NEW YORK — For a set and a half, Olympic bronze medalist Leander Paes leaped and lunged in a masterful show against gold medalist Andre Agassi.
Then they played the rest of the match.
Agassi cranked up his game, Paes returned to earth, and suddenly the Indian's 6-3, 4-0 lead turned to dust Thursday as Agassi won seven games in a row and 18 of the next 19 to reach the third round of the U.S. Open.
"He was playing really out-of-this-world tennis," Agassi said after he carved his 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 comeback out of a most desperate situation--five break points against him while serving the fifth game of the second set.
"It was impossible, really, for anyone to play much better than he was playing. He was hitting screaming, on-the-full-run passing shots by me."
Agassi said he did everything he could in the first set, and didn't "donate" his serve.
"I just couldn't quite break him because of the shots he was coming up with," Agassi said. "When he closed out that first set, his confidence rose, he went for first shots and came up with spectacular ones. Really, I was just dodging bullets at that point. I had to elevate my game, hit bigger, take more chances."
Agassi pulled a bit of gamesmanship after the third point of the second set, complaining to the umpire about Paes' grunting.
"I felt like on a couple of his forehands, his grunt extended well beyond his shot," Agassi said. "To grunt and then all of a sudden have an exorbitant, extended kind of Tarzan yell was a little bit too much."
The umpire relayed the complaint to Paes, but after Agassi was broken on serve he complained again and asked for the supervisor. The official duly came out, spoke to both players and the match went on without incident.
"It's just the way I play. I grunt," Paes said. "Andre does it himself. Monica [Seles] is an example. On certain forehands that are short and I hit big, I like to breathe out and I grunt. He didn't expect to lose the first set. Things were getting out of his control. He kind of told the supervisor to ask me to keep quiet."
No such drama accompanied No. 3 Thomas Muster's 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Dirk Dier of Germany, nor No. 13 Thomas Enqvist's 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 romp over Guillaume Raoux of France.
Defending women's champion and top-seeded Steffi Graf also won easily, 6-2, 6-1 against Austrian Karin Kschwendt, as did No. 3 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nicole Arendt.
Graf, showing no sign of injury, said she nearly skipped the Open when she pulled her left calf last week. She denied a report in Germany that she considered staying away because of her father's upcoming trial on tax evasion charges.
"I was thinking of skipping it because of my calf and nothing else," Graf said. "That was only until Saturday when I first started to play again and realized that my calf would be OK."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Today's featured matches at the U.S. Open:
Beginning 8 a.m. PDT
* Men--No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic vs. Scott Draper; No.1 Pete Sampras vs. Jiri Novak.
* Women--No. 8 Lindsay Davenport vs. Anne-Gaelle Sidot.
* Men--Andrei Olhovskiy vs. Mark Philippoussis.
* Women--Helena Sukova vs. No. 4 Conchita Martinez; No. 15 Gabriela Sabatini vs. Asa Carlsson.
Beginning 4:30 p.m. PDT
* Men--Stefan Edberg vs. Bernd Karbacher.
* Women--No. 2 Monica Seles vs. Dally Randriantefy.
* Men--No. 12 Todd Martin vs. Andrea Gaudenzi.