Federer Gets Testy in Agassi Lead-Up at Australian Open

Posted on January 24, 2005

Agassi-Federer Meeting Booked, Bad Day for Johanssons at Australian Open

World No. 1 Roger Federer and four-time Australian Open champion Andre Agassi won through in fourth round play Sunday in Melbourne to set up a marquee quarterfinal meeting.

Agassi weathered a slam-record 51 aces in four sets delivered by Joachim "The Jackhammer" Johansson, coming from a set down to edge the No. 11-seeded 6-foot-6 Swede 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-4.

"It was a tough day," Agassi said with a smile in his post-match conference. "I reacted and pushed myself and I felt good. I was anxious the whole time. It's tough to sort of find your rhythm when he's not giving it to you. Joachim today was hitting the ball so big, what can you do but sort of react?"

Johansson was supported by a boisterous Swedish fan contingent that belted out cheers, did aerobics and at one point broke into the disco hit "That's the Way (I Like It)" by K.C. and The Sunshine Band.

Agassi, who holds a 3-4 career record versus Federer, including losses in their last four meetings, said he is looking forward to turning around the trend.

"I'm really excited and looking forward to the challenge and opportunity of playing Roger," Agassi said. "I mean, somebody has to beat him sooner or later, right? I hope it's Tuesday night."

Federer for his part turned back a late-match rally by unseeded Marcos "Bombs Over" Baghdatis, who took a set off him in their last meeting at the US Open. Federer worked over the Cypriot rookie 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(4) for his 25th consecutive match win, then turned prickly when reporters asked him afterwards if he was at the level to beat Agassi.

"I don't know why you ask me a question like this," said an irritated Federer. "I think I've proven myself in the past, and I know my game's good enough. Also on my day where I'm not playing perfect, I know I can beat him. He's not as good as he was when he was at the top of the rankings, otherwise he would be there. Fortunately, I'm there. I think he has to raise his game, not me."

In other fourth-round matches, No. 4 Marat Safin and No. 20 Dominik "The Dominator" Hrbaty set up a quarterfinal clash, with the Russian beating unseeded Belgian Olivier "The Roach" Rochus in three tiebreaks after dropping the first set, and The Dominator beating former champ and No. 30 seed Thomas "Tommy the J." Johansson in straights.

Against the ever-retrieving Rochus, Safin worked to contain his frustrations, receiving a warning for smashing a racquet and conducting vocal self-examinations as he walked the baseline between points.

"He's a really tough player," Safin said. "A lot of people underestimate him and he can cause you a lot of trouble. He reads the game well, he is very fast and has a great forehand...I couldn't break him and it was psychological and he was taking advantage. He didn't let me play."

Matches scheduled for Monday include Rafael "The Prodigy" Nadal vs. (3) Hewitt (Aussie leads meetings 2-0, both on hardcourt), Guillermo "El Fragile" Coria vs. (9) David Nalbandian in an all-Gaucho (Coria leads 3-0, all on clay), Kohlschreiber vs. (2) Roddick (American won their lone meeting in 2003 on clay), and (26) Davydenko vs. (12) Canas (Canas has won all three meetings on three different surfaces).

Serena, Sharapova Forced to Stage Comebacks at Australian Open

The favorites advanced on the women's side Sunday at the Australian Open, but not without difficulty as former No. 1 Serena Williams and reigning Wimbledon champ Maria Sharapova were stretched to three sets in fourth-round play.

Serena dropped the second set against No. 11-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova before moving on in a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory, another mental falling-off for the American looking to regain her fearful stature among the WTA Tour elite.

"To be honest, I didn't deserve to win the way I played," said Serena, who after her last match was relieved to announce her serve was back up to snuff, but Sunday again saw problems. "My serve was horrible. I made errors. I didn't play well or hit my shots right. I'm going to have to improve a lot in my next match or it's going to be a struggle. I don't really see too many positives out of the match today except I think I ran well for some drop shots. That's about it."

Serena will next face No. 2 seed Amelie Mauresmo, who walked through unseeded Russian Evgenia Linetskaya 6-2, 6-4.

The No. 4-seeded Sharapova struggled again No. 15-seeded Italian Silvia Farina Elia, eventually prevailing 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

"At the beginning of the first set, I was trying to do -- I was trying to come in a little bit more, but I wasn't converting my volleys," Sharapova said. "I was making too many unforced errors at the beginning and I wasn't giving myself a chance to play my game...But I hung in there and I thought I really fought well. This was a very important you know, being a break down in the second, early in the set, I thought it was a very it was a good job of me to get back into the match."

Sharapova will next face fellow Russian, current US Open holder and No. 5 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who Sunday beat unseeded countrywoman Vera Douchevina 6-4, 6-2.

"I know it's going to be another tough match. I'm prepared," said Sharapova on squaring off against Kuznetsova in an all-slam-holder match-up. "We've played each other end of last year. She beat me once in Beijing, I beat her at the (WTA) Championships."

