Federer swept aside by Agassi in vintage form

US Open: American shows almost indecent haste in victory over Swiss opponent while world No 1 survives marathon five-set encounter
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The Independent Online

Andre Agassi strolled into the quarter-finals of the United States Open here yesterday with embarrassing ease against Roger Federer, the man who shot down Pete Sampras at Wimbledon. Agassi won, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, after 83 minutes, almost indecent haste.

Although Agassi, the second seed, imposed his game from the start, we must assume that his Swiss opponent was not in the best condition to cope with the challenge, having missed six weeks of tournament play because of a groin injury incurred at Wimbledon, where he lost to Tim Henman, the British No 1, in the quarter-finals.

Agassi won the first two sets after only 47 minutes, a pace usually set by his girlfriend, Steffi Graf, at the height of her powers.

However, the American did not have it all his own way. Federer, the 13th seed, had his moments before being swept out of the tournament by the Agassi whirlwind. The 20-year-old Swiss created four break points in the first set and five in the second. Each time, Agassi was equal to the challenge, and when his opportunities came he executed them, breaking twice in the opening set, twice more in the second set, and converting one of two break points in the third set.

"Roger should take it as a big compliment that I played so well today," Agassi said. "It takes respect for somebody's weapons and somebody's abilities that force you to execute everything without second-guessing."

"I think it would have been a good match if I had served well," Federer said in a post-match interview, showing that his sense of humour was still intact by adding: "The match was over very quickly, now I'm sitting here."

The Agassi-Federer match could not have provided a greater contrast to the battle between Gustavo Kuerten, the top seed, and Max Mirnyi.

The popular image of Kuerten as a laid-back Brazilian is one of the sport's great deceptions, particularly when the gangling world No 1 is required to demonstrate his resilience; which is often.

At the outset of Kuerten's third round match on Sunday night against Mirnyi, a strapping, 24-year-old Belarussian with an attacking style, the consensus was that either Mirnyi would win in three sets or Kuerten would prevail in five. A win for Kuerten from two sets down was another option: in some respects he is a creature of habit. Three and a half hours later, Kuerten was hailed by the crowd after illuminating the tournament with a triumph, 6-7, 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2, having retrieved a two-set deficit for the fourth time in his career and extended his five-set record to 14-7.

The lateness of the hour did not deter the media from marvelling at the match statistics: Kuerten hit 104 winners, 33 of them aces, and committed 13 unforced errors, one with a double-fault. His serve was only broken once, in the second set. Mirnyi's ratio of winners to errors was 72-25. He hit 22 aces and double-faulted five times. His persistent approaches to the net gladdened the eye and reaped 27 volley winners.

"We both played a great match," Kuerten said, adding that he did not think the contest had a particular turning point: "The sets were going for one side or the other just because of one or two points. One of us had to win, so I'm lucky it was me today."

Mirnyi, No 44 in the ATP entry system, was disappointed but had no reason to reproach himself. "I think the third set and the fourth sets were really similar to the first and the second sets," he said. "Then he got on my serve a little better and won the fifth. There's a reason why he's No 1. He's won many matches of this type."

In the fourth round, Kuerten will play Albert Costa, of Spain. Kuerten has won five of their six previous matches, none of which was over five sets.

Barbara Schett indirectly ensured that Jennifer Capriati would not have to contend with Venus Williams in the French Open women's singles final by eliminating the second seed in the first round. The Austrian's prospects of causing another major upset yesterday, this time against Capriati at the US Open, diminished because of her inability to convert chances.

Capriati was taken to six deuces and had to fend off four break points in the opening game, two more break points at 2-2, and a total of 10 break points before winning, 6-3, 6-3, and advancing to the quarter-finals of her home Grand Slam championship for the first time for 10 years. Schett did not manage to break Capriati's serve until the American was within touching distance of victory at 5-2 in the second set. Capriati will play Amelie Mauresmo, of France, for a place in the semi-finals. Mauresmo, the eighth seed, defeated her compatriot, Nathalie Tauziat, the ninth seed, 6-0, 6-7, 6-3, in what may prove to be Tauziat's last singles match in a Grand Slam tournament.

Kim Clijsters, of Belgium, the runner-up to Capriati at the French Open, also advanced to the last eight. Clijsters, the fifth seed, defeated Elena Dementieva, of Russia, the eleventh seed, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.

Martina Hingis, having overcome Iva Majoli and Jelena Dokic, opponents responsible for two of her major defeats in Grand Slam tournaments, is due to play a newcomer, Daja Bedanova, of the Czech Republic, in the quarter-finals. The 18-year-old Bedanova caused the first upset in the women's singles here by defeating Monica Seles, the seventh seed, in three sets in the fourth round.

"I have known Daja since she was a little girl," Hingis said. "I've watched her a lot. She's very talented. There's always something new when you haven't played someone before. Her mentality is pretty close to mind. Hopefully, she's going to have some respect."

Women's fourth round results

(2) J CAPRIATI (US) beat (19) B SCHETT (Aut) 6–3 6–3

(5) K CLIJSTERS (Bel) beat (11) E DEMENTIEVA (Rus) 7–5 4–6 6–2

(8) A MAURSEMO (Fra) beat (9) N TAUZIAT (Fra) 6–0 6–7(1) 6–3

Men's fourth round results

(2) A AGASSI (US) beat (13) R FEDERER (Swi) 6–1 6–2 6–4

(10) P SAMPRAS (US) beat (6) P RAFTER (Aus) 6–3 6–2 6–7(5) 6–4

Women's Doubles third round

(3) C BLACK (ZIM)/E LIKHOVTSEVA (Rus) beat E Dominikovic (Aus)/M Irvin (US) 7–6(2) 6–3

(10) T KRIZAN/K SREBOTNIK (Slo) beat D Bedanova (Cze)/M E Salerni (Arg) 6–3 6–0

J Capriati (US)/M Hingis (Swi) beat K Hrdlickova (Cze)/B Rittner (Ger) 6–1 6–2

Men's Doubles quarter–final

(2) D JOHNSON/J PALMER (US) beat J–L de Jager/R Koenig (SA) 6–2 3–6 6–1

(4) M MIRNYI (Bela)/S STOLLE (Aus) beat M Bertolini (Ita)/D Bowen (US) 7–6(3) 6–4

Mixed Doubles quarter–final

(2) L RAYMOND (US)/L PAES (Ind) beat E Tatarkova (Ukr)/M Knowles (Bah) 6–2 6–3

(3) K PO-MESSERLI/D JOHNSON (US) beat C Black/W Black (Zim) 6–3 6–4