending his winning streak at this tournament to 21 matches, he lost only 48 games in seven matches this time.

Agassi collected $654,000 for winning, bringing his career tournament winnings past $26.3 million.

Schuettler collected $327,000 to add to his previous total of $2.3 million.

The 26-year-old Schuettler never had reached even a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this year. His best previous record was reaching the Australian fourth round in 2001.

He gained one break when 2002 runner-up Marat Safin withdrew from their third-round match with a wrist injury.

In the semifinals, he overcame Andy Roddick, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, after the 20-year-old American wore himself out and hurt his wrist in a 4-hour, 59-minute quarterfinal victory over Younes Al Aynaoui.

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