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Agassi plays younger than years, advances


NEW YORK - Andre Agassi made it as plain as could be. His young opponent was forced to retire yesterday, but that's "retirement" in the proper tennis sense - 20-year-old Florian Mayer took the second set from Agassi but could not continue through the first game of the fourth set because of an injury to his left leg, giving Agassi a 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 decision.

"Retirement" in the general sporting sense of the word is not in Agassi's vocabulary yet.

"Let this be a signal: I'm not considering retiring at the end of this tournament," Agassi, 34, said after advancing to the third round of the U.S. Open. "Let that be a big flare."

Agassi was tested by Mayer yesterday at Arthur Ashe Stadium but moved on.

The same could not be said for Mardy Fish, the Olympic silver medalist who had high hopes for this tournament. Fish melted down after taking two of the first three sets, losing in five sets to qualifier Michal Tabara.

Fish double-faulted away a service game at 3-3 in the fifth, then double-faulted on match point to drop the match, 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, and drop the expectations that had built up after his strong showing in Athens.

"I had plenty of loose games that I couldn't really count on my fingers," said Fish, who also jawed with the chair umpire over calls too often down the stretch. The No. 26 seed, Fish has never gone beyond the second round in six U.S. Opens. "I felt like this was my year to do well here. Coming in, I had a lot of confidence. I just haven't taken advantage of it. I really can't explain why."

Also, American Taylor Dent was eliminated by Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6).

Mayer, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals, played a smart second set, keeping Agassi off balance with an array of what Agassi called "awkward" shots.

"I played an unbelievable match in the second set," Mayer said. "If I had no injury, I think I had good chances to beat him today."

Agassi, the No. 6 seed, will face No. 25 Jiri Novak in the third round. Agassi spoke of Martin's departure from the game and how he is not ready to make that call yet despite having two young children at home.

"You miss a lot of the guys you grew up with, your peers you competed with in some cases since you were 8 years old," he said. "You do miss them. You do feel like the game misses them."

His retirement decision, whenever it comes, will not be his alone. His wife, Steffi Graf, who will be inducted into the U.S. Open court of champions next week, will have plenty of say.

"I ask a lot of my family to be able to still be out here giving myself a shot," Agassi said. "My priorities have shifted over the last few years."

In other matches, Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova was extended to three sets again, Venus Williams struggled against a qualifier who hadn't won a main-draw match until this week and Olympic double gold medalist Nicolas Massu suffered a wild 5-hour, 9-minute loss to Sargis Sargsian.

Sharapova got by Jelena Jankovic, 6-0, 6-7 (5), 6-1.

And just to add to the day's wackiness, both reigning French Open champions were sent home: No. 4 Anastasia Myskina and No. 9 Gaston Gaudio.

Williams joined sister Serena, No. 20 Chanda Rubin and wild card Angela Haynes to put four black women in the Open's third round for the first time.

The 10th-seeded Massu was docked a game for smashing his racket so hard off the court it flew over his head, then engaged an official in a 10-minute argument, and wound up getting beaten, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4, in the second-longest match, by time, in Open history. Sargsian now plays Mathieu.

The two champions at Roland Garros bowed out in the second round at Flushing Meadows: Myskina lost to 17-year-old qualifier Anna Chakvetadze, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and Gaudio was beaten by 2002 Australian Open winner Thomas Johansson, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

(Results, Page 6e)

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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