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HOW GOOD IS AGASSI? ASK PALMER

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When Andre Agassi has played his best, he has been nearly invincible. Just ask Jared Palmer.

"He puts a lot of pressure on you," Palmer said. "He just started dictating and had me on my heels a lot and I . . . just wasn't able to stop the bleeding."A year ago, Agassi came into the U.S. Open unranked and known more for his flash and hype than his game. This year, he entered the year's final Grand Slam tournament as defending champion and seeded No. 1.

"I have been pretty focused for a year now," Agassi said after defeating Palmer 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 to move into the quarterfinals at the National Tennis Center. "I am not only coming in playing real well, but I have the confidence that I can win it because I did last year."

Monday's victory also makes Agassi the only male player to reach the quarterfinals in all four Grand Slam tournaments this year. He will face rejuvenated Petr Korda, who eliminated Vince Spadea 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in a battle of unseeded players.

In other men's fourth-round matches Monday, fourth-seeded Boris Becker defeated No. 13 Marc Rosset 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3 and Patrick McEnroe ousted Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 6-4. The winners will vie in the quarters.

In women's singles, No. 2 Monica Seles defeated No. 11 Anke Huber 6-1, 6-4; No. 4 Conchita Martinez stopped Zina Garrison Jackson 7-6 (7-5), 7-5; No. 5 Jana Novotna downed Katarina Studenikova 6-4, 6-3; and, in a mild upset, No. 16 Brenda Schultz-McCarthy defeated No. 7 Kimiko Date 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

"Last year I went into the Open with not a lot of matches, and this year I'm going in playing a lot over the summer and winning a lot," Agassi said. "So there are two different levels there, you know.

"I have a lot more belief in my game now. . . . I am definitely playing better, but doing what you got to do to win is the key. However well you play, as long as it's a little better than the guy you are playing, that is the most important thing."

Palmer, Agassi's former Davis Cup teammate, briefly raised the level of his play to challenge Agassi in the latter stages of the opening set. But Agassi's game was just too much, as was his intensity.

"He can generate as much pace as anybody when he goes for it," Palmer said. "But . . . the thing about him is he doesn't. He takes the ball early and he has a lot of control over the ball.

"He doesn't have to hit it hard. He can take it early and move it around.

"You can hit a big serve or a big groundstroke right at him and he has got such good hands that it is like he grabs it and throws it back on the other side of the court," Palmer said. "He is the best in the world at the moment."

While every eye has been on Agassi, Becker, the 1989 U.S. Open champion, has been quietly working his way through the draw. Agassi and Becker are the only seeded players left in the top half of the draw and could meet in the semifinals.

If he gets to Agassi, Becker will find an ever-progressing player, who has reached the final of every hardcourt tournament he has entered this year. Agassi is 92-10 since he began his run to the Open title a year ago.

Huber kept Seles on the court for 71 minutes, the first time anyone has pushed Seles past one hour in the tournament. And after Seles broke Huber to start the second set, Huber broke right back.

"I was a little mad at myself," Seles said. "I had control of the match, but then I let the control out of my hand. It could have been closer than it was.

"I just did a very weird service game. My mind wandered off. I felt I let the momentum slip away from me a little bit. That made the second set much harder than if I had won that second game."

As it was, Huber was able to get only three more games as Seles yielded only three points in her last two service games.

Seles, who wore a black brace on her left knee again because of tendinitis, is still undefeated in her comeback, winning all nine matches without dropping a set. She now has an 18-match winning streak in the Open and has reached the final of her last eight Grand Slam tournaments, winning seven.

In the night's final match, Gigi Fernandez and Cyril Suk won their mixed doubles quarterfinal, defeating Martina Navratilova and Jonathan Stark 7-5, 7-6 (7-3). Having earlier been eliminated in women's doubles, Navratilova will not add to her 56 Grand Slam tournament titles, second only to Margaret Smith Court's 62 titles.

Navratilova and Stark beat Fernandez and Suk in the Wimbledon mixed doubles final in July.