'Bad day at the office'

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 3:58 PM ET

Back in 1995, then-sex symbol Andre Agassi, the defending champion of the tournament now known as the Rogers Cup, stepped on to the court with a determined attitude and a revamped look.

Just months earlier, the tennis heart-throb, sitting in the Manhattan brownstone of girlfriend Brooke Shields, sucked back a glass of bubbly for confidence, then gave the thumbs-up to an attending hair stylist to cut off his trademark golden locks.

The new hairdo paid instant dividends, as Agassi and his buzz cut defeated fellow American Pete Sampras 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the final to win the tournament for a second consecutive time.

It would be the last time, to date, that a Rogers Cup title holder successfully defended his championship.

It certainly will not happen this year. Not after Serbia's Novak Djokovic, the 2007 winner and No. 3 seed, was upset by No. 8 Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6 (3) in a quarterfinal of the 2008 Rogers Cup last night at Rexall Centre.

Surprising? Not really. Not when you consider the number of upsets that have taken place on the York University campus in this tourney.

In a week in which the rain has continued to fall, so, too, have the top seeds. In fact, one of today's semifinals will feature a pair of unseeded players -- Frenchman Gilles Simon, the man who slew top-ranked Roger Federer in the second round, against German Nicolas Kiefer, who dropped No. 7 seed James Blake 6-1, 6-2.

The other semi features Murray, the No. 8 seed, against No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal.

"It was a big win mentally," Murray said. "(Djokovic) has beaten me pretty bad the past couple of times."

Murray, in fact, had never been victorious over Djokovic prior to last night.

"Nadal's the only top guy I haven't defeated before," he said.

He'll get his shot to change that during the semis tonight.

"I just want to try to keep this thing going and get to my first final of the Masters Series," Murray said.

Djokovic's explanation for the loss was simple.

"I can't explain it now," he said. "Just another bad day at the office."

For a while, it appeared Nadal might join the ranks of the top seeds who found themselves out of the tournament earlier than expected.

In a thrilling quarterfinal, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, the No. 10 seed and a finalist in the 2006 Rogers Cup, won an electrifying opening set 7-6 (14-12) over Nadal and appeared to hold the momentum. But Nadal, the winner of the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year, rebounded to win the final two sets 6-2, 6-1 to solidify a date with Murray today.

Simon and Kiefer, meanwhile, are two relative unknowns for the casual tennis fan who is monitoring the Rogers Cup this week.

Never heard of them? Deal with it. Because one of these two men will be in the event final in front of a capacity crowd at the Rexall Centre tomorrow afternoon.

Simon, 24th in ATP rankings, and Kiefer, who came into this tournament ranked 37th, will walk out onto centre court today preparing to lock horns in one of the event's two semi-finals, with a berth in the finale at stake.

Not quite the semi spectators and fans were expecting. And, in some cases, wanted.

Too bad.

Fact is, both unseeded players have earned their way to this point, slaying a handful of seeded giants en route to making their way to the Final Four.

Simon, who won the ATP event in Indianapolis last week, has reason to be fatigued, having won nine consecutive matches in less than two weeks. He has not been this tired, he admitted, since his first appearance at the Australian Open.

"It was the first time I played a fifth set," Simon said. "They had to carry me to the locker room. I couldn't walk."

Simon figures he'll be able to make it to centre court today on his own.

"Even if I died on the court, yeah, I'll just give the maximum (in the semi)," he said.


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