Agassi joins Federer, Serena, Mauresmo in third round

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 19:

Andre Agassi and Marat Safin played like they had planes to catch — even though neither has any plans to go anywhere for a while. Trying to expend as little energy as possible with up to five more matches ahead, both carved out straight-sets victories for the second straight time to advance to the Australian Open third round.

Top-seeded Roger Federer extended his winning streak to 23 matches, but had to hold off a net-charging qualifier ranked 203rd to advance to the third round. The 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Takao Suzuki of Japan kept Federer on track for a possible quarter-final meeting with four-time winner Andre Agassi.

Agassi, seeded eighth, has been working through a hip injury that raised questions about his fitness for the two-week Grand Slam. Seeking his fifth title here, he looked sharp in ousting Rainer Schuettler of Germany 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 in a rematch of the 2003 Australian Open final. Safin, who tied a record with 30 sets spanning 20 hours in seven matches last year, is trying to conserve energy this time after running out of gas in the 2004 final against Roger Federer. He needed only an hour and 21 minutes to oust Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.

They weren’t the only ones in a hurry. Putting a doping allegation out of her mind, US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded fifth, took out her frustrations on Marion Bartoli of France 6-2, 6-0 in just 40 minutes. Seventh-seeded Serena Williams lost only seven points in the second set in a 6-3, 6-0 win over Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar in 48 minutes.

But second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo and Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova both had to bounce back after losing the first sets in their matches.

Agassi next faces fellow American Taylor Dent, seeded 29th, while Safin continues his all-eastern European streak against No 28 Mario Ancic of Croatia. He beat Serbian Novak Djokovic in the first round. Sharapova, a 17-year-old Russian who beat Williams in the last Wimbledon final, needed six match points to beat American Lindsay Lee-Waters.

She committed 44 unforced errors, mostly in the first set, and looked exhausted, running a bag of ice over her neck and shoulders between games. Desperate to finish the match quickly, she switched hands to play a scrambling forehand from the leftside two points from the end.

One Russian hope went out and another advanced when ninth-seeded Vera Zvonareva, with 11 double-faults, lost 6-3, 6-3 to compatriot Vera Douchevina. Mauresmo, the Olympic silver medalist and runner-up here in 1999, overcame poor serving in the first set and reeled off the last 10 games in a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over 18-year-old Dinara Safina, Marat Safin’s sister.

On the men’s side, French Open champion Gaston Gaudio overcame Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6, and Belgium’s Olivier Rochus had a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Gael Monfils, an 18-year-old Frenchman who won three of the four junior majors last season.

Tommy Robredo (13) Dominik Hrbaty (20), Feliciano Lopez (24) and 2002 Australian champion Thomas Johansson (30) advanced, while Tommy Haas, seeded 16th, was upset 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3 by Slovakia’s Karol Beck. Other seeded players ousted were Ivan Ljubicic (22) and Paradorn Srichaphan (27).

Sania Mirza makes history


Teenager Sania Mirza made history after becoming the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a grand slam tennis tournament at the Australian Open here on Wednesday. The 18-year-old from Hyderabad, 166th in the world, confounded the form book to defeat Hungary’s Petra Mandula 6-2, 6-1 in less than an hour. Mirza, playing in her first grand slam event, is now looking forward to a dream meeting with tournament favourite Serena Williams on Friday. “I’m very surprised and really excited,” said Mirza after breezing past world number 84 Mandula. Her achievement betters the second round showing of Nirupama Vaidyanathan at Melbourne Park in 1998. — AFP

Open Glance:

• Weather: Hot and sunny, top temperature of 35 Celsius

• Attendance: 34,473 (day session)

• Men: Marat Safin (4), Tommy Robredo (13), Dominik Hrbaty (20), Gaston Gaudio (10), Feliciano Lopez (24), Mario Ancic (28), Taylor Dent (29), Thomas Johansson (30) advanced; Tommy Haas (16), Ivan Ljubicic (22), Paradorn Srichaphan (27) lost.

• Women: Amelie Mauresmo (2), Maria Sharapova (4), Svetlana Kuznetsova (5), Serena Williams (7), Silvia Farina Elia (15), Amy Frazier (21), Magdalena Maleeva (22)advanced; Vera Zvonareva (9), Fabiola Zuluaga (17), Shinobu Asagoe (28) lost.

• Stat of the Day: 7 — the number of points Serena conceded in the second set of her second-round win.

• Quote of the Day: “People always assume that I’m No 1, and I never correct them.”

Serena, seeded seventh and former No 1, on how her reputation precedes her.