Agassi joins Safin, Federer in fourth round

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 21:

Four-time champion Andre Agassi was nearly flawless on Friday, counter-punching his way into the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 7-5, 7-6, 6-1 victory over fellow American Taylor Dent.

The eighth-seeded Agassi never faltered under Dent’s relentless pressure. The 29th-seeded Dent rushed the net on 136 of the 201 points but constantly found himself lunging and diving for Agassi’s stinging passes and lobs and won only 51 pe rcent of the forays. Agassi moved within one match of a quarterfinal showdown with top-ranked Roger Federer, who lost his first service game, then got back on track and spent less than two sets on center court when Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen quit with an abdominal muscle tear.

Agassi would have to get by another power player, No 11 Joachim Johannson of Sweden, who survived a four-hour struggle against No 24 Feliciano Lopez of Spain that went to 13-11 in the fifth set. On a day when injuries played a role in several matches, fourth-seeded Marat Safin actually played better after he twisted his long-tender right ankle and kept his famous temper in check in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Croatia’s Mario Ancic. Men’s French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, seeded 10th, was able to continue after treatment on both thighs, but Dominik Hrbaty upset him in five sets 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-3, despite 88 unforced errors.

Lisa Raymond lasted only one game of her doubles match before retiring with a back muscle strain, leaving her doubtful for her third-round match on Saturday against French Open champion Anastasia Myskina.

In the women’s draw, second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo and US Open titlist Svetlana Kuznetsova both had straight-set victories and will face unseeded opponents in the fourth round, while 48-year-old Martina Navratilova advanced to the third round of the doubles with Daniela Hantuchova. Mauresmo beat Ana Ivanovic of Serbia-Montenegro 6-2, 7-5, while Kuznetsova outplayed Mariana Diaz-Oliva of Argentina 6-3, 7-6. Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova, seeded fourth, needed only 50 minutes to beat China’s Li Na, who committed 27 errors and had only three winners in losing 6-0, 6-2.

Sharapova, one of three Russians among the top six seeds, next meets 15th-seeded Silvia Farina Elia of Italy. No 7 Serena Williams ended the run of wild card entry Sania Mirza, the first Indian woman to make it to the second round of a Grand Slam. Williams finished off the 6-1, 6-4 victory with a second-serve ace, then skipped off the court. On the men’s side, Thomas Johansson of Sweden, seeded 30th, survived his third consecutive five-set match by downing American Kevin Kim 3-6, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2. No 13 Tommy Robredo of Spain fell in straight sets ob 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 to qualifier Marcos Baghdatis.

Open Glance:

• Weather: Sunny with a top temperature of 23 Celsius

• Attendance: 36,514 (day session).

• Men: Roger Federer (1), Marat Safin (4), Dominik Hrbaty (20), Thomas Johansson (30) advanced; Gaston Gaudio (10), Tommy Robredo (13, Taylor Dent (29), Mario Ancic (28) lost.

• Women: Amelie Mauresmo (2), Maria Sharapova (4), Svetlana Kuznetsova (5), Serena Williams (7), Nadia Petrova (11), Silvia Farina Elia (15) advanced; Amy Frazier (21), Magdalena Maleeva (22) lost.

• Stat of the Day: 24 — the number of consecutive wins by No 1 Roger Federer, a personal best.

• Quote of the Day: “I’m getting older. I’m going to be a quarter of a century in this world. This will be my seventh year on the tour, you have to learn something.” — Marat Safin, when asked whether he feels he is getting smarter.