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Agassi Books Extended Stay

Straight-set victory over Burgsmuller gets him into third round, an improvement over his early exit last year.

June 27, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — Andre Agassi is well aware of his tennis standing in his own household, and came to grips with reality long ago. Second might as well be last if you're married to Steffi Graf.

Boris Becker, who has a lot to say about most everything, was talking about this recently. The three-time Wimbledon champion wondered if it bothered Agassi to sit across the breakfast table and look at his wife, a more successful Grand Slam champion.

"Well, if Boris joined us for breakfast, she'd be more successful than both of us," Agassi said Thursday. "You could add both of our accomplishments together and we wouldn't be close."

Agassi is accurate. His eight and Becker's six Grand Slam singles titles fall far short of Graf's 22. They could invite Jim Courier and Yannick Noah to join their breakfast club and still not match her.

These days, other numbers are easier to control for Agassi. How about 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3?

That was the score Thursday of the second-seeded Agassi's victory over Lars Burgsmuller of Germany, which meant two things. First, it put him in the third round of Wimbledon against Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco, and second, it means the 33-year-old managed to hang around longer than last year. Agassi closed the book on Wimbledon 2002 in the second round.

"Starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday of last year, I wasn't aware of anything," Agassi said. "I was long gone, and it was quite painful to sort of follow every match as closely. Certainly wasn't comfortable to think about Wimbledon."

The atmosphere calmed considerably around the All England Club a day after Greg Rusedski's seismic explosion in his straight-set loss to Andy Roddick. There was one mild upset, on the women's side, Mary Pierce of France defeating No. 14 Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, 6-4, 6-1. Sixteen-year-old Maria Sharapova of Russia reached the third round in her Wimbledon debut, beating countrywoman Elena Bovina, 6-3, 6-1.

Defending women's champion Serena Williams was tested slightly in beating 32-year-old Els Callens of Belgium, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round, a rematch of their meeting last year, when Williams won in two tiebreakers. Williams was asked about possibly meeting No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, the French Open champion, in the semifinals, and of their controversial semifinal at Paris. The spectators at Roland Garros had been excessive in support of the Belgian and Williams said, "Well, I think I was resistant. From the first point, the crowd was psycho."

She spoke of being angry at the loss.

"When I say 'anger,' I just mean with myself," Williams said. "Just a little disappointed in me, in not being able to pull through some tough moments."

The topic of overly enthusiastic crowds was pertinent around Wimbledon. There was, still, plenty of discussion about Rusedski, who got off lightly for his obscene tirade against chair umpire Lars Graff. Wimbledon referee Alan Mills announced a fine of $2,500 for Rusedski's audible obscenity, and backed up Graff's action in the controversial match, during which a fan shouted 'Out!' on a ball close to the line, after which Rusedski quit playing and lost the point.

"I've had that certainly happen a few times where somebody yells," Agassi said. "It's happened before where one of us knew that it was coming from somebody other than a linesman. But I've never had it happen where actually both players thought the call was made."

Rusedski's departure has shifted all the weight of national expectation to No. 10 Tim Henman, who is in the bottom half of the draw with Agassi. Henman outwardly deals decently with the burden, and related questions, but joked about being held responsible for everything these two weeks.

"I get blamed for the weather sometimes at this time of year," he said, smiling, after his 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over qualifier Michael Llodra of France.

He has had an unusually easy draw, facing a lucky loser, a qualifier and, coming up, another qualifier, Robin Soderling of Sweden in the third round.

"Am I going to get blamed for picking that out, as well? What can I do about that?" he asked. "Obviously, it's a good opportunity. Surely by seeing the defending champion going out in the first round, as a professional, you've got to be on your guard. I could have played Greg in the first round and [Mark] Philippoussis in the second round. They were definitely players to avoid."

Disappearing from Henman's quarter of the draw was James Blake, who was greatly disappointed by his performance. Sargis Sargsian of Armenia defeated Blake, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-2, and though Blake's preparation and serve were hindered by an aching shoulder, he was critical of himself.

Sargsian seemed to be hit by an attack of nerves in the second set, squandering a 5-1 lead. Blake managed to get the set into a tiebreaker and promptly lost five of the first six points. He ripped himself, saying, "All that work to get back into the set. ..."

Blake called his serving "inexcusable."

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