Rejuvenated Agassi puts out Rusedski

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Britain's Greg Rusedski was beaten in straight sets by Andre Agassi yesterday in the ATP Tour event in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Agassi, the tournament's top seed and a three-time winner of the hardcourt event, beat Rusedski 6-4, 6-4. The American relied on his punishing ground game which earned him a service break in each set as he wrapped up the contest in 65 minutes. A lone service break in the fifth game of the opening set was enough to put Agassi in the lead, he then broke in the opening game of the second set and never looked back.

Rusedski saved a match point at 5-3 and earned himself two break points in the next game but Agassi survived them before cracking a 102mph ace to close out the match.

Despite the loss, Rusedski looked for the positives after the match. "I didn't play badly. He served very well. I'm not disappointed. I've got to pick up and keep on improving. The ball carries a bit more in the air here but it's the same for everyone. The difference was the sharpness on one or two points.

"Andre is hungry, he has had a lay-off for two months. He's keen to play and playing well on the baseline and controlling the ball."

Agassi was pleased with his overall performance. "I felt pretty good and I got an early break in both sets," Agassi said. "I took care of my serve. Greg is dangerous and he gives you little rhythm. There are long streaks where you don't even get a sniff at his serve."

"I'm taking care of my opponents and hitting with conviction," he added. "I feel good about my game right now. You've got to beat these guys and every match requires something different. I felt sharp today, I am moving well and making opponents hit a lot of balls."

It was a bad day for the Spanish contingent in Scottsdale as two of their number failed to reach the quarter-finals. Argentina's Juan Chela triumphed 6-4, 7-5 over the fifth seed Alex Corretja, while Israel's Noam Okun beat the sixth-seeded Albert Portas 7-6, 6-4.

In Indian Wells, Maria Sharapova won on her professional debut, stealing the limelight from her Russian compatriot Anna Kournikova. The 14-year-old Siberian, who now lives and trains in Bradenton, Florida, beat the American Brie Rippner 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 at the Pacific Life Open.

Sharapova has been impressive on the junior circuit but, but because of restrictions on the number of events youngsters can play, she will have to wait to become a full-time professional.

Kournikova lost to the American Lilia Osterloh 6-1, 6-4.