Agassi loses, Roddick withdraws

July 28, 2006 06:50 PM

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - The farewell tour for Andre Agassi experienced some bumps Friday.

At the hot and steamy UCLA Tennis Center, the four-time champion fell victim to the ferocious forehand of Fernando Gonzalez in a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 quarterfinal loss at the $500,000 Countrywide Classic.

The third-seeded Gonzalez was nearly apologetic after dismissing the 36-year-old American icon, whom he had watched growing up in Chile.

"With Andre, it's always a special match," said Gonzalez, who celebrated his 26th birthday a day early. "I just tried to go in and win. That's my job.

"If I was outside the court, I would want Andre to win. He's still motivated. He's still competing like when he was 15 years old. I won seven titles and a few more things. But he won 60 titles; you feel like nothing."

Reaching his first semifinal since Monte Carlo in April, Gonzalez will face No. 8 Dmitry Tursunov of Russia, who was credited with a walkover win when top seed Andy Roddick withdrew with a back injury.

Roddick was forced to pull out with a lower left back strain suffered in his second-round win over fellow American Scott Oudsema on Thursday night.

"It's improved, but last night I had trouble taking my socks off after the match," Roddick said. "I literally couldn't bend over at all. There's improvement, but certainly not enough to even consider playing.

"During the next couple of days we will focus on treatment to reduce the pain and inflammation," said Doug Spreen, Roddick's trainer. "We just want to make Andy as comfortable as possible and we will evaluate the strain on a daily basis."

Roddick is targeting next week's Legg Mason Classic in Washington, where he likely would not play until Wednesday.

"At this point it's guarded optimism, that's for sure," he said. "I'd be hopeful, but nothing more than that at this point.

Agassi, who will retire after the upcoming the U.S. Open next month, left with fond memories despite his early exit.

"I don't think you ever prepare yourself for the emotions of it," the eight-time Grand slam champion reflected. "It's a long time you've done this, it's a long time you've done it here. It's not the game you're leaving, it's the people you'shared the experience with. This is what makes it important. That's part of the process I'll miss. I'll miss it dearly."

Fernando Gonzalez

After beating Swiss George Bastl in the second round, the fifth-seeded Agassi admitted he had not played well since advancing to the semifinals of the 2005 U.S. Open. However, Gonzalez provided another level of play he was unable to handle.

"He doesn't give you much rhythm and comes up with incredible shots when you think you're in an offensive position," Agassi said. "He certainly did that in the last several games. He certainly deserved it in the end."

Tied 4-4 in the third set, Gonzalez erased two break points to go ahead, 5-4. The Chilean Davis Cup star began to crush his big forehand and held three match points on Agassi's serve - but failed to convert any of them.

After Gonzalez held at love to take a 6-5 lead, he held two more match points. On the final point, Agassi flagged down Gonzalez's forehand drive with a stabbing backhand volley on the right side of the court. However, Gonzalez drove a forehand winner into the open court to claim the win.

"It was a good match, it was high standard, it was good to be part of that sort of competition," Agassi said. "He just stepped it up at the end, giving himself more looks. "He hit some pretty specatcular shots."

In the night match, No. 7 Dominik Hrbaty topped fourth-seeded American Robby Ginepri, 7-6 (7-0), 6-2. The Slovakian next will face sixth-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany.

A winner here in 2004, Haas moved into the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Paul Goldstein, who upset second seed Lleyton Hewitt in the opening round Tuesday.