Federer opens with win

Agence France Presse

Melbourne, January 12:

Super-fit Andre Agassi laid the groundwork for an Australian Open assault on Fortress Federer with an opening win at the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday as his Swiss rival stuttered in his match. Federer, the world number one who began 2005 with a 14th straight title last weekend in Doha, dropped the first set against Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio of Argentina before rallying to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

Agassi, the ageless veteran who remains a serious title threat at age 34, got his eye in on the Rebound Ace of Kooyong club, defeating Chile’s Olympic champion Nicolas Massu 6-1, 7-6.

The eight-man Kooyong has been the event of choice for the top names in the sport, with eight of the last 10 champions at the Open getting their eye in here, former home of the major until 1988. Agassi, a four-time Australian Open winner, struck a dozen aces and had 34 unforced errors on his first competitive match since last October’s loss in the final of the Stockholm Open. The Chilean committed 41.

Briton Tim Henman, one of the few players to hand Federer a setback in 2004, took a victory against Kooyong defending champion David Nalbandian, defeating the Argentine 6-1, 7-5.

World number three Andy Roddick kept his unforced error count down as he beat Croatian substitute Ivan Ljubicic, brought on to replace injured Thai Paradorn Srichaphan.

Andy Roddick earned a 6-1, 6-4 result, striking 19 errors to 46 for Ivan Ljubicic.

Sydney Int’l


Lleyton Hewitt rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second set to beat France’s Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4, advancing the top-seeded Australian to the quarters of Medibank Sydney International. Clement double-faulted at two crucial points in the match — the first time at 2-2 in the opening set when it gave Hewitt his first service break. With Clement up 3-0 and then 4-1 in the second, Hewitt broke back in the seventh game — with Clement giving him break point with a double fault. Clement then watched as Hewitt hit a crosscourt winner on the next point, pumping his fist and yelling “Come On!” amid cheers from the capacity centre-court crowd.

Hewitt held service to love in the next game, levelling the set 4-4, before again breaking a demoralised Clement in the next game. Hewitt won his fifth consecutive game to seal the match and advance to a quarter-final against the winner of Wednesday’s later match between Thomas Johansson and Wayne Arthurs.

Third-seeded Joachim Johansson of Sweden pulled out of his second-round match against Max Mirnyi of Belarus with a hamstring injury while trailing 4-1 in the first set. When asked if he would be in doubt for next week’s Australian Open, Johansson said: “I think it’s too early to say.” In other men’s matches, eighth-seeded Taylor Dent beat fellow American Mardy Fish 7-6, 6-1; fourth-seeded Andrei Pavel of Romania beat Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-4, 7-6 and Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2.

In women’s second-round play, third-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia beat Eleni Deniilidou of Greece 6-3, 3-6, 6-2; fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia beat Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-0, 6-2; and Samantha Stosur of Australia beat Tatiana Golovin of France 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.