Andre Agassi handled Sunday’s wilting heat and two-time champion Michael Chang to win the ATP Championship at Mason, Ohio, matching a career high with his sixth tournament title of the year.
Agassi, trading his trademark black shoes and socks for something more weather-appropriate, had no letdowns on a 96-degree afternoon as he outplayed Chang, 7-5, 6-2.
The victory solidified his ranking as No. 1 in the world and equaled his 1988 benchmark of six tournament wins in a year.
Temperatures on court again topped 120 degrees, ending a week of brutal heat and humidity that took its toll on several players. The only noticeable effect on Agassi, however, was on his apparel--he switched to white shoes and socks and donned a white bandanna to keep cooler.
He kept the earring, efficient serve and punishing ground strokes. The victory improved his hardcourt record for the year to 41-2 heading into the U.S. Open, which he won last year.
“I’ve been playing really well,” Agassi said. “I’ve got myself to the place where I believe I can win every tournament. It’s a nice place to be. I get up for the big matches, and I’m on a string now where I’ve come through. I just want to maintain it for the Open.”
Although the $1.8 million ATP Championship is considered good preparation for the Open, it hasn’t been much of a springboard. Since 1979, only two ATP Championship winners have gone on to win the Open: John McEnroe in 1981 and Mats Wilander in 1988.
The $254,000 first prize pushed Agassi’s earnings to $1.8 million.
Austria’s Thomas Muster took the top prize of $39,000 by beating Andrea Gaudenzi of Italy, 6-2, 6-0, to win the $300,000 San Marino-Muratti Time Open at San Marino.
Muster the third-ranked player in ATP standings, won the same tournament two years ago, defeating another Italian, Renzo Furlan.
Gaudenzi appeared out of form and later complained that a shoulder problem bothered him.