- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

NEW YORK — Andy Roddick unfurled his body and unleashed a 140 mph ace that forced a line judge to duck as the ball slammed against the wall with a thud.

It was the loudest display Roddick produced yesterday in a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Flavio Saretta to reach the U.S. Open’s fourth round. Roddick was the picture of calm, without a trace of the antics he used to pull — and which his previous opponent derided.

Instead, it was Saretta who clowned around, staring at a line when he thought a call was incorrect, kicking the ball, flipping his racket in the air or cracking it on the ground. The No.4-seeded Roddick was all business.

“I’ve been playing like that the past three months,” Roddick said. “I just kind of realized I didn’t need to fight a mental battle every day.”

Andre Agassi doesn’t engage in antics these days, too concerned with saving every bit of energy and keeping track of each detail. So Agassi wasn’t pleased about not being consulted when his third-round match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov was suspended for nearly 24 hours early in the second set Saturday.

Not that it mattered in the end: The top-ranked Agassi wrapped up a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory to set up an Old vs. Young meeting with fellow American Taylor Dent in the round of 16 today. Dent upset No.15 Fernando Gonzalez on Saturday.

“For the match to get called, and to be the only match that didn’t finish yesterday, I think was a mistake, an oversight in judgment,” the 33-year-old Agassi said.

Among his complaints: The Dent-Gonzalez match also should have been delayed a day so that winner wouldn’t get more rest.

“It gets harder as you get older for a number of reasons,” Agassi said. “Between your body and your mind, your heart, the energy, the focus, the determination, the eagerness, the freshness — all those things get tougher.”

Agassi was down a break in the second set when the match resumed. He began yesterday by breaking right back, then held for a 2-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line that drew a thumb’s up of approval from two-time major champion Kafelnikov.

Agassi trailed again by a break later in the second set, but got it back in the 10th game, winning four straight points. He was helped by a crosscourt forehand return that caught a line. He again took four consecutive points in the tiebreaker, winning it when Kafelnikov sent a backhand long.

“He played just as good as he did four years ago, maybe even better,” said Kafelnikov, referring to the last time Agassi won the Open. “Normally, if you are getting older, you are becoming physically weaker. With him, it’s the opposite.”

Agassi, the oldest top-seeded man in the Open era, makes sure everything is exactly to his specification on court. He wants the umbrella held just so to block the sun, wants his towel in a certain spot, wants precisely the right ball to serve.

Roddick didn’t have to trouble himself too much with such minutiae en route to a fourth-round matchup against Xavier Malisse, who eliminated Dmitry Tursunov 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (8). Roddick is 6-0 against Malisse, a 2002 Wimbledon semifinalist.

The only man to reach two major semifinals in 2003, Roddick lost just three of 35 points during his service games over the first two sets. He avoided a break point until the match’s very last game. And he kept after Saretta’s backhand — the unseeded Brazilian made more than 20 unforced errors on that side.

Roddick knows more about a foe’s weaknesses thanks to strategic input from Brad Gilbert, his coach since a first-round exit at the French Open. Roddick is 33-2 since they teamed up, and he credits Gilbert with making him less excitable on court.

After losing to Roddick in the second round, Ivan Ljubicic complained that the American is too demonstrative on court. One wonders whether Ljubicic saw the end of No.22 Younes El Aynaoui’s 7-6 (1), 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over No.10 Jiri Novak.

As Novak’s backhand flew wide on match point, El Aynaoui tossed his racket in the air and dropped to his back. He rose, blew some kisses to the crowd, then hopped, skipped and jumped over a wall to hug his trainer. Next, the Moroccan pulled off his shirt and tossed it into the stands.

El Aynaoui set up a fourth-round match against No.7 Carlos Moya, who beat Nicolas Massu 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

In other action, No.13 David Nalbandian beat No.20 Mark Philippoussis 7-5, 6-7 (10), 6-3, 6-2 in a match between the last two runners-up at Wimbledon. Philippoussis out-aced Nalbandian 34-5, but he wiped out that edge with 74 unforced errors to the Argentine’s 22. Nalbandian next faces Wimbledon champion and No.2 seed Roger Federer, who defeated James Blake last night 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

No.12 Sjeng Schalken, a 2002 semifinalist, ended the run of qualifier Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (8), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), and will meet No.8 Rainer Schuettler, runner-up to Agassi at the Australian Open in January. Schuettler beat Alberto Martin 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

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