Agassi to play compatriot Dent next

Updated: January 19, 2005, 3:43 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

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