Agassi survives wobble to roll back years with win over Malisse

The amazing competitor from Las Vegas continued to captivate the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium, overcoming the 25-year-old Xavier Malisse, of Belgium, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 6-2.

Agassi will now play his 25-year-old compatriot James Blake, from Yonkers, New York, who fought back from a set and 5-2 down to overhaul Tommy Rebredo, of Spain, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3.

When Agassi came to the crunch in the final set, he had the guile and the gas to out-play an opponent 10 years his junior, breaking in the fourth and eighth games and dropping only three points on serve.

He has now won all five of his matches against Malisse, but this one was by far the most difficult.

The Belgian began sluggishly, allowing Agassi to settle into a smooth rhythm and dominate the first two sets to the extent that another win seemed assured.

In the third set, Malisse had an opportunity to break at 3-2, but hit a forehand long. Agassi created a break point at 5-5, only to net a forehand return and the set moved into a tie-break.

Agassi, within two points of victory at 5-4, lost two service points and Malisse gleefully converted his first set point with a backhand drive. The Belgian then went on an eight-point spree in the fourth set, culminating in a decisive break for 3-2, Agassi netting a backhand return.

After two hours and 27 minutes, Malisse levelled the match and Agassi's supporters began to fret, many of them in the knowledge that he had lost his previous four five-set matches.

Once again, however, Agassi was able to raise his game when it mattered and within 28 minutes the majority of the 23,000 spectators were on their feet cheering another memorable step in Agassi's odyssey.

"The standard that Malisse played in the third and fourth was really high," Agassi said. "I needed to answer that. I did in the fifth."

Guillermo Coria, of Argentina, the eighth seed, defeated Nicolas Massu, the Chilean Olympic champion, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2, in a contentious battle.

The two players were involved in verbal exchanges during the four-hour, 32-minute match on Louis Armstrong Court and the Grand Slam supervisor, Mike Morrissey, had to come on to court to ask them to calm down with Coria leading 2-1 in the fifth set after the two players traded insults from their chairs at the changeover.

The No 1 seed, Roger Federer, has yet to drop a set. The Swiss world No 1 beat Olivier Rochus, of Belgium, in the third round on Sunday night, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2, and next plays Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, who closed the door on Arnaud Clement, Andy Murray's conqueror, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Tim Henman, the ailing British No 1, will mark his 3lst birthday at home today, resting his injured lower back, a legacy of his first round defeat by Fernando Verdasco, of Spain. Henman plans to return to the ATP Tour in Tokyo in the first week in October.

The 15th seed in the women's singles, Nathalie Dechy, of France, could count herself lucky yesterday that her fourth round opponent, Lindsay Davenport, is nursing a back problem. Otherwise, Dechy may not have won three games. The ease of Davenport's win, 6-0, 6-3, was in keeping with the general level of competitiveness in the women's draw. The first set took only 19 minutes. The second set lasted 38 minutes ­ 10 of which elapsed in the first game, after which Dechy put a score on the board.

On Sunday, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, failed to ignite the women's tournament, chiefly because the only sparkle from Serena was the glister of the $40,000 (£22,000) earrings she is wearing on loan from a designer.

Venus's errors kept Serena in the match, and the score, 7-6, 6-2, made the contest seem livelier than it was. Both players have had to recover from injuries this year, and Serena is still far from fully fit.

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