Agassi loses ace race, advances to quarters

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 23:

Andre Agassi overcame a record number of aces from Joachim Johannson on Sunday and set up an Australian Open quarter-final against defending champion and top-ranked Roger Federer.

Andre Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam winner and four-time champion here in Melbourne, produced one of his great performances to defeat the 6-foot-6 Johansson, who slammed 51 aces in their fourth-round match.

One of the best service returners in tennis, the 34-year-old Agassi endured Johansson’s barrage, breaking the Swede three times to win 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Agassi dropped his own serve twice, at the start of the first and fourth sets, and made only 13 unforced errors in the match - none in the first set.

The 11th-seeded Joachim Johansson was pushing the limits on almost every shot. He mixed 66 unforced errors with a remarkable 96 winners, including his aces and service winners. In the first tiebreaker, Johansson clinched the opening set with a second service ace at 217 kph.

The 22-year-old Johansson surpassed Richard Krajicek’s mark of 49 aces in a quarter-final loss to Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov at the 1999 US Open.

His final three aces came in his last service game.

Federer extended his winning streak to 25 matches with a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 defeat of Marcos Baghdatis.

Marat Safin, who lost to Federer in last year’s final here, converted just one of his 18 breakpoint chances in a fiery 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 win over Olivier Rochus that lasted 3 hours and 42 minutes.

Safin was given a code violation for spiking his racket into the court, twice for good measure, after wasting three opportunities to get back on serve in the fifth game of the third set.

After receiving the code violation from umpire Andreas Egli, he belted the broken racket three times on a drink cooler at the side of the court.

In the end, Safin closed with a pair of aces, taking his total to 29 for the match. He next faces Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, who beat the other Swedish Johannson in the draw — 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson — 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.

Two of Russia’s three Grand Slam title holders are into the quarter-finals.

US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova pounded 29 winners to overcome one Russian — 6-4, 6-2 over Vera Douchevina — and faces another in the quarter-finals.

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, seeded fourth, will face fellow Russian Kuznetsova next after coming back from a set and a break down to beat Italy’s Silvia Farina Elia 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Three of the seven Russian women who made the fourth round are already out.

Seventh-seeded Serena Williams, who won here in 2003 but didn’t

return last year because of an injured knee, was clearly angry with herself as she dropped a set for the first time this tournament before recovering to beat No 11 Nadia Petrova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo of France had a 6-2, 6-4 win over Evgenia Linetskaya in a mistake-prone match with 11 service breaks.

Open Glance

• Weather: Sunny with a top temperature of 25.5 Celsius

• Attendance: 33,141.

• Men: Roger Federer (1), Marat Safin (4), Andre Agassi (8), Dominik Hrbaty (20) advanced; Joachim Johansson (11), Thomas Johansson (30) lost.

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

• Stat of the Day: 51: the number of aces hit by Joachim Johansson against Andre Agassi, breaking Richard Krajicek’s record of 49 in a quarter-final match at the 1999 US Open.

• Quote of the Day: “All I can do is try not to be overwhelmed. I’m worried about embarrassment when I come out and a guy can serve 51 aces” — Andre Agassi on playing Johansson.