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Armenian supremacy for Agassi

Page 2 of 2 -- In this game, friends sometimes butt heads.

"It's not quite as comfortable playing against somebody you root for," said Agassi. "But you have a lot of respect for each other, personally and professionally. In order to maintain that respect, both guys have to go out there and lay it on the line, give a big hug afterwards."

Sargsian was grateful to be advised by Agassi on how to take care of himself, how much water to drink, nutrients to take, after the draining Massu and Mathieu matches. What a rare and admirable blend of sportsmanship and friendship. Agassi wanted to make sure Sarg was at his best when they collided.

But, he said, "I really hope this is the last time I play him. I don't have a game plan against him. I don't like playing him, don't know how to win the points. He plays so fast, he rushes you. He's going to make you run until tomorrow morning."

Agassi, enjoying his 19th Open, making the quarters for an 11th time is "somewhat puzzled" about his hit-or-miss season. Scarred by some awful losses, it was brightened by one title, Cincinnati, where he beat Carlos Moya, Andy Roddick, and Lleyton Hewitt in succession.

"Confidence has come and gone," he said. Of bumping into Federer: "There's nothing more you ask for than to play a big event against the best player. It's time to bring the best tennis."

It was good enough yesterday to win the championship of Armenia. "Well," he laughed, "I'm only half-Armenian."

The better half, Papa Agassi might say, though praising his American wife, Betty. What Mike Agassi overcame, as described in his new book, "The Agassi Story," may explain the gumption he passed on to Andre.

"I know how it is to be an outsider," he writes (with ghostly help from Dominic Cobello and Kate Welsh). "I was born in Iran in 1930 to Armenian parents, a Christian in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. I remained an outsider [for a time] in America where I emigrated at 21 with almost no money, and even less English. In Tehran I lived, ate and slept with my mother, father, three brothers and a sister in a room 15-by-20 feet. This was part of a compound lived in with 35 other people. No electricity, running water. We shared a single toilet."

Mike doesn't gloss over the mistakes he made, the animosity he reaped in pushing his children into tennis. But the ending of the book is reasonably happy, as was the conclusion of yesterday's labors that brought a sort of Armenian championship to the 74-year-old Armenian's family. 

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