Agassi is still a champion

Nearing 35, Andre Agassi still has plenty of bounce in his step—and his game.

Agassi rolled to a 6-4, 6-1 victory on Wednesday over Guillermo Coria in the Pacific Life Open, both frustrating and amusing his Argentine opponent with some circus-like shots.

On the way to winning the first set, Agassi sprinted from the net to the back court to return a lob successfully, hitting the ball between his knees with his back to the net.

In the second set, Agassi ranged far to his left to chase down a hard, deep shot. He managed not only to get his racket on the ball, but to power a backhand that landed about an inch inside the lines in the rear right corner on Coria’s side.

Coria rolled his eyes and looked skyward in disbelief as the crowd roared.

During a later rally, Agassi was facing to his right at the net, did a quick 180-degree spin toward the back court and, almost without looking, volleyed the ball back on his way to winning the point.

Coria smiled and shook his head.

Agassi, who turns 35 on April 29, spotted Coria almost 12 years.

“It’s good to have matches like these that are certainly really challenging,” Agassi said. “You always hope you’re still up to the task.”

In an earlier match, Andy Roddick, knocked out of the Olympics the last time he faced Fernando Gonzalez, returned the favour.

Serving 10 aces, Roddick defeated the Chilean 6-4, 6-3 to move into the quarterfinals.

Roddick broke Gonzalez’s serve in the ninth game of the opening set.
He broke through again when Gonzalez hit a lob long, then a forehand into the net to end the eighth game of the second set.

Roddick thrust his right arm into the air and shrugged as if to say, “Yes,” feeling he had the match. After holding serve, he did have it, knocking a ball into the stands in a small gesture of celebration.

Gonzalez beat him in straight sets in the third round of last summer’s Athens Olympics. Roddick is now 3-2 against him in all matches.

“We’re going to have a battle, we always have,” said Roddick, ranked number three to Gonzalez’s number 17. “You just kind of have to be ready to go to work. It’s definitely a good feeling to get through this time.”

Number two Lleyton Hewitt, the tournament champion in 2001 and 2002, cruised through his match, beating Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-1, 6-0.

Hewitt took just an hour to finish off Mathieu, a Frenchman ranked 96th.

“He’s a gutsy competitor. He just made a lot of errors out there today,” Hewitt said. “I felt like I was dictating play well from the back of the court.”

On the women’s side, Elena Dementieva avenged her loss to Sveltana Kuznetsova in last September’s US Open final with a gritty 3-6, 6-3 7-5 victory.

Dementieva gamely outlasted her Russian compatriot despite having to endure a pair of draining, three-set matches against Severine Beltrame and Tatiana Golovin on the way to the quarterfinals.

Number seven Kuznetsova had advanced easily, losing just eight games in her two earlier matches.

“I think I played much better than I did in the final last year in the US Open,” said Dementieva, ranked fifth. “So I think it was a great match. We both play very well.

“I think she’s the most powerful player on the tour. She’s very strong. It was a tough match, so I’m very happy to win.”

In other men’s matches, two-time Indian Wells finalist Tim Henman defeated Tommy Robredo 6-4, 2-6, 6-2; Carlos Moya beat Fabrice Santoro 7-5, 6-2; and Nicolas Kiefer ousted David Nalbandian 6-1, 6-3.

Taylor Dent, who had eliminated Marat Safin a day earlier, pulled out of his match against Guillermo Canas after one set because of flu-like symptoms.—Sapa-AP