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Dents and downpours fail to stop Agassi

Andre Agassi's patience was tested by unrelenting rain and his skill was pushed to the limit by determined Taylor Dent, but the world number one handled both challenges with style.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2003 10:28 IST

Andre Agassi's patience was tested by unrelenting rain and his skill was pushed to the limit by determined Taylor Dent, but the world number one handled both challenges with style.

Eight-time Grand Slam champion Agassi led 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 7-5 when Dent retired here Tuesday with a right hamstring injury, ending the match barely five minutes before showers halted play at the year's final Grand Slam event.

"I was surprised how frustrating he was making it for me," Agassi said. "I was having a hard time being offensive. He's a guy that can take you out of your rhythm. I was hoping everything would fall my way at the end and it did."

Agassi's start was delayed seven hours by rain and his match was halted twice but he overcame to book a date against the winner of a rain-halted match between Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman and Argentina's fifth-seeded Guillermo Coria.

"These conditions affect everybody," Agassi said. "It's just a question of trying to get the most out of yourself. A lot of years of experience but it's still difficult to do."

Twelve matches were scheduled but just six were played and only Agassi's was completed. Only three matches have been finished in two downour-dominated days.

With men's and women's fourth rounds incomplete and rain predicted through Thursday, players were faced with possibly playing twice in a day at flooded Flushing Meadows.

"We are confident we will finish all the events on time," US Open referee Brian Earley said. "Would players play every day as opposed to every other day? The answer is yes. The players understand that.

"The rule of thumb is that you don't play more than one singles match in a day. That doesn't mean we wouldn't. We've played pieces of matches and then gone on to play a second match in a day.

"The rule of thumb is one thing. What really happens is another. I don't really think we can go there yet. Hard for me to inagine that but I have never been in this situation."

Japan's Ai Sugiyama led Italy's Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (7/5), 5-4 and Russian seventh seed Anastasia Myskina led France's Mary Pierce 7-6 (7/2), 2-0 in women's fourth-round matches that began Monday and might not end Wednesday.

Thai 11th seed Paradorn Srichaphan led Australian sixth seed Lleyton Hewitt 4-3 in the first set of their fourth-round match, which started late after concerns about an oil-slickened spot on the Grandstand court.

Coria led Bjorkman 6-2, 2-0 and Spanish third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero led Todd Martin 6-2 when rains came, too late to help Dent.

The 22-year-old son of former Australian great Phil Dent, a finalist here 30 years ago, settled for his best Slam showing.

Dent lost to Agassi in a similar fashion in their first meeting, a Wimbledon first-round match in 2000. Dent, having lost 11 games in a row, retired in the fourth set with a torn right knee tendon. He had Agassi in trouble again here.

"I was really giving the number one player in the world all he could handle," Dent said. "I felt confident. The best returner in the world had a tough time breaking me. I felt I had a really good chance to do some damage."

Dent damaged himself, pulling his hamstring in the fourth game of the second set to weaken his trademark huge serves. He hoped to win the third set and keep pressuring Agassi, but his aching leg would not allow it.

"If I could have won that third set I would have stayed out there for a fourth," Dent said. "But it was getting worse. If I had stayed out there for a fifth set, I would have been kneeling to hit my serve.

"It was just killing my serve. I couldn't get a lift at all. My body wasn't used to the pounding and it broke down. Losing that set, there was no chance my leg was going to hold up for two more."

It was not the way Agassi, the field's eldest player at 33, wanted to capture his 200th career Grand Slam triumph.

"It's not great to win like that," Agassi said. "To finish short on that note is a disappointment for the fans and for me too. For it to abruptly come to an end was a surprise to me."

Dent's coach, Brad Stine, asked his man to quit in the third set, but Dent wanted to see the set through.

"This is a match, but we have to worry about his career," Stine said. "It's going to be just silly for him to continue. He was in postion to win the match. Given the opportunity to serve the way he can, he had a terrific chance to win the match."

For much of the day, Agassi was in the players' lounge trying to relax with trainer Gil Reyes.
"Andre is like a thoroughbred horse imprisoned in a barn," Reyes said.

"His ears are up, he's ready to go. But after years and years on the tour, he's still anxious, tight, in situations like this.

"Fourteen years I have been with him. What we do is we sit down, we discuss what he's going to eat. After we've done that, we discuss about music and the world. Anything to take his mind off the long wait."

First Published: Sep 03, 2003 09:35 IST