Originally Published: March 11, 2002 5:15 p.m.
SCOTTSDALE – With two singles finals in as many weeks, tennis star Andre Agassi won his 50th singles title at the Franklin Templeton Tennis Classic on Sunday in Scottsdale over Spaniard Juan Balcells 6-2, 7-6 (2). Agassi has won this tournament four times now, 1993, 1994, 1998 and 2002.
Agassi, seeded No. 1 for the tournament, defeated last year's champion Francisco Clavet in his first round 6-3, 6-2, hard-serving Greg Rusedski 6-4, 6-4 in the second, Juan Chela in three sets in the quarters 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-1, and seventh seeded Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-4 in the semis before taking home the $51,500 first-place check.
Unseeded 26-year-old Juan Balcells found himself in his second finals since turning pro in 1996, his first title being on clay at Bucharest in 2000. This was Juan's first meeting with Agassi, 31, of whom he stated earlier in the week, "Playing him will be like a dream come true, I mean, he's like an idol to me."
In the first set, both players held serve through the first five games. But then with Balcells serving at 2-3, 30-30, the baseline umpire called a sight hinder which the chair umpire then declared Agassi's point. After a three-minute discussion with the umpire, play resumed and Balcells hit a drop shot winner to even the score, lost with a dropper in the net to give Agassi an ad, and then Agassi hit a cross-court winner for a service break to go up 4-2.
Agassi held his next serve to be at 5-2 and then finished the mutton-chopped sideburned
Agassi, reflecting on winning his 50th title, thus being only the eighth man to accomplish that during the open era, said, "Well, before the match you're only thinking about your opponent and what you need to do, but you get done with it and it kind of hits you. You start thinking about how many times you've had the privilege of standing there at he last day holding the trophy. It's quite an important accomplishment to me."