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Agassi defeats Sampras again

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LOS ANGELES — Andre Agassi continued his recent domination of Pete Sampras with a 6-4, 6-2 victory Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Cup final — his most lopsided win in two years over his rival.

Agassi trails 17-14 in the 12-year rivalry, but he's won the last three meetings, including a three-set victory on hardcourts in Indian Wells in March.

"You wake up differently when you play him in a big match," Agassi said. "It brings out the best in my game."

While Agassi leads the ATP in points and money, Sampras hasn't won a tournament since capturing his seventh Wimbledon crown last year. He was upset in the fourth round this year by Swiss teen-ager Roger Federer.

Sampras is 22-12 this year, and has gone 14 tournaments without winning a trophy — the longest since he won his first ATP Tour title in the 34th event of his career in 1990.

"It would've been nice to win a title here in my hometown, but I'm optimistic," said Sampras, who was cheered on by his wife, Bridgette. "I didn't think I was playing poorly. He raised his level."

Agassi won 10 of the final 12 games as Sampras struggled to serve into the sun. Although Agassi faced the same condition, Sampras said, "It's a bigger deal to me because my serve is such a big part of my game."

Sampras got broken twice in the first set, including once on a double fault — one of seven that offset his nine aces. He connected on just 54 percent of his first serves in the match, compared to 80 percent for Agassi.

"I felt I was dominating the first set and a couple points here or there he ended up winning," Sampras said. "After he got that first set, I lost my way for a touch."

Sampras converted only one of seven break chances, while Agassi was 4-of-7.

Agassi saved three break points to even the second set 1-1. He broke Sampras in the next game that went to deuce five times. Twice Agassi smacked running forwards down the line to go up 2-1.

He broke Sampras with a down-the-line backhand for a 4-1 lead and then Sampras committed four backhand errors to trail 5-1 before Agassi served a love game to close out the 1 1/2-hour match.

"I tried to get to his backhand as much as possible," Agassi said. "His backhand is definitely the weaker of the two sides."

Agassi hadn't beaten Sampras so convincingly since a 6-2, 6-2 victory in the season-ending round-robin championships in Germany two years ago.

"He's still a strong presence on the court and he knows how to win," Agassi said. "If you give me his game right now I feel I'll find a way (to win)."

The victory solidified Agassi's lead in the ATP Champions Race, which determines the world's No. 1 player at year's end. He will remain on top with 609 points when the standings are released Monday.

Agassi also overtook Gustavo Kuerten as the ATP money leader with $1,690,896, including $54,000 for his fourth title of the year.

Sampras will move from 20th to 17th in the points race after making just his second ATP final of the year.

The match was stopped for three minutes with Agassi leading 3-1, 30-15 on Sampras' serve in the second set when a spectator fainted in the stands. The man was revived and walked out under his own power.