Thu, Jan 20, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Agassi, Safin blast through matches

ROUND 2 Marat Safin, who tied a record with 30 sets spanning 20 hours in seven matches last year, is trying to conserve energy

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Russian tennis dynamo and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova leaps into a backhand during her doubles game with Australia's top woman player Alicia Molik during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia yesterday. The duo defeated Nathalie Dechy and Emilie Loit from France 6-3, 6-2.

PHOTO: EPA

Andre Agassi and Marat Safin played Wednesday 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 third round of the Australian Open.

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.

As he did in the first round, Agassi needed a little time to get loosened up, saving five early break points. Schuettler, a fellow baseliner, had no answer to his stinging, angled groundstrokes.

"To say it was 100 percent would probably be overstating it," Agassi said. "I felt as the match went on I was getting more comfortable with my movement, and that's a good thing. My movement was ... plenty good enough for me to think about my game and not think about that."

While the victory put him a little closer to his ninth Grand Slam title, Agassi said he has nothing to brag about at home. Wife Steffi Graf won 22.

"I've won a lot of tournaments, but I still come second at home," he said.

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.

"I think Taylor is as difficult an opponent as one can have," Agassi said. "He puts pressure on you constantly, makes you hit your shots. I'll have to be returning well and doing all sorts of things well."

Williams is trying to recapture the form from her title run here in 2003, when she completed her personal Grand Slam of four consecutive majors. She was absent last year with a knee injury.

She didn't drop a point on serve in the second set until the final game when she made two unforced errors. She set up match point with a curling forehand winner -- one of 38 for the match -- and ended with her sixth ace.

Her form "is definitely getting better and better with each match," Williams said. ``I hit a lot of winners against a girl that actually gets a lot of balls back. So I was excited.''

Williams next faces 18-year-old Sania Mirza, the first Indian woman to make the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.

Sharapova, a 17-year-old Russian who beat Williams in the last Wimbledon final, needed six match points to beat Lindsay Lee-Waters.

This story has been viewed 2665 times.
TOP top