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Agassi Doesn't Let This Drama Build

He dismantles Grosjean in straight sets in rematch of 2001 French Open meeting. Venus Williams sweeps to win too.

January 21, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — So often the Grand Slam sequel doesn't come even close to touching the original.

That working theory was on exhibit, not once but twice today at the Australian Open on the main show court, Rod Laver Arena. Of course, in one match, the original showdown had former President Bill Clinton disrupting the flow of play by his mere entrance, distracting Andre Agassi and ultimately sending him right out of the French Open against Sebastien Grosjean of France in 2001.

This was the first meeting between Agassi and Grosjean in a Slam since that strange day in Paris. No former presidents wandered into Melbourne Park, and even if one had, it wouldn't have mattered the way Agassi was zoning.

Agassi, seeded No. 2, raced through it, needing two hours to dismantle a very good player. The 32-year-old kept pounding away with unrelenting pressure to defeat No. 12 Grosjean, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Agassi will meet No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain or Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, who played later today.

"I just felt very solid on my groundstrokes.... There was a lot going well for me today," said Agassi, who has reached the quarterfinals 13 of his last 16 Slams. "Until they learn to bottle hard work, you've got to go out and keep working. I just work hard and look up at the scoreboard in the end."

Agassi's on-court interview with TV commentator John McEnroe, who is working for Australia's Channel 7, was arguably more entertaining than the match. McEnroe asked him about his wife Steffi Graf and their young son, Jaden Gil. McEnroe said that with their gene pool, Jaden Gil had to at least give tennis a shot. "It's a big gene pool," Agassi said, smiling. "And you haven't met the rest of my family."

The Agassi-Grosjean match followed the quarterfinal between No. 2-seeded Venus Williams and No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. Williams defeated Hantuchova, 6-4, 6-3, in what was an erratic performance from the Slovak teenager. There had been something of a buildup for their showdown because Hantuchova had pushed Williams to three sets here last year, nearly winning their third-round match.

For those who didn't see a point of the Williams-Hantuchova match and came in after the conclusion, it was obvious Hantuchova was the loser the way she nearly sprinted off the court.

Even Williams picked up on it.

"You think it was good?" said Williams, who had six aces and 29 winners to nine winners for Hantuchova.

"I had a lot of errors [32 unforced]. I think also that Daniela didn't play her best; she wanted to play better, for sure."

In the semifinals, Williams will meet either No. 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium or Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain. Williams has lost to Henin-Hardenne once in seven matches.

"I hated that one loss," Williams said. "I always remember the losses more than the wins. So I guess I'll keep that in mind when I play the next one. I always remember the scores, you know, the pain. But I think she's playing really well."

On the other side of the draw, No. 1-seeded Serena Williams will play Meghann Shaughnessy, and No. 4 Kim Clijsters of Belgium will face No. 8 Anastasia Myskina of Russia in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Neither Shaughnessy nor Myskina has been in the final eight of a Grand Slam.

Of the top players, Clijsters has had the easiest path, dropping only 10 games in four matches. She has not lost more than three games in any set. The Belgian teenager showed she is in a class by herself when it comes to perspective when she was asked about boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt's loss in the fourth round.

"It's never nice," said Clijsters, who beat Amanda Coetzer of South Africa, 6-3, 6-1, in the fourth round on Monday.

"It's always [tough] for someone like him, because I know him so well, to lose. I think there's a lot worse things in life than losing a tennis match. If you see all the bush fires and everything that's happening here in Australia, I think a tennis match is nothing compared to all those things that are happening in the rest of the world."

*

Quarterfinals

Men: Younes El Aynaoui (18) vs. Andy Roddick (9); Rainer Schuettler (31) vs. David Nalbandian (10); Wayne Ferreira vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero (4); Andre Agassi (2) def. Sebastien Grosjean (12), 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Women: Serena Williams (1) vs. Meghann Shaughnessy (25); Kim Clijsters (4) vs. Anastasia Myskina(8); Justine Henin-Hardenne (5) vs. Virginia Ruano Pascual; Venus Williams (2) def. Daniela Hantuchova (7) 6-4, 6-3.

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