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Ferrero Does Level Best in Victory

Spaniard reaches quarterfinals, then says his game is on same plane as Hewitt's and Agassi's.

January 19, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — Juan Carlos Ferrero seems to think there is little distinction between himself and the likes of Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi.

Really.

Positive thinking is one thing, but there is one obvious point, which really can't be debated. The category is Grand Slam titles and the order is clearly defined.

Agassi: Seven. Hewitt: Two.

Ferrero: Zero.

Now, the young Spaniard does seem a decent proposition to join the elite group someday. He reached the French Open final last year, turning into a nervous mess in a loss to countryman Albert Costa. And today, he landed in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time, showing impressive form in a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Mario Ancic of Croatia in the fourth round.

"I think there is no favorite here in Australia right now," said Ferrero, who will play Wayne Ferreira of South Africa in the quarterfinals. "Why? Because the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, there is no difference between us. I think we play at the same level when we play good. There is no more the difference."

Hewitt has had little trouble since going five sets in his opening match. Agassi lost one set in his first four matches. His on-court time today was limited to 48 minutes when his opponent retired in the second set. Agassi led, 6-1, 3-1, when Guillermo Coria of Argentina quit because of an injured foot.

Meanwhile, TV commentator John McEnroe was the target of an outraged coach after he criticized Todd Larkham on the air in Australia. Larkham was clearly overmatched in a second-round defeat against Hewitt, and McEnroe described his play as "pitiful."

Brent Larkhan, the brother and coach of Todd, told the Herald Sun here that he threatened McEnroe.

"I asked him if he wanted to back up his big mouth with a bit of action out in the car park, but he didn't want to," Larkham told the Australian newspaper. "He wouldn't justify what he said other than to say he gets paid to do a job and he calls it the way he sees it."

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