Agassi, Roddick Win at Australian Open

Friday, January 23rd 2004, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Top-ranked Andy Roddick and defending champion Andre Agassi were nearly flawless Friday, advancing to the fourth round of the Australian Open with dominating performances.

Agassi beat Thomas Enqvist 6-0, 6-3, 6-3, stretching his winning streak to 24 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park _ spanning championships in 2000, '01 and '03. He also improved to 5-5 lifetime against Enqvist.

``I feel like I did everything I was looking to do,'' the fourth-seeded Agassi said. ``I'm making someone play three or four great shots to win a point.''

Roddick was even more clinical in routing fellow American Taylor Dent 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 in just 1 hour, 11 minutes. About the only thing Dent, seeded 27th, could do was fend off two match points before sending a service return long.

``He didn't have his best night, and I played pretty well,'' Roddick said.

Dent was highly critical of his performance against Roddick.

``That was definitely without question the worst tennis experience of my entire life,'' Dent said. ``I wasn't tanking out there. I was busting my butt. This is going to sting for a while.''

At one point, Dent had an exchange with a woman in the crowd.

``The lady said, 'Come on Taylor, I paid a lot of money for these seats,''' Dent recalled. ``I said, 'It's costing me a lot of pride to stay out here.'''

Roddick was sympathetic, recalling a match in which he was routed by Pete Sampras at the U.S. Open.

``People aren't very understanding that you can have an off day,'' he said.

He didn't want to let up, even up 3-0 in the third set, because Dent could have gotten back into the match with a service break.

``You're so paranoid,'' Roddick said.

It was a good day overall for the American men, with four advancing to the fourth round. Only Dent and Todd Martin faltered; Martin lost to former No. 1 Marat Safin in five sets.

Agassi's next opponent is 13th-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand. Srichaphan defeated Agassi in the second round of Wimbledon in 2002, and neither has dropped a set in three matches at the Australian Open.

Roddick next plays No. 16 Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. He could meet Agassi in the semifinals.

Top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne survived her first serious challenge, rallying in the second set to beat Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5.

Fourth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, seeking her first Grand Slam, had little trouble beating Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-1, 6-2. Fifth-seeded Lindsay Davenport, the 2000 Australian Open champion, beat fellow American Laura Granville 6-4, 6-0.

Backed by the capacity center-court crowd on a breezy afternoon, the 33-year-old Agassi was in top form from the start, breaking Enqvist seven times and losing serve only once.

Agassi, pursuing his ninth Grand Slam title and fifth Australian Open crown, finished with a flourish, holding serve at love. Enqvist, whose ranking dropped 51 places to No. 95 at the end of last year, netted a service return at match point.

``I was really hitting the ball well,'' Agassi said. ``I wasn't making a lot of errors. I was running down a lot of his shots.''

He looks forward to avenging his Wimbledon loss to Srichaphan.

``My hope is to go out ... and let him know I can play better than that,'' he said.

Henin-Hardenne, the defending Wimbledon and the U.S. Open champion, was broken twice in the second set and trailed 5-3 before running off the last four games against the 18-year-old Kuznetsova.

``It's great to have this kind of match in the third round. I had to keep fighting to the end,'' Henin-Hardenne said, adding that she needs to be more aggressive in dictating points.

``I don't see myself as the biggest favorite of this tournament,'' she said.

Safin beat Martin 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 and moved into a fourth-round match against James Blake.

The mercurial Russian was demonstrative throughout the second and third sets as he muttered to himself, slammed his racket into the court and received a code violation for smacking a ball out of the arena, then settled down in the fourth set.

Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion and runner-up here in 2002, saw his ranking drop to No. 86 as he struggled with wrist problems last season.

Blake needed just 75 minutes to beat France's Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

``This is the farthest I've gone in a Slam, and I want it to continue,'' the 23-year-old Blake said. ``I feel I played pretty darned well. I like to think it had more to do with me than with him.''

Fellow American Robby Ginepri, seeded 32nd, beat France's Nicolas Escude 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

Paradorn hit 49 winners to beat 19th-seeded Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

``(He) played two hours of almost perfect tennis. He was right on,'' said Kuerten, a three-time French Open champion and former No. 1.

Mauresmo, who has lost only six games in three matches, dropped serve once in the second set and needed treatment for her lower left leg at 3-2. Upon returning, she lost only one point the rest of the way.

In other matches involving seeded players, Russia's Vera Zvonareva, seeded 11th, beat Nicole Pratt 7-5, 2-6, 6-1, and 32nd-seeded Fabiola Zuluaga of Columbia advanced 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2 over American Jill Craybas.

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