Patrick Rafter played commanding tennis before his home fans today, winning 12 of the last 13 games to beat Dominik Hrbaty in four sets and reach the Australian Open semifinals.
The Aussie rebounded from a 4-1 deficit in the third set, then swept the next one to win 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-0 and set up a showdown with defending champion Andre Agassi.
"This is what it feels like, huh?" said Rafter, who has won two U.S. Opens and was runner-up last year at Wimbledon but never had done better at the Australian than the fourth round in 1995. "It's been a long time. It feels very satisfying being at home doing it."
Agassi used his full arsenal to beat Todd Martin 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Martin already had knocked out Pete Sampras, preventing a rematch of last year's semifinal in which Agassi rallied past Sampras in five sets.
Rafter is the first Australian to go this far in his home country's Grand Slam tournament since Mark Woodforde reached the semifinals in 1996.
He displayed crafty serving and acrobatic volleying. He also was helped by Hrbaty. The No. 14 seeded player double-faulted twice when he was broken in the third set's seventh game and once more when he was broken again in the 11th.
Capriati, Davenport to Hold Semifinal Rematch
On the women's side, No. 12 Jennifer Capriati rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the second set and reached the Australian semifinals for the second straight year with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory over four-time Australian Open champion Monica Seles.
In a rematch of one of last year's semifinals, she faces defending champion Lindsay Davenport, who beat No. 8 Anna Kournikova 6-4, 6-2.
Kournikova, in a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon in 1997, had some chances but made too many errors.
Davenport said Kournikova hits very hard and flat, and "doesn't have a huge margin for error. Sometimes you get a lot of free points."
Davenport, seeded second, was called for foot faults several times.
"I'll have to work on that," she said. "It didn't hurt me tonight."
Agassi Attempts to Defend Title
Agassi's best moment came on match point. Martin hit a good angled volley. Agassi chased it down, blasted a shot that Martin could only block back, and then lobbed over him.
Agassi interrupted his match briefly to catch a bug near the baseline and throw it off court. Martin, trailing 30-40 and 1-2 in the final set, waited out the distraction and then served an ace.
He then held serve and, three games later, broke Agassi for a 4-3 lead. But Agassi broke right back and went on to win.
Agassi's Australian Open triumph last year ended a run of four Grand Slam tournaments in which he also won the French and U.S. Opens and was runner-up at Wimbledon.
"There's no saying it can't be done," he said of winning all four in a year. "But I think we're a lot closer to seeing Mark McGwire's home run record being beat than we are to seeing someone win four Grand Slams in the same year in the men's game."
Martin said the Sampras he beat — ending a 13-match losing streak against him — was out of practice, but "Andre is very much in form. … Andre thrives on confidence, and he's got plenty of it."
"I was beaten today," Martin said. "I certainly didn't lose. I didn't play nearly as well as I had hoped. Most of that is due to the way Andre played."
Agassi improved his record against Martin to 13-5. Nobody ever has beaten both Sampras and Agassi at a Grand Slam tournament.