Rusedski finds Agassi at height of his powers

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The Independent Online

Blown off course by Andre Agassi on a cool, wet, windy evening here, Greg Rusedski says he will sit back and think of Wimbledon for a few days before pushing his body through a rigorous training regimen in the gym and in the mountains.

Agassi made the best of Friday's conditions, which replicated Wimbledon without the fast grass courts, dispatching the British No 2 in only 46 minutes, 6-3 6-1 to advance to the third round of the Nasdaq-100 Open. The players spent longer than that in the locker room during rain delays.

"It seemed like he had 100 hours to pick where he wanted to hit his passing shot, or his lob, or whatever he wanted to do with the ball," Rusedski said, admiring the court craft of his opponent, who, a month before his 32nd birthday, played with as much zest as ever. Renowned for the pace and accuracy of his returns, the mark of Agassi's display against Rusedski was that he dropped only five points on serve.

"He reads a play probably a second faster than most people, and sees the ball a fraction earlier," said Rusedski, 28, who has lost seven of his nine matches against the Las Vegan. "He's kept himself in good shape."

Rusedski, No 38 in the ATP tournament entry system, accepts that he will continue to face the prospect of difficult draws until his ranking improves. He was not helped here by the weather. "The wind doesn't bother me so much," he said, "but if it had been a little bit warmer I think I would have stood a better chance. The balls on the court are extremely heavy and the game slowed down as the conditions got cooler. It played into Andre's favour and he took advantage."

He added: "The only plus point is that now I can take a week off and get ready to do my physical training and re-focus and get my schedule ready for Wimbledon. I'd like to be at my maximum potential for Wimbledon."

Agassi, the defending champion, was pleased with his brisk performance. "The good news with a situation like today is that it's not comfortable for anyone," he said, "and you just try to deal with it better than your opponent. I did that."

This raised the question of physical and technical differences: a towering serve-volleyer in Rusedski versus a smaller baseliner, although Agassi, at 5ft 11in, is not one of the sport's diddymen. "When matches go like tonight, I'm growing to 6ft 5in by the end of the match," Agassi said. "It's pretty rare I play somebody shorter than me. Speed is a huge factor. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. You have to learn to understand what those are and respect them."

Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian world No 1, is the same height as Agassi, but skinny with it. "I am surprised that somebody under six feet tall finished No 1 in the world," Agassi said. "I think that's a hard thing to do these days, because it's match after match; you're taking a pounding week after week. To do it over the course of the year requires a lot more wear and tear and it's hard."

Hewitt, who defeated Tim Henman, the British No 1, in the final in Indian Wells a week ago, successfully negotiated a difficult opening match here yesterday, defeating Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand, 7-6 7-5.

Daniela Hantuchova, of Slovakia, who a week ago won her first WTA singles title in Indian Wells by beating Justine Henin in the fourth round and Martina Hingis in the final, was unable to continue that form in her opening match here yesterday, losing to Cara Black, of Zimbabwe, a former Wimbledon junior champion, 4-6 6-4 6-2.

Henin, the sixth seed, was also eliminated, beaten by Anna Smashnova, of Israel, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. The Belgian, runner-up to Venus Williams at Wimbledon last year, received treatment for a leg injury at 3-4 in the final set.

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