Agassi ambles into quarters, and ready for more battles

MELBOURNE: Andre Agassi only expended 48 minutes of energy yesterday to amble into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open but said he had enough tennis to be ready for the battles ahead. 

The tournament second seed progressed to the last eight in the men’s singles when Argentine opponent Guillermo Coria cried off with a blistered foot just 11 games into their fourth-round match. 

The three-time winner was ahead 6-1, 3-1 when Coria called an end after being unable to move freely because of severe calluses and a blistered right foot. 

The 32-year-old American lined up a quarter-final against French 12th seed Sebastien Grosjean or Spaniard Felix Mantilla tomorrow. 

“It came as a bit of a surprise, but there’s some good in it,” Agassi said.  

“I’ve had enough tennis to be ready. I’ll certainly be rested and ready to go.” 

Coria’s withdrawal raised some eyebrows, but Agassi supported his decision to call it quits early in the match. 

“I’ve had a blister before and they’re not very comfortable, to say the least,” he said. 

“At the French Open against Karol Kucera I developed a big blister on my big toe. Once you can’t move effectively, you’re as good as done now against these guys. 

“So I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him (Coria).” 

Coria’s withdrawal took the number of retirements in the men’s singles to eight, which tied the event record set in 1998.  

The record number of retirements at any Grand Slam event was nine at last year’s US Open. 

Agassi, who had won their only previous outing for the loss of two games last year at Cincinnati, broke Coria’s service four times leading up to the injury retirement. 

He has strung together an unbeaten run of 18 matches at the Australian Open after withdrawing on the opening morning of last year’s tournament with a wrist injury. 

Agassi is bidding to become only the fourth man to win four Australian Open titles, behind Roy Emerson (6), Jack Crawford (4) and Ken Rosewall (4). 

Spanish fourth seed Juan Carlos Ferrero set up the other quarter-final in the bottom half of men’s draw with South African Wayne Ferreira after a convincing straight sets victory over young Croatian Mario Ancic. 

Ferrero advanced to his first Grand Slam quarter-final outside his preferred French Open with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 win in 1hr 41min. 

“I’m in the quarter-finals for the first time here and I’m feeling so good,” Ferrero said. 

“Physically, I am improving my leg injury. I didn’t feel any pain today and I am improving for the next match.” 

Ferrero is treating an adductor muscle injury with anti-inflammatories, massage and unltrasound. 

Ferrero, who has now won 11 of his last 13 matches since the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, broke 18-year-old Ancic nine times. 

Ferreira claimed back-to-back quarter-finals at the Australian Open with a convincing four-set victory over Armenia’s Sargis Sargsian. 

Ferreira had a much easier time against Sargsian than his come-from-behind win over American Mardy Fish in five sets in the previous round on Friday. 

He took 2hr 32min to dispatch Sargsian, the conqueror of Australian Mark Philippoussis in the previous round, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. 

Ferreira broke Sargsian’s service six times and served 12 aces and won 75 percent of the points on his first serve. 

Ferreira, 31, whose best Grand Slam results are at the Australian Open, reached the quarter-final stage last year before he retired with a groin injury at 5-2 in the first set against Marat Safin. – AFP 

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