reports from New York
In his moment of victory, Andre Agassi took a sip of water and hurled the plastic bottle in anger. "I was just pissed off," he explained. It was the least of the remarks the world No 1 made while clinging desperately to his United States Open title, and a fine is expected follow.
Cursing himself repeatedly - "I can't f...ing play" - Agassi survived five sets of torment on Thursday to overcome Alex Corretja, a Spanish clay- court specialist, ranked No 28, whose chance of causing a major upset was wrecked by cramp as much as Agassi's shot-making.
Bruno Rebeuh, the French umpire involved in the Jeff Tarango fiasco at Wimbledon, appeared oblivious to Agassi's audible obscenities, but yesterday the referee, Brian Earley, called for a video recording of the second- round match.
"The language thing did not cross my mind," was Earley's initial response. "I thought the language was only heard by the TV production people. Now it is more serious than I thought. When that goes over to millions of people it is a different matter."
John McEnroe was fined pounds 7,500 at Wimbledon in 1991 after an ITN News microphone picked up obscenities during his fourth-round defeat by Stefan Edberg.
Bad language is a feature of Agassi's repertoire, frequently materialising when he loses control of the points. Having won 21 consecutive matches since falling to Boris Becker in the Wimbledon semi-finals, the thought of being dispatched early here smacked too much of old times.
Agassi's 67 unforced errors included double-faults on the final two points of the opening set. Another double-fault put him a break down at 1-2 in the fifth, by which time Corretja lacked the physical capacity to take advantage. The pain-racked Spaniard tumbled while attempting to save the final point as Agassi swept through the last five games to win, 5-7, 6- 3, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.
Though Agassi's coarse self-criticism summarised his darkening mood, it was not entirely accurate. He can play, and produced 87 winners to prove it. One of these was a spectacular improvised shot over his left shoulder in the concluding game of the fourth set, meriting a bow to the crowd; a rare glimpse of Agassi's charm. "I didn't feel great about a lot of that stuff out there tonight," he said.
In the third round, Agassi will play Edberg, the champion in 1991 and 1992 who is unseeded for the first time in a decade. Last year, Agassi became the first unseeded player to win the tournament since the Australian, Fred Stolle, in 1966.
Edberg, competing in his 50th consecutive Grand Slam championship, has not played Agassi in one of the majors before. The Las Vegan has won their last four matches and leads the head-to-head series 5-3.
Thomas Enqvist, Sweden's top-ranked player nowadays, failed to justify his ninth seeding. He was defeated in the second round by the 70th ranked Byron Black, of Zimbabwe, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Andrei Medvedev, the Ukrainian No 16 seed, was another casualty, beaten by Sargis Sargsian, the first Armenian to play in a Grand Slam event, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Sargsian, who came to America in 1993, competed with Medvedev as a junior when their countries were under the rule of the Soviet Union.
In the women's singles, Mary Pierce dropped out of Steffi Graf's quarter of the draw. The sixth seed, who began the year in triumph at the Australian Open, was defeated in the third round by the American Amy Frazier, 6-3, 7-6.
The 14-year-old Martina Hingis advanced to the fourth round, her best Grand Slam performance, with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against Patricia Hy-Boulais, of Canada.
Graf defeated Nathalie Tauziat, 6-3, 6-3. It was the top seed's 18th consecutive victory against the French player, who managed one break of serve but was not particularly impressed with either her own performance, or Graf's. "She played OK, but I missed a lot of easy balls," Tauziat said.
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