Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  

Australian Open
Agassi v Roddick looms

Defending champion Andre Agassi and top-seed Andy Roddick raced into the last 16 of the Australian Open Friday as women's favourite Justine Henin-Hardenne passed her first serious test.

Agassi and Roddick both blasted aside their opponents to record straight sets victories and move a step closer to a semifinal 'clash of the generations.'

World number one Roddick overwhelmed 27th seed Taylor Dent in the evening match, bombarding his American compatriot with a crushing 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 in just 71 minutes.

"Taylor didn't have his best night tonight and I played pretty well," said Roddick, who now plays 16th seed Sjeng Schalken in the fourth round.

"I was pretty happy with the way I played and I'm just pleased to be in the fourth round."

Agassi was similarly emphatic in his 6-0, 6-3, 6-3 demolition job of Sweden's Thomas Enqvist, who has the best record of any active player against the 33-year-old American -- now an even 5-5.

"I did everything I was looking to do," said Agassi, who set the tone for the encounter by hurtling through a 21-minute first set and breaking serve a total of seven times.

Agassi now faces Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan, the 13th seed going into the Open's fourth round for the first time after beating former world number one Gustavo Kuerten 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

In other men's results Friday, fiery Russian Marat Safin kept his cool to beat US veteran Todd Martin in a five-set marathon 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5.

The show of level-headedness by the former world number one opened the possibility Safin could emerge as a dark horse.

Robby Ginepri, the 32nd seeded American, dismissed French wildcard Nicolas Escude 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, and fellow American James Blake powered past the last remaining men's qualifier in the tournament, Olivier Patience of France, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

On the women's side, Henin-Hardenne survived the first real challenge to her quest for back-to-back Grand Slam titles in a hard fought match against 30th seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.

The top seeded Belgian, who lost only five games in breezing past her first two opponents, had her serve broken twice and committed 27 unforced errors in the one hour, 17 minutes it took her to beat Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5.

It was a far from convincing performance from Henin-Hardenne, the hot tournament favorite after winning the US Open in September and who now faces Italian qualifier Mara Santangelo.

Nevertheless Henin-Hardenne insisted she was pleased with her form, saying she was glad to be tested after routine victories in her opening two matches.

"It was a good fight. It's the kind of match that I like to play very early in the tournament," said Henin-Hardenne, who rose to the top of women's tennis last year with victories in the French and US Opens.

"I'm pretty happy because she's a tough opponent and I won in two sets. It's great to have this kind of match in the third round because I knew that before going on to court, I had to be 100 percent if I wanted to win.

"The kind of matches I got in the first two rounds don't help me too much too improve my game."

Henin-Hardenne's biggest hurdle to another Grand Slam final, fourth seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France, had far less difficulty ousting unseeded Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-1, 6-2 in just a minute over one hour.

But the Frenchwoman, a 1999 Australian Open runner-up, was twice treated during the second set for tightness in the muscles of her lower left leg, a problem she said had been nagging her for several days.

"It bothers me a bit and I will really try to take care of it, but I don't really know where it comes from or what it is, so it's difficult to say," she said. "I've never had this before."

Asked if the problem could derail her title hopes here, Mauresmo said only, "I hope not."

Also in the same half of the draw is fifth seeded American Lindsay Davenport, who recovered from 4-1 down in the opening set to oust world number 54 Laura Granville 6-4, 6-0.