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At the Australian Open today

1/21/2005

Andre Agassi's hip injury appears to be well under control after two rounds of play at the Australian Open.

"My movement was -- it was plenty good enough for me to think about my game and not think about that," Agassi said after defeating Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 6-1, 6-0.

That's a good thing because today he takes on fellow American Taylor Dent, who although he has yet to complete a major match against Agassi, at least earned the eight-time Grand Slam titlist's respect in their last meeting.

In the 2003 U.S. Open, Dent was pushing Agassi, who said he was surprised at how difficult Dent was making it for Agassi to hold serve before Dent retired at 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5. That was Dent's best performance ever in a major, and Agassi won't be surprised this time.

"I think Taylor is as difficult an opponent as one can have," Agassi, 34, said Tuesday. "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."

Potential show stoppers

  • Serena Williams might never have heard of her third round opponent, Sania Mirza, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a major newspaper in India that hasn't written about her this week - multiple times. Mirza made Indian history this week by becoming the first woman to reach the third round of a major tennis tournament.

    Mirza, 18, only got a spot into the Australian Open when China's Li Na no longer needed the wild card that she won for claiming the Asian Championships title in Tashkent last September. With Na's ranking strong enough to gain direct entry, the wild card went to Mirza.

    "I'm pretty sure she's heard of me and she'll be ready to play my game," Serena said on Tuesday.

    Not only has Mirza heard of the No. 7 seed, she's looking forward to taking on a former No. 1 player of Serena's caliber.

    "I'm really looking forward to finding out how hard she hits the ball," Mirza told reporters.

    She first gained attention in India when she won Wimbledon junior doubles in 2003. This week, she's received congratulations from government officials to local teachers in her hometown of Hyderabad.

    When Mizra started playing tennis at age 6, her mother took her to a local coach who initially refused to work with such a young girl. A month later he was eating his words, telling her parents he'd never seen such a talented player at that age. Today, she trains with Boris Becker's former coach Bob Brett at his academy in San Remo, Italy.

    Serena's training this week isn't too shabby, either, as she is once again roommates and practice partners with her sister Venus.

    "I actually think I play better when I hit with Venus because she just brings out the best in me," Serena said. "She's just slapping winners left and right, and I'm just at this point, "Oh, gosh." So for me, I always do better when I practice with her."

  • No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo also faces an unknown quantity in her third round. Qualifier Ana Ivanovic of Serbia and Montenegro is making her debut appearance at the event.

    Ivanovic, 17, is riding a 10-match streak after winning her first WTA Tour title last week at Canberra. She also recently forced Venus Williams to two tiebreaks in Zurich. Ivanovic, who grew up admiring Monica Seles, lives in Belgrade, Serbia, even though she says it can sometimes be scary going out there because of crime and political turmoil; still, it's home and she still loves being there.

    Mauresmo came into the tournament without any match play but after defeating Dinara Safina 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 said her legs are holding up well.

    Although some questioned her fitness after the match, Serena came to Mauresmo's defense.

    "Dinara tends to play very well, and she's a very talented player," Serena said. "She's no pushover. So that definitely wasn't a very easy draw for her. That was good that she was able to pull it through."

  • Roger Federer is looking for his 24th consecutive victory after equaling his own longest winning streak at 23. Since 1990, there have been five streaks longer than Federer's. If he wins, it will equal the streak Pete Sampras had from June to August in 1999.

    Federer is 5-0 against left-hander Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, who has now equaled his best performance at the Australian Open in 2003 when he reached the third round before losing Guillermo Coria 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. No Finn has ever advanced further than the fourth round at any major in the Open Era.

  • Safin comes into the third round without dropping a set -- he's only managed that once before at a major at the 2002 Australian Open when he was runner-up.

    "I have more experience so I know what to do," Safin said after defeating Bohdan Ulihrach 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 in the second round. "Always I was looking for a good start in every Grand Slam, but for some reason not enough experience I had to be able to do that by that time.

    "You know, just I tried to be a little bit more focused what I'm doing, and it's working."

    Safin has only practiced with but never played against Mario Ancic, who is known for being the last man to defeat
    Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2003. That defeat was not a one-time thing as Ancic, 20, reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last season defeating Tim Henman in straight sets in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual runner-up
    Andy Roddick 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. Ancic lost in the third round at the Aussie last year.

  • No. 10 Gaston Gaudio is one of the five Argentine seeds, all of whom have reached the third round (No. 6 Guillermo Coria, No. 9 David Nalbandian, No. 12 Guillermo Canas and No. 15 Juan Ignacio Chela). If Gaudio defeats Dominik Hrbaty it will be only the third time he has reached the fourth round at a major and the first time it was not at the French Open. Hrbaty had the best season of his career last year finishing the year at No. 14.

  • No. 11 Joachim Johansson of Sweden plays the other lefty in this half of the draw, Felician Lopez of Spain. Lopez reached the third round of the Aussie in his debut in 2003. Johansson reached the third round last year but fell to Juan Carlos Ferrero.

  • After not winning a match in four major tournament appearances, American Kevin Kim, 26, is in the third round facing No. 30 Thomas Johansson. In fact, Kim, who was an all-American at UCLA, is attempting to win three tour-level matches in a row for the first time.

    Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.