Agassi overcomes anger at delay to finish off Kafelnikov

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Andy Roddick continued to prosper at the United States Open yesterday, regardless of his popularity rating among rivals. The American fourth seed swept into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win against Flavio Saretta, of Brazil, in 87 minutes.

It was Roddick's 15th consecutive victory since losing to Britain's Tim Henman in the Washington final, and the Nabraskan converted 20 of his opening 21 service points, including 17 in a row.

Roddick had a restless start to his 21st birthday on Saturday. Having defeated Ivan Ljubicic shortly after midnight to reach the third round, he arrived in the interview room to discover that his Croatian opponent had just had a rant to the effect that Roddick was disliked by all the other players "because of the way he acted on court".

After describing Ljubicic's comments as "sour grapes," Roddick decided to telephone him for an explanation. Their conversation was interrupted when Roddick's car went through a tunnel. Roddick called back at about 1.30am, waking Ljubicic. They talked again in person here later. "We had a very professional talk, and it's over," Roddick said.

Ljubicic said: "As I was surprised by his phone call, he was surprised by the things he thought that I was saying about him. I wanted to say that I didn't like his attitude on the court, not just last night: generally. And the second thing is that obviously I was upset by some of the calls of the linesmen. I have nothing against Andy as a person."

Andre Agassi completed a third round victory against the Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6-3, 7-6, 6-4, not best pleased that the match had been postponed overnight without consultation because of rain here in New York after the start of the second set on Saturday afternoon.

"They didn't want a situation where me and Yevgeny were finshing the day session and they have 23,000 people waiting outside for hours to get in for the night session," Agassi, the world No 1, said. "I think the standard of tennis is compromised by television having such a say-so in scheduling."

Agassi's next opponent, Taylor Dent, a 22-year-old compatriot, escaped the rain in defeating Fernando Gonzalez, the hit-or-bust Chilean 15th seed, in five sets on Saturday night, affording him a day off while Agassi worked yesterday

Jonas Bjorkman is unlikely to forget Labor Day weekend. The 31-year-old Swede had to wait three hours to replay a match point for a place in the fourth round of the men's singles. What Bjorkman did not realise was that the precious point may have guaranteed him a place in the quarter-finals against Agassi or Dent. Guillermo Coria, the Argentinian fifth seed, who eliminated Agassi at the French Open, is likely to withdraw from his fourth round match against Bjorkman because of the recurrence of a groin injury.

When Saturday's rain came, Bjorkman was leading Karol Kurcera, of Slovakia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 5-4 and had an advantage point for the match. The Swede served and started to rally, but slipped twice on the court. The umpire, Carlos Ramos, fearing for the players' safety, suspended the match, mid-point.

Bjorkman then had three hours to mull over his match-point strategy. When the players re-emerged from the locker room, the Swede missed his first serve, made his second, and won a brief baseline rally when Kucera hit a forehand wide.

Lindsay Davenport can remember vividly the last time the United States Open women's singles title was not in the hands of the Williams sisters. It was five years ago, when Davenport defeated Martina Hingis, the defending champion, in the final. The problem is that the 27-year-old Californian is currently having to play from memory, because her movement is hampered by an injury to her left foot which requires surgery.

Although the third-seed Davenport advanced to the quarter-finals yesterday, her display in beating Nadia Petrova, of Russia, 6-0, 6-7, 6-2, lacked the authority to suggest that she is going to win the title a second time.

In the second set, however, the frailty of Davenport's left foot was evident, even though her spirit remained strong to the concluding point of the tie-break, which Petrova won 8-6. It was the first set Davenport had dropped in the tournament, and although she prevailed in the deciding set, the portents are not good.

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