PARIS, JUNE 8 -- Andre Agassi shook a great plume of hair into place and bowed in self-congratulations, his limes and lavas clashing with dull red clay. Agassi reached the final of the French Open today with a four-set victory over Jonas Svensson, and this garish youth now will meet the quiet experience of Andres Gomez, who defeated Thomas Muster in straight sets.
Agassi, the 20-year-old from Las Vegas, showed a new temperament as he withstood the plaguing, chilly rain of Stade Roland Garros and the tenacity of unseeded Svensson, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. It is the first time Agassi has reached a Grand Slam final and thus lived up to his billing as the best new U.S. hope, and he did so in a tournament that is among the most difficult to endure.
"I'll do anything I have to do," Agassi said. "I didn't stay in Paris for two weeks to come in second place."
Agassi made a sharp contrast with the closely cropped dark hair and subdued gentlemanly personality of Gomez. The veteran clay-court specialist reached the first Grand Slam final of his 12-year career, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5, over clearly fatigued Muster.
The French long has been the title most coveted by Gomez, but he never had reached so much as a semifinal until this week, cursed by ill luck and a series of frustrating losses, three to top-ranked Ivan Lendl in quarterfinals. He finally received a piece of good fortune when Lendl chose not to come in order to prepare for Wimbledon, and top-seeded Stefan Edberg and No. 2 Boris Becker suffered unprecedented upsets in the first round.
"I have thought before that one of these days things would change for me and I will come out on top," Gomez said. "That is what is happening at the moment."
The matches were nagged by drizzle and gusts of wind that blew vivid red dust into the players' eyes, and Agassi and Gomez each had difficulty sustaining leads. Another factor was the relative inexperience of all concerned: None had been in a Grand Slam final, and Agassi has the highest seeding (No. 3) and ranking (No. 5) among them.
Not only does Agassi have a chance to become a first-time champion, but he would be only the second American since Tony Trabert in 1955 to win the French, duplicating the feat of Michael Chang last year. These were the circumstances for Agassi to choke on, a charge sometimes leveled at him in the aftermath of Grand Slam semifinal losses here in 1988 and at the U.S. Open in '88 and '89. Instead, Agassi maintained his composure and a steady flow of sharp, angled winners, 38 in all.
Agassi twice was interrupted by rain delays in the first set, and led by 4-0 in the second and 3-0 in the fourth only to watch his margins of comfort slip away. He stared down 19 break points, Svensson able to convert on only five. The Swede actually hit more winners, 45, but it was Agassi who struck the important ones, converting on eight of his 16 break points. He was aided by Svensson's 67 unforced errors.
"I think it wasn't so much me beating him as who was going to deal with the circumstances better, who was going to hang in," Agassi said. "He made a lot of errors. I'm not complaining."
The 23-year-old Svensson's game was as unpredictable as the weather, a mixture of heavy topspin and rushes to the net for lunging volleys. The one thing Agassi did not want was a five-set match, because Svensson has an 8-1 record in those over his career. In the second round he rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Sergi Bruguera, who had upset Edberg.
Agassi's 4-0 lead in the second set evapor-ated as Svensson swept three straight games and threatened to put things back on serve with a double break point in the eighth. Agassi rose to the occasion as he would all match: He struck a savage, two-fisted backhand winner, a twisting service winner, and went on to hold for an insurmountable 5-3 lead.
The third set was a mess, wind and three straight service breaks swirling together. It thoroughly belonged to Svensson, who broke Agassi in the sixth and eighth games, then held at love to close out the set. Agassi promptly regained the initiative with a service break for a 3-0 lead in the fourth, but the ebbing and flowing Svensson came back like a bad tide.
Agassi's loose play in the fifth game put them back on serve, and Svensson evened the score at 3 with a four-deuce service game that typified the match. He led by 40-0, but Agassi swept the next four points. Svensson killed a break point with a massive forehand, but then overhit a backhand wide. He saved that break point with a blocked backhand winner down the line. Agassi finally helped by overswinging on a sure backhand putaway and drilling it into the net to give Svensson game point, which he took with an unreachable forehand deep to the corner.
But it was the last game Svensson won. Agassi ended the match with a masterful serve and an angled forehand. Svensson's desperate running lob fell deep. "It went pretty fast at the end," Svensson said. "He took the chances and he won."
Gomez and Muster played a classic clay-court match, pummelling from the baseline and laying down slow, spinning volleys. It was the 22-year-old Muster, seeded seventh, who tired first under the constant assault from his 6-foot-4, 185-pound opponent. Gomez, 30, broke him seven times and struck 47 winners.
Muster is a relentless player who has a 33-8 record this season after recovering from knee surgery in the aftermath of a freak accident. He was hit by a car backing out of a parking lot during the 1989 International Players Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., and hit tennis balls from a wheelchair as part of his rehabilitation. So when he struggled back from service breaks in the first and third sets, it seemed he might extend Gomez. But he simply lacked his usual power, able to summon just 17 winners and exhausted by the constant deficits he encountered.
"I couldn't find my game," he said. "It was one of those days. I couldn't really move, I had heavy legs, I couldn't turn around. I couldn't do anything to him."
Gomez, the No. 4 seed, became the first player of 30 years or older to reach the French Open final since Nikki Pilic in 1973 at 33 (losing to Ilie Nastase). But age and experience won't necessarily be factors against Agassi, since neither player has been in this situation before. They have met four times, with two victories apiece.
"The secret is doing what you have to do," Agassi said. "I'll do anything I have to."