Alex Corretja survived a tennis ball smashing into his forehead Sunday to win an ATP championship in the United States for the first time in his career.
"I didn't know where I was. I didn't know if I was in Indianapolis or Barcelona (his hometown) or wherever," said Corretja, who was knocked to the court by a shot off Andre Agassi's racquet.The momentum of the RCA Championships title match seemed to shift with the incident, and Corretja later saved four break points in a crucial third game of the final set for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory Sunday.
"It was just a normal point, but it is hard to see it that way when you're on the ground," Corretja said. "It was burning."
It was the third championship this year - but the first in the U.S. - for Corretja, No. 11 in the latest ATP rankings and seeded sixth in the tournament. It was worth $122,500 to the 24-year-old Spaniard.
The victory cooled the hot summer streak of Agassi, the winningest player on the ATP Tour this year, who is 50-12 with the loss. He had won 19 of his previous 21 matches since falling to Germany's Tommy Haas at Wimbledon.
"I hit a little bit of a wall there," Agassi said of the sixth game when his smash decked Corretja. "I didn't get it back until the third set, and then he picked it up late in the third."
Agassi, a four-time champion this year, had defeated Corretja the previous four times they played. He appeared to be on his way to another triumph when he knocked Corretja down in the sixth game of the second set.
"I didn't have much choice," Agassi said. "It's not a good situation for either player. ... We both have to deal with it. I'd rather it be on my end of it than his."
Agassi immediately jumped over the net to check on his opponent, who rose up after a moment and resumed the match.
"It's always a scary moment. He was close to the net and just happened to be where I hit the ball," Agassi said.
Corretja, 40-13 in 1998 and 17-5 on hardcourts, will break into the Top 10 in the next ATP Tour rankings.
Agassi, who was seeded fifth in the tournament, was about to even the set at 3-3 when the knockdown took place. He seemed to lose his concentration and was broken when he double-faulted on two of the last three points.
Corretja then held at love and claimed the set when Agassi double-faulted once and won only one point on his serve.
"I got a little tentative with my shots and got a little conservative," said Agassi, who breezed though the first set in only 34 minutes as he broke Corretja in his first two service games while winning nine of the first 12 points on the Spaniard's serve.
The longest game of the match was the third in the third set, when Corretja saved four break points before holding to go up 2-1 after six deuces.
"When I held my serve I realized I could beat him. I think it was one of the keys to the match," Corretja said.
The players held serve through the first six games of the final set and Corretja took a 4-3 edge when he saved a break point, broke Agassi while losing only one point and lost just one point in the final game of the match.
Seles wins fourth du Maurier title
MONTREAL - Monica Seles won her fourth consecutive du Maurier Open women's tennis championship Sunday with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain.
Seles, 24, needed only 76 minutes to win the $150,000 top prize for the hardcourt tournament at a sold-out, 10,500-seat Jarry Stadium. Sanchez Vicario pocketed $60,000.
It was the first tournament title of the year for Seles, the former world No. 1 currently ranked sixth in the world, who showed she is in top form heading into the U.S. Open in two weeks.
Seles, who upset top-seeded Martina Hingis in the semifinals, and Sanchez Vicario, who had ended Jana Novotna's 19-match winning run, were each competing in their fifth du Maurier final.