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Another Young Titan Is Deflated by Agassi

June 02, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — How many times has Andre Agassi just shredded the confidence of a hot young player?

It had happened twice already this year. In San Jose, Andy Roddick won four games against Agassi in the semifinals. In Rome, Tommy Haas took six games off Agassi in the Italian Open final ... over three sets.

No. 3 came Saturday at the French Open in a match between the oldest and youngest players remaining in the draw.

Spaniard Tommy Robredo, who turned 20 on May 1, is 12 years younger than Agassi, and arrived in Paris with respectable clay-court credentials, having reached the semifinals in the Masters Series event at Hamburg, Germany, beating Sebastien Grosjean and Haas. He finally lost to Marat Safin, retiring in the second set because of an ankle injury.

All this meant very little to the fourth-seeded Agassi, who dispatched Robredo with stunning ease, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, in 94 minutes in the third round.

Agassi has learned not to let up when the finish line is in his view.

"When someone gets the worst end of something like that, you never know what Plan Bs these players have," he said of Robredo. "He has a lot of firepower. I know if he was really tired of running, he could just start playing bigger. The last thing you want to do is lay off any of your shots and give him a look and let him get some confidence going."

Robredo sounded a lot like the kids who used to suffer through rough initiations against the likes of Jimmy Connors.

"I had a chance in the second set to catch up in the game," Robredo said. "Perhaps things could have changed. You could see that this was going to be an interesting match. But his game was good throughout, and I want to congratulate him and to learn from him, to learn from all the great players."

Next for Agassi is his second French opponent of the tournament, wild-card Paul-Henri Mathieu. Since winning here in 1999, Agassi lost in the second round in 2000 and in last year's quarterfinals to Grosjean.

"I want to believe I'm a strong contender," Agassi said. "I want to believe that coming here.... But every time I've won, it's always come with a different story. It's always come with a different feeling, with a different preparation. I've gone into Slams feeling great, and [won]. I've gone into Slams feeling great, and not [won]. I've gone into Slams feeling like I have no chance, and it just somehow comes together."

Agassi is the only remaining American male after three rounds. Vince Spadea lost in four sets to Grosjean, who was buoyed by fervent crowd support on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Grosjean, who will play Belgian Xavier Malisse in the fourth round, beat Spadea, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-4, in 3 hours 22 minutes, a ragged affair featuring 15 service breaks.

It's vastly different on the women's side, with four Americans in the final 16: No. 1-seeded and defending champion Jennifer Capriati, No. 2 Venus Williams, No. 3 Serena Williams and Chanda Rubin.

"I think the three of us right now are at the top of our game," Serena Williams, who beat Janette Husarova of Slovakia, 6-1, 6-3, said of the top three. "I think we'll be switching around, all three of us. I could see it because we're all doing so well. It's great that the top three are all Americans."

Serena Williams will play 17-year-old Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva today in the fourth round. Zvonareva survived a near-meltdown against Francesca Schiavone of Italy, blowing seven match points in the second set before reviving to win, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5, in 2 hours 56 minutes.

Much shorter was Capriati's 53-minute, 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Australian Evie Dominikovic, who won only one game after holding a break point for a 4-1 first-set lead.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* Day 6 Highlights * Men's Seeded Losers: No. 14 Jiri Novak, No. 25 Tommy Robredo, No. 29 David Nalbandian * Men's Seeded Winners: No. 2 Marat Safin, No. 4 Andre Agassi, No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean, No. 11 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 31 Gaston Gaudio * Women's Seeded Losers: No. 14 Iroda Tulyaganova, No. 17 Tamarine Tanasugarn * Women's Seeded Winners: No. 1 Jennifer Capriati, No. 3 Serena Williams, No. 7 Jelena Dokic, No. 9 Silvia Farina Elia, No. 20 Patty Schnyder * Today's Featured Matches: No. 2 Venus Williams vs. Chanda Rubin, No. 18 Alex Corretja vs. Mariano Zabaleta, No. 6 Monica Seles vs. Daniela Hantuchova * Stat of the Day: Capriati wins 11 of the last 12 games--including nine in a row--to erase a 3-1 deficit and beat Australia's Evie Dominikovic, 6-3, 6-1

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