Sat, Sep 03, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Andre Agassi slays giant

ROUND 2 The 35-year-old American battled 2m tall Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in three tiebreakers to win the match


Andre Agassi continued his run for one more Grand Slam title in his 20th visit to the US Open when he toppled 2.08m Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) on Thursday.

At 35, nine years older than the gangling giant across the net, Agassi came up bigger on the big points. His wife, Steffi Graf, and 3-year-old son, Jaden, watched at courtside.

"Listen to that," Agassi said as the standing crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium cheered his second-round victory. "How does that get old? Thanks guys."

Agassi was wary after watching No. 4-seeded Andy Roddick fall in three tiebreakers in the first round against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller. Muller's luck and poise didn't hold in the second round as he was beaten 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 by American doubles partner Robby Ginepri.

"It's good to beat Roddick," Muller said. "But then if you play in the next round ... like I did today, it doesn't change anything."

No. 13 Richard Gasquet of France advanced when Giorgio Galimberti of Italy retired in the fourth set with an injury. Sebastien Grosjean of France beat No. 14 Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, and No. 19 Tommy Robredo knocked out three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2.

James Blake, coming off a hometown title in New Haven last weekend, set up a third-round match against No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal by beating Igor Andreev of Russia 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in a night match.

In women's matches, No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, No. 7 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 12 Mary Pierce, No. 13 Anastasia Myskina, No. 15 Nathalie Dechy, No. 17 Jelena Jankovic, No. 19 Elena Likhovtseva, No. 23 Tatiana Golovin, and No. 24 Shinobu Asagoe all won in straight sets.

Agassi conceded 28cm to Karlovic, spun serves about 80kph slower, and a 30-5 ace count.

The two-time Open champion, seeded No. 7, couldn't equal Karlovic's power and didn't care. Rather, he settled for cleverness and steadiness, taking advantage of the Croatian's weak backhand and awkward lateral movement. No one on the tour likes to play against the No. 56-ranked Karlovic, Agassi had said before playing him for the first time, because his serves come down from an unfamiliar trajectory, as if fired from the roof. Agassi felt the same way after winning.

"It's an incredible serve," Agassi said. "I'm trying to figure out where it is I would need to stand on the court to have the same trajectory. It's not a function of how fast it is because a lot of guys can serve it 135 [mph]-plus. The trajectory is the main issue because you're lunging, but then it's up. You're sort of diving, but then you can't reach it, even if you dive perfectly and on cue."

Agassi swung and swished at some serves and stared helplessly as many others sped by. Each time he walked calmly to the other side, waiting for the ones he could get a racket on, trying to get Karlovic to play on different terms in rallies. There Agassi had the advantage.

"If I was coaching him, I'd fine him US$100 every time he hit a groundstroke," Agassi said. "In his most difficult moments, he was more awkward than I anticipated."

Agassi played with extra caution in this match, not going for too much in the wind against Karlovic.

"Today required a lot of concentration because it only took a mental lapse for one or two shots and the set's over with," Agassi said. "On a calm day if I'm taking risks against a guy like that, all he needs is one game and then he's going to win the set. I couldn't afford to get too risky. Points happen too quickly out there."

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