- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

World No. 1 Roger Federer’s shocking second-round upset by unheralded 18-year-old Czech Tomas Berdych in men’s singles at the Athens Olympics made headlines Tuesday on this side of the pond, and Andre Agassi was one who noticed.

But with the U.S. Open just two weeks away, Federer might benefit from his early exit in Athens. If he had reached the Olympic final, he would have had just one week off before beginning peparations for one of two Grand Slams the Swiss star has never won (the French Open is the other).

Federer, who has finished no lower than fourth at the U.S. Open, now has sufficient time to fine-tune his game before assaulting the hardcourts in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Agassi, who in the 1996 Atlanta Games became the first man to win an Olympic gold in singles since 1924, wasn’t startled by Federer’s early exit.

“I’m not surprised by the loss, I’m never surprised to see any of the results there,” Agassi said at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Rock Creek Park. “All these guys can play. The guy Roger was playing against is a great ball striker, a young guy who I played against in Australia this year. I thought he had incredible potential seven months ago, so that doesn’t really surprise me.”

Agassi had no problems taking out Berdych, who is ranked 115th in the world, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 in the Australian Open’s second round. Agassi said he’s unsure if two-time defending Wimbledon champion Federer will benefit from his 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 loss to Berdych and regroup in time for the U.S. Open.

“The only real logic in it, if it’s a blessing in disguise or not, is how you take the losses and sort of how you go from there,” Agassi said. “I’ve seen myself gain confidence from certain losses and lose confidence with certain wins. You just need to make sure that you bring your best game when it matters the most. If [Federer] is looking forward to not competing now and preparing for the Open, I think it will be a good thing, but if [the loss] sort of discourages him, that’s not good.”

On his day off between matches yesterday, Agassi spoke to more than 100 wounded U.S. service men and women from Walter Reed Army Hospital who were injured in combat. Agassi was the guest of MZM Inc., a defense contractor, on its Military Honoree Night.

The scuds

With the first round of the Legg Mason completed, American Jan-Michael Gambill has been clocked with the fastest serve at 135 mph. Ousted Danish veteran Kenneth Carlsen was second at 131, Raemon Sluiter was third at 130, while 19-year-old American Brian Baker and Todd Martin were fourth and fifth, respectively, at 129.

Of the top 16 players with the fastest serve, only eight remain in the tournament. Agassi, the Legg Mason’s top seed, ranked tied for sixth with his best serve hitting 126. Second seed Lleyton Hewitt’s fastest serve in his 66-minute, 6-1, 6-2 first-round victory over Carlsen was timed at 125.

Prime-time coverage

For the first time in the Legg Mason’s 36-year history, the championship match will be shown live on network television. CBS will televise Sunday’s final at 12:30 p.m.

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