Tennis: Agassi cruises past qualifier to face Hewitt

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ANDRE AGASSI defeated a qualifier, Eric Taino of the United States, in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles.

Agassi, the defending champion, needed only 58 minutes to overpower Taino, ranked 644 in the world, 6-2, 6-3, and now faces the Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who disposed of the German Axel Pretzsch, 6-3, 6-1, in the quarter-final.

Agassi relishes the prospect of taking on Hewitt, who beat him in their only previous encounter en route to taking the Adelaide title in January of 1998. "I'm a much different player than I was when I was ranked 110 in that tournament," Agassi said.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who has not won a tournament since his brief stint at No 1 in the world, advanced to the semi-finals yesterday after beating the Australian Richard Fromberg in a tough three-setter 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, in the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria

In the Bank of the West Classic tournament at Stanford University in California, Venus Williams and Anna Kournikova have a much anticipated quarter-final meeting after impressive second-round victories on Thursday.

Williams, the second seed, had a 6-1, 7-6, victory over promising 18- year-old Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, while Kournikova defeated the American veteran Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-4, 6-4.

In overcoming the 27-year-old Fernandez, Kournikova controlled the match with fierce groundstrokes. "It was a tough match," Kournikova said. "She played really well. She was keeping the ball deep. I got a lot of balls back when I needed to."

Williams and Kournikova last played each other in the fourth round of Wimbledon, where the American prevailed in three sets. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to focus on my game and not think about anything else," Kournikova said. "She moves well and doesn't give in," Williams added.

The American Corina Morariu, ranked 42nd in the world, advanced to the quarter-finals, by beating Jennifer Capriati, 7-5, 6- 2.