Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2003

Agassi outlasts teen in five-set thriller

May 29, 2003

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— Andre Agassi sat in his chair a few extra seconds at each changeover, resting his body and composing his mind.

He also was stalling, letting the young man who was giving him a hard time wait around on court before play could resume.

Agassi, 33, needed every drop of energy and resolve to reach the French Open's third round Wednesday. He rallied from a monumental deficit and overcame some surprisingly ragged crunch-time nerves to oust Croatian teen Mario Ancic in five sets.

"Sometimes, you just have to find a way. You have to dig deep and come up with the goods," said Agassi, who double-faulted three times when serving for the match. "As long as you're still in, it's a new tournament. I have a new life right now."

The eight-time Grand Slam champion lost the first two sets and trailed in the third before cobbling together a 5-7, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 comeback for his 763rd victory -- sixth most in history and one more than Pete Sampras.

He's only 19, but Ancic already has shown promise. He ousted Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year and reached the fourth round at the Australian Open in January.

Another teen fared better. Ashley Harkleroad, 18, took the first significant strides of her tennis life by knocking off No. 9-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 7-6 (2), 4-6, 9-7 in 3 hours, 8 minutes.

Without a Grand Slam match win before this week, Harkleroad could have folded after letting a 5-1 lead evaporate in the final set. Hantuchova, a quarterfinalist at the last three majors, even served for the match at 6-5.

"I just kept really calm. I just said, 'OK, Ashley, you're not going to lose this. You're going to fight,"' she said. "I've always been very feisty. A fighter."

As Harkleroad watched Hantuchova's final forehand float wide, she let out a shriek and sprinted to the seats to hug ... her agent.

Dozens of boys gathered near the court, pens and paper at the ready for autographs, during the match between Harkleroad and Hantuchova. Until this victory, Harkleroad probably was known best for the midriff-baring togs she wore during a first-round loss at the 2001 U.S. Open, drawing a writeup and photo in Sports Illustrated.

"A lot of people compared me to Kournikova. That was just a compliment for me," said Harkleroad, perhaps forgetting for a moment that Anna might be famous, but she's never won a tournament.

Defending champ Serena Williams claimed her 30th straight Grand Slam victory, 6-3, 6-2 over Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian of Switzerland.

American Laura Granville, seeded 31st, beat 1997 champion Iva Majoli 6-1, 6-2. No. 11 Anastasia Myskina, No. 21 Lisa Raymond and No. 23 Anna Pistolesi were also eliminated.

Clarisa Fernandez, a semifinalist last year, was beaten by Barbara Schett 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

Other second-round winners included No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 8 Chanda Rubin, No. 14 Eleni Daniilidou, No. 16 Ai Sugiyama, No. 18 Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 19 Patty Schnyder.

On the men's side, No. 22-seeded Wayne Ferreira, playing in his 50th Grand Slam event, beat David Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. No. 4 Carlos Moya, No. 7 Guillermo Coria and No. 11 Rainer Schuettler also won.

No. 27 Mikhail Youzhny, Russia's Davis Cup hero at Paris last December, lost to Attila Savolt 3-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

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