August 29, 2006

Agassi survives U.S. Open marathon

By Steve Ginsburg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andre Agassi's retirement will have to
wait a little longer after the eight-times grand slam winner
battled to a 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-2 victory over Romania's Andrei
Pavel in the U.S. Open first round on Monday.

At times looking like a maestro and others like the
36-year-old he is, Agassi needed three hours and 31 minutes to
clinch victory in front of an adoring capacity crowd of nearly
24,000 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

While the unseeded Agassi struggled, a parade of seeded
players won easily on the opening day of the tournament,
including number nine Andy Roddick who overwhelmed Italy's
Florent Serra 6-2 6-1 6-3 in just 75 minutes.

On the women's side, number two seed Justine
Henin-Hardenne, number four Elena Dementieva and 10th-seeded
Lindsay Davenport advanced to the second round.

There were few upsets at the National Tennis Center, with
the notable exception of third seed Ivan Ljubicic who was
ousted by Spain's Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-3 6-3.

Regardless of how Agassi fares in the rest of the
tournament, his match against Pavel will surely be among the
highlights of the 2006 Open.

"I want to be here really bad for the whole two weeks,"
Agassi told reporters. "Six more (wins)."


After capturing the second-set tiebreaker 10-8 to level the
match, Agassi seized the momentum and looked to be well on his
way toward a second-round meeting with Cypriot Marcos

But the 32-year-old Pavel, who had an 11-17 record in 2006
and had not played a hardcourt match since March, silenced the
crowd by breaking Agassi's serve in the opening game of the
third set and racing into a 4-0 lead.

Agassi, however, refused to quit and reeled off the next
five games before forcing a tiebreaker which he won 8-6.

With the record night-time crowd cheering his every shot,
Agassi easily rolled over a battle-weary Pavel in the fourth
set to win his sixth career match over the Romanian in seven

Agassi, the double U.S. Open champion who will retire after
the tournament, will have time off to prepare to play the
eighth-seeded Baghdatis on Thursday.

Roddick, the 2003 Open champion, served notice that he is
primed for a run at another title by whipping Serra under the
watchful eye of new coach Jimmy Connors.

"I'm really, really confident right now," said Roddick, who
will face Kristian Pless of Denmark or Alberto Martin of Spain
in the second round.

"It felt clean," said Roddick, the 2003 Open champion who
lost in the first round last year.


The 23-year-old Roddick, who rebounded from an inconsistent
summer by winning the Masters Series event in Cincinnati, kept
Serra off-balance by firing 10 aces and getting 70 percent of
his first serves in.

Henin-Hardenne overwhelmed Italy's Maria Elena Camerin 6-2
6-1 in 74 minutes, just two days after capturing the New Haven
title in her only tournament since Wimbledon.

The injury-prone Belgian blasted 24 winners past her
bewildered opponent and looked in form despite recent problems
with a nagging knee injury.

"The transition from New Haven to here wasn't very easy
because I didn't hit a single ball here on the U.S. Open courts
before my warm-up for my match today but I feel good," she

Advancing along with Henin-Hardenne was Davenport, who
showed no signs of the shoulder injury that forced her to
retire from the New Haven final.

The 1998 champion needed just 52 minutes to stop Czech
Klara Zakopalova 6-1 6-4.

Dementieva advanced with a 6-1 6-4 victory over American
Laura Granville, while number six seed and 2004 champion
Svetlana Kuznetsova stumbled briefly but recovered to beat
Germany's Sandra Kloesel 6-2 2-6 6-3.