Agassi advances in Montreal tennis

August 11, 2005 03:01 AM
Andre Agassi returns a backhand to Jonas Bjorkman during their second-round match at the Rogers Masters© Robert Laberge/Getty Images
MONTREAL (AP) -- Three-time champion Andre Agassi defeated Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden on Wednesday to advance to the third round of the Montreal Masters tennis tournament.

The 35-year-old Agassi, seeded fourth and seeking his first victory in Canada since 1995, advanced to face Nicolas Kiefer of Germany in the round of 16 on Thursday with his 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory. Kiefer, a semifinalist last year, beat Taylor Dent of the United States 6-4, 6-4.

"That'll be a tough match,'' Agassi said. "These are tough conditions -- quick courts, wind. He's a quick-court player. He uses the pace really well and moves the ball around. I'll have my hands full.''

Agassi improved to 5-0 against Bjorkman. He has eight Grand Slam titles and 60 wins overall in his 19-year pro career, while Bjorkman has nine tournament titles in 15 years. They are two of the oldest players in the draw.

"There's a lot to like about playing against someone you've known and played against a long time,'' Agassi said. "There's a lot of mutual respect just for doing it for so long.

"There's so many faces you don't recognize anymore, to play against someone you know makes it that much more comfortable.''

A long rain delay couldn't stop Rafael Nadal of Spain as the top seed romped to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Ricardo Mello.

Nadal, back to his fist-pumping self after a subdued opening-round win over friend and mentor Carlos Moya, advanced to a third-round meeting with Sebastien Grosjean, who upset his 15th-seeded French compatriot Richard Gasquet 7-6 (5), 6-3.

The 19-year-old Nadal, who has eight tournaments wins this year -- all on clay courts -- is looking for his first career hardcourt victory.

"I think I don't play bad on fast courts,'' he said. "If I'm playing well, I can play good on this surface.''

Former French Open champ Gaston Gaudio broke Danish veteran Kenneth Carlsen in the last game to win 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. And Montreal-born Greg Rusedski of Britain downed Max Mirnyi of Belarus 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in a battle of big servers.

"I know, it's been a while,'' said Rusedski, whose 1995 decision to play for Britain seems to have been forgotten by the welcoming center court crowd that once booed him. "I'm really pleased to be through. It's been two tough matches.''

Olivier Rochus of Belgium advanced when Robin Soderling of Sweden retired with a right ankle injury in the third set of their second-round match. Rochus was leading 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 5-2.

It was a gusty, rainy day in which play was halted several times by rain and lightning.

Grosjean was trailing 3-5 in the opening set when the rain forced a 2{-hour delay. He came back when play resumed to beat Gasquet.

Between showers, No. 5 seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia survived a scare from 19-year-old Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.

Agassi, seeded fourth, said he was more at ease in the wind than in his first-round win over Alberto Martin on Monday.

"I was slightly more comfortable and more accepting of the conditions out there,'' he said. "In conditions like that, really anything can happen, so you have to stay positive, keep taking good swings and hope it falls your way.''

In late matches, Mariano Puerta of Argentina defeated Romania's Andrei Pavel 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, Xavier Malisse of Belgium got past Sweden's Thomas Johansson 7-5, 7-6 (4) and Juan Carlos Ferrero of Argentina beat Spain's David Ferrer 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.