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AGASSI HOPES 3RD TIME IN SLAM FINAL IS THE CHARM

After two failures last year, Andre Agassi believes he is ready for his first Grand Slam title.

Agassi is hoping the third time will prove to be the lucky one Sunday when he meets fellow American Jim Courier in the French Open men's singles final."If I go out Sunday and lose, it will bother me. I might not see another final," Agassi said after reached the finals with a victory over world No. 2 Boris Becker.

Agassi reached the final last year in two Grand Slam events - at the French Open and the U.S. Open - but lost both times. Now he believes his game has improved enough since he lost in Paris last June to Ecuador's Andres Gomez.

"Obvious things like my serve - I get more points out of it," Agassi said. "Mentally I am more ready for it. I make the (other) person really have to earn it - I feel good about that. If I get my chance, I will go for it."

The man in his path is Courier, the ninth seed who never before had progressed beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam event. His victims on the way to the final included world No. 1 Stefan Edberg in the quarterfinals, and 12th-seeded Michael Stich of Germany in the semifinals.

Agassi and Courier have met six times in the past, with Agassi winning four of those encounters.

They were at odds for a time after Courier split from coach Nick Bolletieri, Agassi's mentor. But Courier said any ill-feeling was all in the past.

"We get on much better," said Courier, at 20 a year younger than Agassi. "We don't spend any time together, but in the past we didn't even speak and now we talk in the locker room. We played a few exhibitions together and that helped. It's more relaxed."

Both players were pleased by the prospect of the first all-American French Open final since Tony Trabert beat Art Larsen in 1954.

"I think it's great," Courier said. "It's the second out of three since Pete (Sampras) and Andre at the U.S. Open. To those who are asking, 'Where are the Americans?' - here we are."

Both men play a hard-hitting game, mainly from the back. Courier said he would be hitting a lot of hard groundstrokes and expected the same from Agassi.

"On Sunday, I'll play my game and give 110 percent and Andre will do the same and may the best man win," he said.

Agassi, who admitted to a few nerves when he reached his first Grand Slam final against Gomez last year, said he has no such problem now.

"When I came last year, I was a little nervous and intimidated being in the final," he said. "I will do my best to play my game and if all goes well, then I shouldn't be in too bad a position."