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Agassi loses to 80th-ranked German

The fourth-seed struggled to keep pace with Phau, who at 26 was nine years younger than his opponent.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 23:07 IST

Eight-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi lost to 80th-ranked Bjorn Phau of Germany 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Dubai Open on Wednesday.

The fourth-seeded Agassi— playing only his third tournament since losing the 2005 US Open final— struggled to keep pace with Phau, who at 26 was nine years younger than his opponent.

Also, No. 1 Roger Federer struggled to beat Mohammed Al Ghareeb 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

"The ball never came in my range today," Agassi said.

"I didn't play badly but it certainly wasn't good enough. I needed to settle down, but as soon as I tried to get a rally going, he would take his chances and hit some good passing shots. You've got to credit him with that."

Phau played particularly aggressively in the first set with Agassi lacking in match fitness.

"The court was playing pretty fast it almost felt like playing tennis with golf balls out there," Agassi said.

"But I am feeling fine physically. I think need a few more matches before I can start competing better."

Phau, who has reached his fourth quarterfinal in 2006, will next play compatriot Rainer Schuettler.

"I grew up watching and admiring Agassi," Phau said. "He is a legend. So this definitely is the biggest win of my career. I think the key today was that I served very well— which is not normal for me— and as for running around on the court, speed definitely is my biggest strength."

Playing against a wildcard entry ranked 487 spots beneath him, Switzerland's Federer was down a break at 3-5 in the first set before he rallied.

Kuwait's Al Ghareeb surprised Federer with his strong serve, rattling up six aces in the first set.

Al Ghareeb came from 15-40 down in the fifth game to take four points in a row and forced the first break of the match. Federer broke back in the 10th game.

Al Ghareeb saved three set points before finally losing the tiebreaker

The second set went with serve until 3-3. Three-time defending champion Federer made the all-important break, aided by an Al Ghareeb double fault on break point, to seal the match in his favor.

"I was hoping for a much easier one, but he played well," Federer said. "He definitely served well, and I was playing quite passive. I think I just got lucky with the first set. He was definitely the better player and I think only my experience helped me get through."

Safin, playing his first tournament after a six-month injury layoff, could not match the agility and speed of his Belgian opponent.

The Russian, who showed glimpses of brilliance in his first-round match against third-seeded compatriot Nikolay Davydenko, could not match that intensity against Rochus, ranked 31st.

The Belgian, who is almost a foot shorter than the 6-foot-4 Safin, showed immense court coverage in his victory over the two-time Grand Slam champion.

Rochus next faces Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in the quarterfinals. "It's not like I was so bad, but I don't like playing against him," Safin said.

"He's a difficult opponent because he changes his game a lot. He plays smart. But the main reason was lack of matches. You need to get the rhythm back, it doesn't come straight away."

Safin served 13 aces against none by Rochus.

Down 2-5 in the final set, Henman forced a tiebreaker in which he won six straight points against the 16th-ranked winner last week at Rotterdam.

"This is a pretty big result for me and exactly what I was looking for," Henman said. "I have always said that my form has been good, but I have not been able to string together a tournament. "To raise my level when 2-5 down, I think this is a very important step for me."

Henman next faces No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain in the quarterfinals.

"What Nadal did last year was amazing, but there will be no pressure on me," Henman said.

Eighth-seeded Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic beat compatriot Robin Vik 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, while Rainer Schuettler of Germany defeated Ivo Klec of Slovakia 7-5, 6-4. Russia's Mikhail Youzhny got the better of compatriot Igor Andreev 6-1, 7-6 (7/4).

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 23:07 IST