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AGASSI, SAMPRAS ON COURSE IN QUEST TO REGAIN NO. 1 RANK

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Andre Agassi kept pace with rival Pete Sampras on their course to decide the new No. 1 ranking, beating stubborn Richey Reneberg 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Sybase Open.

"The stakes definitely get raised as you go along," Agassi said, "and certain players, (Michael) Chang and Sampras being two of them, bring out that intensity even more."Agassi, the defending champion and 21-1 lifetime in this event, reached the finals of every hardcourt tournament he played in 1995 and is a win away from starting this year the same way. Sampras earned a spot in the semifinals with a 6-7 (5-7),6-3, 6-4 victory over seventh seed Greg Rusedski.

Sampras and Agassi, ranked 2-3 in the world, both seek title to the ATP's top ranking after Thomas Muster, in his first match as No. 1, lost in the first round of the Dubai Open earlier this week.

Jan Kroslak, ranked 119th, will face Sampras in Saturday's first semifinal match. Agassi plays the winner of Friday night's late match between Michael Chang and Jason Stoltenberg.

At Paris, Julie Halard of France handed second-seeded Anke Huber her first loss before a final since last November, beating the German 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (10-8) Friday in the quarterfinals of the Paris Open.

Top-seeded Iva Majoli of Croatia survived a first-set scare to advance to the semifinals by defeating Nathalie Dechy, a 16-year-old French qualifier, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Dechy was playing her sixth match in seven days.

The second-seeded Huber lost in the finals of her last two tournaments, the Australian Open last month and the Virginia Slims last November.

In other quarterfinals, third-seeded Magdalena Maleeve of Bulgaria beat Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4 and Silvia Farina of Italy downed Petra Begerow of Germany 6-3, 6-1.

At Paris, Cedric Pioline and Guy Forget of France won their quarterfinals Friday at the Marseille Open.

Pioline beat second-seeded Sergi Bruguera 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Forget beat Adrian Voinea of Romania 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

In other quarterfinals, Hendrik Dreekman of Germany beat Filip DeWulf of Belgium, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), and Tomas Carbonell of Spain beat Stephen Simian of France 6-2, 7-5.