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Agassi to play compatriot Dent next

1/19/2005

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Andre Agassi and Marat Safin were
quick and nearly mistake-free in advancing to the third round of
the Australian Open.
Eighth-seeded Agassi looked sharp Wednesday in ousting
Rainer Schuettler of Germany 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 in a rematch of the 2003
final. Agassi, who has been working through stiffness from a hip
injury that raised doubts whether he could even play in the Grand
Slam opener, is seeking his fifth Australian Open title.
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 against Roger Federer in the final last year. He needed
only 1 hour and 21 minutes to oust Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech
Republic 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
As he did in his first-round match, Agassi looked as though he
needed a little time to get loosened up. Once he did, 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."

Federer recorded his
23rd straight match win, defeating Japanese qualifier Takao
Suzuki, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, in a match sloppy by Federer's standards.

``It was great atmosphere, a fantastic match,'' Federer said.
``He was up a break in the first set, and I had to play a great
shot to break back. Who knows what might have happened if he plays
so well that he wins the first set?''

In the fifth game of the first set, Suzuki -- a 28-year-old
journeyman who ousted American Jan-Michael Gambill in the first
round -- snapped Federer's streak of 65 straight service games
without being broken, but the world No. 1 won the next four
games to close out the set.

Federer broke Suzuki, who is ranked 203rd in the world, in the
ninth game of the second set on a nifty shot around the post and
the same game of the third set. He ended the encounter with a
whipping crosscourt forehand winner -- his 50th of the match.

"I had a lot of fun out here tonight," Federer said.

Suzuki's energetic performance earned him a standing ovation,
and he responded by bowing to the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.

"The forehand on the run, that's what we've (coach Tony
Roche) been working on for two weeks, and I'm happy it worked
tonight," he joked.

While Agassi's victory put him closer to his ninth Grand Slam title,
he 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 takes on No. 28 Mario Ancic.

"I think Taylor is as difficult an opponent as one can have,"
Agassi said of the serve-and-volleying Dent. "He plays the game
like very few players play it anymore. He puts pressure on you
constantly, makes you hit your shots. You got to be doing it
with conviction.

"I'll have to be returning well and doing all sorts of things
well, but that's no surprise. At this stage especially, I got
to come out there ready right from the get."

French Open champion Gaston Gaudio overcame
Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (4).

Gaudio broke through for his first Grand Slam title in Paris
last year but has never made it beyond the third round in his
five previous visits to Melbourne.

The Argentine will play No. 20 seed Dominik Hrbaty in the third round on
Friday after the Slovakian beat Serbian qualifier Janko
Tipsarevic in four sets.

Belgium's Olivier Rochus had a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory against Gael Monfils,
an 18-year-old Frenchman who won three of the four junior majors
last season.Tommy Robredo (13), Feliciano Lopez (24), and 2002 Australian champion
Thomas Johansson (30) were among the seeded players advancing in
the men's draw.
Tommy Haas, seeded 16th, was upset 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-3
by Slovakia's Karol Beck.
Other seeded players ousted were Ivan Ljubicic (22) and Paradorn
Srichaphan (27).

Information from The Associated Press, SportsTicker and Reuters was used in this report.