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Andre simply plays gigantic in easy victory over Sampras

Continuing his dramatic comeback after falling out of the top 100 last year, a confident and hard-hitting Andre Agassi easily upset No. 1-ranked Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-4 in the Sybase Open final Sunday afternoon.

Despite Sampras' strong serves, Agassi controlled the match with power and placement to win his fourth Sybase title. He also won it in 1990, '93 and '95.When Sampras hit long for match point, a jubilant Agassi raised his hands in victory and blew a kiss to the fans, as wife Brooke Shields cheered wildly and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Sampras, the top seed and two-time defending champion, appeared sluggish despite 17 aces. He seemed stunned after the match.

"He was just on top of his game," Sampras said. "I was a little bit off."

Agassi went up 2-1 in the first set, with a cross-court backhand for break point. He broke serve again to go up 4-1, and kept command from then on.

Plagued by broken strings, Sampras used five rackets during the match. Down 5-2 in the first set, he continued to rally with broken strings, then playfully pretended he was about to throw his racket into the crowd when he lost the point. Even Agassi laughed.

The two men have not played each other since the November 1996 ATP World Championship in Hanover, Germany. The last time Agassi beat Sampras was in 1995 at Montreal. Sampras leads the series against Agassi, 12-9.

Agassi ended 1996 ranked No. 8, but his game fell off dramatically last year, with his ranking plummeting to as low as No. 141 in November.

This year, a revitalized Agassi has been on a steady comeback. He reached the semifinals in Auckland, then this week defeated French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten and No. 2 seed Michael Chang.

Agassi, 27, was a wild card entry in the Sybase.

Paris Open

PARIS - Mary Pierce won for the first time in her adopted country, beating Belgium's Dominique Van Roost 6-3, 7-5 Sunday to win the $480,000 Paris Open and shore up her shaky relationship with French fans.

"It's great, and a big relief to have won in France," Pierce said. "It's my first title of 1998 and it's a bonus that it was here. The next stage is to win Roland Garros. That's my career dream."

Pierce - a native of Canada, citizen of France and resident of Florida - first represented France almost eight years ago. In 1996, she was jeered off the court in Paris after a first-round defeat she blamed on injury.

On Sunday, she was cheered.

But her game unraveled in the second set. She won on her fourth match point after dropping three successive serves from 4-1.

Pierce, the No. 3 seed, won for the ninth time in her career, earning a first prize of $79,000.

She was lifted by the crowd and helped by a weary Van Roost, the No. 6 seed who who also lost serve in the ninth and 11th games. Van Roost held serve only three times all match.

"I played twice today - against Mary and the crowd," she said. "The French public is very chauvinistic."

Van Roost was playing her third final of the year after winning in New Zealand and losing in Hobart, Australia. She liked what she saw in Pierce's game.

"She's much more consistent and moves so much better," Van Roost said. "Her speed around the court impressed me."

In doubles, Sabine Appelmans of Belgium and Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands won the title, defeating Anna Kournikova of Russia and Larisa Neiland of Latvia 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Dubai Open

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Alex Corretja claimed his first career hard court title Sunday, defeating fellow Spaniard Felix Mantilla 7-6, 6-1 in the final of the Dubai Open.

Corretja and Mantilla, best friends and practice partners, were closely matched in the first set, with several of baseline rallies extending to 20 strokes or more.

"This is the most important win in my career. This is hardcourt. This is special," Corretja said.

Mantilla seemed to have the edge early, dropping just four points in his first four service games. But Corretja took control in the tiebreaker with a 7-0 sweep.

Corretja, who won $142,000 broke in the second set to lead 2-0. Although Mantilla pulled back the break in the next game, he was broken again for 3-1 and never had a problem.

Corretja's best previous hardcourt match came in the 1996 U.S. Open, when he held a match point against Pete Sampras.

"That day I thought more of myself, and the match point I lost against Sampras won me the match today," he said.

St Petersburg Open

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - In a match between two of the hardest servers in tennis, Richard Krajicek regrouped late in the first set and beat Marc Rosset 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) Sunday to capture the St. Petersburg Open.

Krajicek, the No. 1 seed from the Netherlands, said he was troubled by Rosset's big serves early on.

"Then out of the blue the match changed," he said. "In the first half I thought I had no chance. But in the second half he made lots of mistakes and made it pretty easy."

Rosset, the No. 4 seed from Switzerland, had no explanation for his change in play.

"It's strange," he said. "I was leading 4-2 (in the first set) and everything seemed to be OK in the game. I cannot really tell you."

Rosset's confidence ebbed as the match wore on. His serve began to fail, his number of faults increasing.

The match featured two of the taller players in the game, with Rosset at 6-foot-7 and Krajicek at 6-5. Krajicek stayed mostly with his traditional serve and volley while Rosset stuck to the back of the court.

In doubles, Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillstrom of Sweden downed South African duo Marius Barnard and Brent Haygarth 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).