In doubles two more seeded teams hit the skids Sunday in (8) Elena Dementieva/Ai Sugiyama (l. to Russell/Santangelo), and (14) Shinobu Asagoe/Katarina "Robotnik" Srebotnik (l. to Hantuchova/M.Navratilova).
On tap Monday on the women's side in Melbourne are (12) Schnyder vs. (6) Dementieva (Career head-to-head tied 3-3, with the Russian winning the last two), (3) Myskina vs. (19) Dechy (Russian leads 5-1), (10) Molik vs. (8) Venus (American leads 3-0 without dropping a set), and (1) Davenport vs. (13) Karolina "The Spreminator" Sprem (Davenport won both their career encounters in 2004).
Serena Williams
has won 11 straight matches at the Australian Open...The top three players with the most service aces in a match: Joachim Johansson (51), Richard Krajicek (49), Gutavo Kuerten (47) -- and they all losttheir matches...6-foot-6 Joachim "The Jackhammer" Johansson is pretty slow as a big guy, but hanging out with Lleyton Hewitt and his sister (Jaslyn) should speed him up a bit over time. And no, Johansson is not engaged to Jaslyn Hewitt as heard on ESPN...Alicia Molik is undefeated this year, 8-0...Bob and Mike Bryan overcame a 5-1 third set tiebreak deficit to win 9-7 in thrilling fashion Sunday...Andre Agassi is the only player to get aced 46 or more times twice. Mark Philippoussis did it in 2003 at Wimbledon with 46, and Sunday it was Joachim Johansson in just four sets, scorching 51 flame-throwers. That's against Agassi, touted as one, if not the, best returner of all time...On Saturday the Australian Open set an all-time Grand Slam record for attendance with just over 60,000 fans. Half of them of course were hammered, but well done to the Australian Open, and the Heineken Beer Garden...Andy Roddick has never lost a Grand Slam fourth round match...For those lucky enough to catch the ATP's weekly highlight show on Comcast's CSS channel or on other outlets in the U.S., what an interesting approach with no announcer voice-over, just extended match highlights and segments from post-match and between-match interviews. Very refreshing, very Euro, different from the ATP's previous efforts featuring smarmy British voice-overs with forced humor and a multitude of "Captain Obvious" comments...Pam Shriver writing for ESPN.com: "For the first time since 1987, the top eight seeds made it through the draw. The biggest upset was No. 9 seed Vera Zvonareva. What that means is everybody who came turned out to be healthy after all. Maybe it's a sign that women's tennis worst injury problems are over." Nice application of logic, not even going to get into that one. Also Pam picking the backhand-less Alicia Molik over Venus? Nope, punters take note...The Aussie Open fined Juan Igancio "Lawn Sprinkler" Chela $2,000 large for spitting at Lleyton Hewitt during their match...Three Argentines (Guillermo "El Mago" Coria, David Nalbandian, Guillermo Canas) have reached the fourth round for the first time in the 100-year history of the Aussie Open, looks like a Gaucho 2005 (if they can stay uninjured; the trio have been the Argentine MASH unit the last couple years)...Lindsay Davenport will compete for the U.S. in Fed Cup play versus Belgium in April...The Zen of Marat Safin on life and tennis: "One day, I will die. I don't mind. I cannot wait for something bad to happen all the time. I cannot be scared in case something's going to happen to me tomorrow. I live my life. I like the way I'm living. I don't need a bodyguard. I'm not the president. I'm just here to play tennis and make some money. I try to win a tournament. I try to make people happy and see them smile. That's my job."...From the Australian Sun-Herald: "Why is it that we love James Blake and detest Lleyton Hewitt? Why can't Hewitt, raised in suburban Adelaide in a typical manner to most middle-class Australians, have respect for his opponents or an appropriate sense of the occasion? After being a juvenile brat, Hewitt briefly seemed to develop a bit of maturity amid his fist-pumping, self-psyching behavior. Until now."...Maria "Grunt-o-rama" Sharapova says her favorite surface is grass, and all the surfaces are different, or maybe they're all the same? "I only like grass because you only get to play on it for two tournaments, which is only one month of the year. So it's just fun. It's different. I mean, of course, not everyone likes it. I obviously like it for some weird reason. I think all surfaces have a different challenge. This one you just have to be very, very patient, especially on clay and hard court, and indoors is a bit faster. I mean, you're still going to play your opponent and you still know that your opponent's playing on the same surface. So, you know, I don't I try not to worry about what I'm playing on." Yup, just crack forehands and backhands, don't worry about surface or strategy...With all the shouting and singing of the Greek/Cypriot fans during his straight-set encounter with Marcos "Bombs Over" Baghdatis, Roger Federer wasn't sure who was winning: "Yeah, I wasn't sure if I was leading actually, you know, because they sang along like they were winning, you know. I always had to check the score and make sure that I was actually winning. But when I looked at the score board, I was always pretty happy."...Roger Federer says Lleyton Hewitt's on-court antics no longer get to him like they did earlier in his career: "Yeah, in the beginning (they did). Yeah, you know, you have a look. You're like, 'Why are you showing me your fist? Did I do something to you?' You take it very how do you say? personal. That's not what you should do. It's a match, of course, you know. Sometimes it's difficult to separate match, on court, off court. But I'm at the point where, you know, whoever does on the court, he's like that. Off court, he might be all right, so. What matters to me is how they are off court and not really on court."