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  Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 12:30 GMT
Brave Rafter stopped by Agassi
Andre Agassi
Agassi's chances were in the balance
A Agassi beat P Rafter 7-5 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-3

Andre Agassi overcame a brave effort from home favourite Pat Rafter to reach his third Australian Open final.

Agassi emerged a semi-final winner after a gruelling five sets with Rafter plainly suffering from exhaustion after the third set tie-break.

Rafter had to pull out of a Davis Cup game because of cramp last year and the problem returned at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park in front of his home fans.

Pat Rafter
No refreshment was enough for Rafter

The Australian was treated by the trainer in the early stages of the fourth set but treatment did not help him recover as he put up little resistence in losing the last two sets.

Rafter regularly pulled up with cramp against an opponent who was showing no signs of tiring and comfortably closed out the match.

Chances in the balance

But Rafter did show plenty of pride as he continued to battle and he made sure Agassi would have to serve for the match before finally succumbing.

The crowd displayed their appreciation for his efforts afterwards as well as for American Agassi.

Agassi beat Rafter in the fourth round when he claimed the title for the first time in 1995 and, after his victory last year, is now on course for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.

His chances were in the balance though, when he went 2-1 down in sets with Rafter dominating prior to his exhaustion.

High-quality

The opening set went with serve until Rafter faltered at 6-5 down.

Rafter then increased his intensity and quality as he began to take hold of the match in an aggressive manner.

It was Rafter's first semi-final on home territory and came after he indicated before the tournament that he was thinking of retiring at the end of the year.

Consequently, this could be the last time Rafter contests the Australian Open and it looked like he might reach the final after taking the third set on a tie-break.

Andre Agassi (in white) Pat Rafter (in yellow)
Agassi gives Rafter his opinion

It had been high quality tennis in the first three sets from both players as baseline and return specialist Agassi came up against the serve-and-volleying game of Rafter in a classic confrontation.

Rafter defeated Agassi in a five set thriller at Wimbledon last year but he could do little to stop Agassi, whose superior fitness levels proved crucial, taking this match.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Pat Rafter
"It's frustrating to know I could have gone through"
Andre Agassi
"It's difficult playing Pat"
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25 Jan 01 | Australian Open
25 Jan 01 | Australian Open
24 Jan 01 | Australian Open
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