Andre Agassi insists he has not lost his heart for tennis. Nor, judging by Sunday's performance in the ATP Championship, has he lost his touch.
"I have the desire to play the game. I love the game but I'm struggling," Agassi said after beating Michael Chang 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 to win the ATP for the second straight year. "I've been very discouraged with the way I've been playing. I'm not used to it."Agassi, the Olympic gold medalist, has had a poor year. However, he wonders why anyone questions his talent just because he hasn't won as many tournaments as he did last year when he was No. 1.
"This year's been a struggle - but that's all it's been," he said. "I don't have to prove it for myself."
Agassi plans to play in this week's RCA Championships in Indianapolis. He said the victory over Chang is a lift for the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26 in New York.
"I go into the Open believing I can win it," he said.
Ranked seventh in the world and seeded sixth at the ATP, Agassi used a strong serve and powerful forehand in beating Chang in the ATP final for the second consecutive year.
Chang, ranked third and seeded third, was appearing in his fourth consecutive ATP final and earned $169,000.
Agassi, who won $320,000, becomes the third player to win back-to-back ATP titles. The others are Mats Wilander (1983, 1984) and Chang (1993, 1994).
Agassi displayed the same form he used to defeat second-ranked Thomas Muster in the semifinals Saturday, combining a strong serve and forehand returns to move his opponent side to side. He took a 2-0 lead in the first set before Chang battled back with groundstrokes, only to lose the tiebreaker.
Agassi took leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in the second set, but Chang again rallied, tying it 4-4. Agassi then took control with his serve.
Chang said his loss in the tiebreaker gave Agassi the leverage.
"If I'd won the first set, it would have been a different match. Andre's a different player when he's the front-runner than when he's behind," Chang said. "Andre has been playing some pretty good tennis the last couple of weeks."
Chang said he will take a few days off and prepare at home for the U.S. Open.
Agassi defeated three top five players - No. 4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, No. 2 Thomas Muster and No. 3 Chang - to win the ATP. It was the first time that had been done since Agassi's coach, Brad Gilbert, did it on the way to winning the 1989 ATP Championship.
Agassi's Olympic victory last week over Spain's Sergi Bruguera appeared to mark a revival from a yearlong slump since Agassi's title in the 1995 ATP Championship.
He won at Key Biscayne, Fla., this year, but he won seven ATP Tour titles last year when he was the world's No. 1 player.
Late in the second set, the crowd gave a standing ovation for Amanda Borden, a member of the gold medalist U.S. women's gymnastic team who was introduced from the stands. Borden trains just north of Cincinnati.
Du Maurier Open
MONTREAL (AP) - It wasn't as dramatic as last year, yet Monica Seles got satisfaction from winning the $1.3 million du Maurier Canadian Open women's tournament for the second straight year.
Her 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario Sunday justified her co-No. 1 world ranking with Steffi Graf.
Asked to address the 10,391 center-court crowd, Seles hesitated until Sanchez Vicario walked over and gave her a peck on the cheek. Then the words flowed freely.
"I guess it hadn't sunk in that I'd won the tournament," Seles said, after a masterful performance.
Seles made a triumphant return to the women's tour last August after a 27-month layoff, the result of being stabbed by a spectator during a match at Hamburg, Germany, on April 30, 1993.
"What happened last year was very special." she said. "That can't be repeated.
"I can't compare that to anything in my life. This year, I guess it was more of being back to the routine of the tour."
Seles was the world's dominant player at the time of the stabbing, which was acknowledged with her special ranking when she returned.
It dropped Sanchez Vicario to third place, and there has been a debate ever since on who should be ranked higher.
The players showed there was no animosity between them. But Seles also proved that, despite a nagging shoulder injury, she's a step ahead of Sanchez Vicario heading into the U.S. Open.
After breezing through the first set, Sanchez Vicario fought back to force a tiebreaker in the second. But then she ran into problems, dropping her racquet after one serve and double-faulting away another point.
"I definitely didn't want a third set," Seles said.
It was the first meeting between the two since Seles beat Sanchez Vicario at the 1992 U.S. Open final and avenged her only loss to the Spaniard in the 1992 du Maurier final.
Seles has an 11-1 career record against Sanchez Vicario.
"She just played better overall," said Sanchez Vicario, the 1992 and 1994 du Maurier champion. "It was a good match, but she was just a little better."
The defeat continued a disturbing trend for Sanchez Vicario, who is playing with an elbow injury. She came into the tournament having lost in the final of her last three events - the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics.
She also lost in the final of three Grand Slam tournaments last year.
Seles earned $200,000, boosting her career earnings to $8.57 million. Sanchez got $100,000 to pass the $11 million mark in her 10-year career - the third highest total behind Martina Navratilova and Graf.
Seles won her fourth tournament this year and the 37th of her career.
Seles will keep her co-No. 1 status until Feb. 17 or until she has played 14 tournaments. The du Maurier was her 10th tournament since her comeback.
Sanchez Vicario shares the tournament record of four appearances in the final with Chris Evert and Navratilova.