Agassi Among 3 Ousted at ATP Dubai

Posted on March 2, 2006

Unheralded German Bjorn Phau handed No. 4 seed Andre Agassi his worst loss of the year Wednesday at the ATP stop in Dubai, with the No. 80-ranked player straight-setting the former No. 1-ranked American 7-5, 7-5 to advance into the quarterfinals.

"The ball was really flying tonight," Agassi told reporters after kicking in 31 unforced errors. "It feels like I was playing tennis with a golf ball and it was not a comfortable feeling at all."

The top two seeds advanced Wednesday when world No. 1 Roger Federer had a tougher-than-expected time with Kuwaiti wildcard Muhammed Al Ghareeb 7-6(5), 6-4, and No. 2 Rafael Nadal received a walkover against qualifier Younes El Aynaoui who withdrew from the tournament to return home for personal reasons.

"I hoped it would be easier obviously," Federer told reporters. "I was playing quite passively and got caught up in that. I guess my experience got me through."

British wildcard Tim Henman provided another upset by outlasting No. 7 seed Radek Stepanek 7-6 in the third, and was joined in the quarterfinals by upset-minded Czech Robin Vik who outlasted No. 8 Tomas Berdych 6-2 in the third.

"Stepanek was serving pretty aggressively and consistently so there is no point in trying to chip the ball back in when it is like that," Henman, who will next face Nadal, told reporters. "I'm looking forward to playing Rafa because there will be no pressure on me. I don't want too many baseline rallies because there will only be one winner, but I go in there as the underdog and I'm feeling in good shape."

Belgian Olivier Rochus made Marat Safin's comeback brief with a straight-set dismissal, with additional unseeded winners Mikhail Youzhny of Russia (d. countryman Andreev) and German Rainer Schuettler (d. (Q) Klec).

"It was a lack of matches," said Safin, who was back to his racquet-smashing self against Rochus, on the loss. "You need to get the rhythm back, it doesn't come straight away. There's still a long way to go and many things to work on. It's not like I was so bad but I never like to play him. He's a difficult opponent because he uses slice and changes his game a lot. He plays smart. I just need matches."

On tap for Thursday in Dubai are Olivier "The Roach" Rochus vs. Youzhny, (WC) Henman vs. (2) Nadal, (1) Federer vs. Vik, and Schuettler vs. Phau.