Agassi stays 1 shot better than rival to reach Sweet 16 Moya outlasts challenge by Chang

easy wins for Rafter, Williams

September 06, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Andre Agassi had gotten all the breaks in the first set, and now, here was his opponent Davide Sanguinetti in need of one.

If Sanguinetti was going to make it a match and be more than just the latest piece of fodder in Agassi's path, then he was going to have to win this second-set break point.

But Sanguinetti would find on this point, as on nearly every other critical point yesterday, that Agassi was one shot better. And, on this point, after a lengthy, difficult rally, it was an Agassi missile-like forehand that found the far corner and skipped under Sanguinetti's nose to save the point.

"It must have been 40 shots," Agassi would say later, exaggerating the rally only slightly after he got the benefit of what appeared to be a close call and went on to win 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 and advanced into the Sweet 16 at the U.S. Open.

"I don't think Davide really thought that ball was long," he said, referring to his opponent's argument over the call. "He was just killing a little time to get his breath back."

Sanguinetti said later he did indeed think several balls were long and that calls on more than one occasion had gone against him. But the No. 50 ranked player had no trouble with Agassi's victory.

"I did not lose because of the call. " he said. "He just played I didn't expect him to play like that. He was going for everything and he wasn't missing all the balls were going in. I don't know. It was like -- magic." It would have been very much against the grain here for Agassi, the 1994 Open winner and the No. 8 seed, to have been upset. On still another perfect day at the Open, most of the seeds advanced with ease, except for No. 6, Greg Rusedski, last year's Open runner-up, who lost to Jan Siemerink, the No. 21 seed, 4-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

Even No. 10 Carlos Moya, who needed five sets that started Friday night and extended into the wee hours of Saturday morning, survived, though Michael Chang did his best to up-end him.

Chang was up two sets to none and had three match-point opportunities in the third set but could not win. Moya, the French Open champion, finally won, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-3. "I think in everyone's career you are going to have heartbreaking matches," said Chang, who continues to come up short in his efforts to win a second Grand Slam title. "But I think that in all circumstances you have to be able to take the bad with the good. I truly believe in my heart that my time will come."

Perhaps, Goran Ivanisevic's time will come sooner than later. The No. 14 seed made it into the Sweet 16 for only the third time in 10 Open appearances, with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Paul Haarhuis. But he will have to be at his best in his fourth round match, where he meets defending Open champion Patrick Rafter.

Rafter squashed qualifier David Nainkin, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, in 65 minutes.

On the women's side, No. 5 seed Venus Williams advanced much easier than expected, when Larisa Neiland had to retire from their match due to a bad back. Williams was leading, 5-0, in the first set when Neiland called it quits.

"I really would have enjoyed to have a match where she could have played to her full ability," said Williams, who will now face No. 12 Mary Pierce, a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Laura Golarsa. "I think it would have been good for me."

Agassi, of course, had no complaints about his match. When over the past 10 months you've climbed from a ranking of No. 141 to No. 8 in the world by doing the work, you don't complain about much.

And now he is looking at a match with No. 9 Karol Kucera, and, if he's lucky, a quarterfinal encounter with No. 1 Pete Sampras, who moved ahead with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 win over Mikael Tillstrom.

Agassi hasn't gotten to this point by chance. He swallowed his pride. He played small satellite tournaments, where beginners hone their skills, to improve his own play and begin working his way back inside the Top 10.

He said that if he gets to the Sampras match, he won't be able to avoid being nervous and excited about the opportunity that would present. But he also said he has a lot of tennis yet to play.

"I think you all underestimate how well Kucera has been playing," Agassi said. "And how every match has its pressures and its nerves, as well. It will be just a different form of it. It's time to bring your 'A' game and to lay it on the line out there. That's nothing but exciting.

"I don't take any of this for granted. It hasn't been easy. It's been a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. and now is not the time to luxuriate in any sense of accomplishment. They'll be time for that when it's all over."

But if he was home in Las Vegas, he said he might slip inside a casino and put down a bet on himself.

"Yeah, absolutely, why not?" Agassi said. "I'm here. I'm playing well. I know I can still play a lot better, but I'm in among the 16 guys who are left now. And I believe from the quarters on, anybody can win it."

Men's singles

How the seeds fared

Third round

Pete Sampras (1) def. Mikael Tillstrom, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1

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