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Agassi Gets a Move On at Open

Looking spry at 34, he rolls to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Sargsian, setting up an eagerly awaited quarterfinal showdown with No. 1 Federer.

September 07, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Andre Agassi comes to the tennis court as if he were riding a pogo stick, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, eager to get moving, stay moving, keep moving. If time is chasing the 34-year-old Agassi, it will have a hard time catching him.

Sargis Sargsian certainly couldn't slow down his good friend. The 31-year-old Armenian, who had played back-to-back five-set matches coming into this fourth-round contest Monday afternoon at the U.S. Open, was not much more than a hitting partner for Agassi, who took only 1 hour 30 minutes to hand Sargsian a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 defeat. It was just enough of a workout to keep Agassi fresh and allow the two-time Open champion a chance to bow to his fans and see his 34-month-old son, Jaden, clap gleefully for the good shots.

It was just as well for Agassi that he wasn't punished much by Sargsian, for Roger Federer, the world's top player and Agassi's next opponent, received a free pass into the quarterfinals when 16th-seeded Andrei Pavel pulled out of their scheduled night match with a herniated disk in his lower back.

That was not the only injury of the day. Nicolas Kiefer, seeded 19th, retired from his match against No. 5 Tim Henman in the fifth set because of a swollen wrist. Henman, celebrating his 30th birthday, was ahead, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (4), 3-0.

And Olivier Rochus, the 5-foot-5 Belgian who had become a crowd favorite because he was the smallest player in the draw, played the second half of the fourth set and all of the fifth while suffering from leg cramps. The result was a 2-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 loss to 22nd-seeded Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.

Hrbaty will play in his first U.S. Open quarterfinal against Henman, who has also advanced to his first Open quarterfinal.

It is the Agassi-Federer quarterfinal, though, that has been the most eagerly awaited men's match.

Federer had never been past the fourth round of the Open, but he is having a career year and already owns the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles.

Agassi, who had seemed down for good this year when he lost in the first round of the French Open and had to withdraw from Wimbledon because of a hip injury, has been rejuvenated on the U.S. hard courts this summer. After beating Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt on the way to the Cincinnati title, Agassi's timing, power and speed seem back.

But now Agassi plays the man who is the most complete player on the tour. Agassi appreciates Federer's skills.

"There are some guys you can learn a lot from," Agassi said. "Federer's one of those guys that plays the game on his own terms in a way others just can't."

As for Federer's skills, Agassi said, "I think his biggest weapon is his forehand and his movement. He's a really explosive mover. His forehand's a nasty shot. He does a lot of things really well. He does a few things really great."

Federer said he's looking forward to the New York moment. The match probably will be scheduled for Wednesday night, and Arthur Ashe Stadium will be filled with Agassi fans.

"It's something I'm looking forward to," Federer said. "I've never really played the big matches at the Open at the night session. So this is a big occasion for me to prove myself, deserving to be on the big stage, beating the best at the most important moment."

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