Andre Agassi sizzled like the hot lava of his colorful garb on an elemental day of semifinals at the Sovran Bank Classic, and Jim Grabb became tennis's Rain Man in earning the spot opposite the neon-clad 20-year-old in today's final at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.

Top-seeded Agassi pummeled Michael Chang, his friend and main rival for the title of America's wonderkid, in 67 minutes last night by 6-3, 6-1. Earlier, Grabb -- a doubles specialist with one singles title in four years on the tour -- overcame a five-hour rain delay and an ensuing second-set blitz by second-seeded Brad Gilbert, 7-5, 0-6, 6-4.

He'll face Agassi at 1 in his first singles final since 1987, with the title and $70,000 winner's share of the $550,000 purse at stake. Agassi holds a 2-1 advantage, having beaten Grabb in the semifinals in San Francisco in February. Grabb won his lone singles title, in Seoul in 1987, by downing Agassi in the final.

Agassi had few problems with Chang, dropping but 14 points on serve while breaking five times and running Chang from one sideline to the other with a breathtaking display of shot making.

Chang broke serve to begin the match, but Agassi broke back immediately and hardly was challenged. He broke for 4-2, then served out the set in the ninth game after saving a pair of break points with an ace and a forehand winner.

Fifth-seeded Chang simply was overpowered in the second set by Agassi's stinging ground strokes. Chang, who has beaten Agassi twice in exhibitions but is 0-4 against him in tournaments, had vowed to be more aggressive than usual and force the action when he could.

But, as has usually been the case against Agassi, he never had the opportunity. Agassi hits for winners and determines the outcome of nearly every point, and he did so again last night. Chang has taken only one set off Agassi in their four encounters, in this year's French Open.

"I just think he doesn't miss much," said Chang, who has fallen to No. 23 in the rankings in a year of injuries and mostly subpar play. "He didn't seem to miss many balls, and when he plays like that, eventually he's going to win the point. . . . I followed every game plan I could think of."

Said Agassi, who hasn't lost a set this week in his first tournament since losing the French Open final early last month: "He fits into the category of someone where I don't have to worry about a game plan when I play him. Win or lose, I pretty much always dictate the point. . . . He's a counterpuncher. There's no question, if I hadn't played as well as I did, it would have been a completely different story."

The day's first match was anything but routine. Grabb, seeded sixth, had rallied from 0-3 to capture the first set before a series of downpours intervened, and Gilbert seemed revived when he took the second set with a 21-minute onslaught.

But Grabb gathered himself, breaking serve in the fifth game of the third set and holding on even as Gilbert increased his efforts down the stretch.

"It was pretty bizarre," Grabb said. "I was just lucky to hang in there at the beginning of the third set."

Gilbert's afternoon started as if he would be the one hoping for sunny skies. He began the match brilliantly, reeling off three games in 10 minutes and threatening to blow the sluggish Grabb off the court. Gilbert, ranked sixth, normally isn't an overpowering sort; his serve-and-volley game doesn't overwhelm, and he sometimes lapses into stretches in which he pushes and aims his ground strokes rather than lashes them.

But he's rangy, quick and agile, and his cleverness and mental toughness -- combined with a hard-court aptitude -- have more than compensated for any technical deficiencies.

But after the first three games Grabb had Gilbert reeling, and he served out the set when a flustered Gilbert sent a second-serve return long. Then the rain arrived, stopping and starting intermittently to produce the seemingly interminable delay.

An anxious Grabb emerged several times from the players' lounge -- where he passed the time with card playing and small talk -- to inspect the court, which was dried twice during the delay, only to see the showers resume.

"I just hung around, rapped tennis {and} politics," he said. "I was trying to take it easy. I guess I maybe took it too easy."

Following his second-set outburst, Gilbert had a chance to take command for good when a secured two break points with a 1-0 lead in the third set. But Grabb hung on, and his break in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead spelled the difference.

"It was a long game, and he had his chances," Grabb said of Gilbert's wasted opportunity. "I was playing horribly at that point, but I was able to get back in the match by winning that game. I don't know how, but I got better from there."