SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Andre Agassi changed his three-year run of bad luck in the Franklin Templeton Tennis Classic by beating Juan Balcells 6-2, 7-6 (2) yesterday for the 50th title of his career.
He became the eighth player to win 50 championships in the open era, which began in 1968. Agassi won the last four games of the first set and never faced break point in the match. Balcells pulled a hamstring early in the second-set tiebreaker.
After withdrawing from the Australian Open with a wrist injury, Agassi began the 2002 season last week at San Jose, where he lost a three-set final to Lleyton Hewitt.
Agassi won his third Scottsdale championship in 1998 but had to withdraw because of a hamstring pull in the semifinals the next year.
Then Francisco Clavet beat him in the first round the last two years, a jinx Agassi overcame by overwhelming Clavet 6-3, 6-2 in this year’s first round.
Against Balcells, Agassi faced a player who was 0-5 this year and No. 123 on the ATP entry system to Agassi’s No. 5.
Balcells toughened in the second set, holding serve all the way. The Spaniard forced the tiebreaker with a hard forehand toward Agassi’s feet.
Early in the tiebreaker, Balcells pulled his left hamstring and never tried for Agassi’s forehand winner along the line.
After each player won a point, Balcells had his upper leg taped. But he was virtually immobile and never tried for Agassi’s last three winners.