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CNN: Agassi, Davenport lead charge into quarterfinals

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Top-ranked Andy Roddick and defending champion Andre Agassi advanced to the Australian Open quarterfinals, moving a step closer to a semifinal showdown.

Roddick was clinical in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 victory Sunday over 16th-seeded Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. He wrapped up the match in 79 minutes, finishing with a crosscourt forehand winner.

Agassi had a little more trouble, needing to save five set points in the first en route to a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4 victory over 13th-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand.

Roddick had 14 aces — at speeds up to 137 mph — and had one double-fault. He had 27 winners, including seven at the net, and converted six of his six break-point opportunities. Schalken had 11 winners and missed his only chance at breaking serve — in the fourth game of the third set when Roddick saved with an ace.

“That’s probably the best I’ve hit the ball from the back of the court in a while,” Roddick said. “I served well today, that was one of the keys.”

Agassi, seeded fourth, won his 25th consecutive match in the season-opening major and improved to 205-45 in 250 career Grand Slam matches. He also avenged a loss to Paradorn in the second round of Wimbledon in 2002, their only previous contest.

“I came out here with a lot of respect for his firepower,” Agassi said. “I had to make sure I was dictating play and not backing off — it was good.”

The 33-year-old American, seeking his fifth Australian Open title, set up a quarterfinal match against ninth-seeded Sebastien Grosjean of France, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 winner over 32nd-seeded Robby Ginepri of the United States.

Roddick will face Russia’s Marat Safin in the quarterfinals. Safin beat American James Blake 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3.

In women’s play, top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne had to save a set point before advancing 6-1, 7-6 (5) over Italian qualifier Mara Santangelo.

She will play 2000 champion Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals, while fourth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France advanced to face 32nd-seeded Fabiola Zuluaga, the first Colombian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Davenport won the last eight points in her 6-1, 6-3 victory over 11th-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia.

Mauresmo beat Australia’s Alicia Molik 7-5, 7-5, and Zuluaga defeated Hungary’s Aniko Kapros 6-4, 6-2.

In cool, overcast conditions with temperatures reaching only 66 degrees, Agassi saved three break points on serve in the 10th game and another two in the 12th before forcing a tiebreaker with an ace. He took four of the first five points in the tiebreaker, and won when Paradorn’s backhand return landed long.

“I had to fight off a few there,” Agassi said. “The set was imbalanced the whole way. I mean, I felt like I could have blown the first set open a lot earlier, having some chances.

“And then when I didn’t put that away, he hung in there tough, and I had to come up with some pretty good tennis late in the set to pull it out.”

Henin-Hardenne raced through the first set in 28 minutes, but started making uncharacteristic mistakes on her backhand in the second and dropped serve to trail 1-3. She saved four break points in the seventh game, and saved a set point in the 10th game before breaking to level at 5-5.

Santangelo, ranked No. 129, held serve to force the tiebreaker. She fell behind 4-1, but rallied to tie it at 4 with a volley that had her skipping with delight back to the baseline.

But Henin-Hardenne regained control, ending the match with a forehand pass that just clipped the line. She finished with 24 winners and 29 unforced errors.

“It wasn’t an easy match,” she said. “I won the first set pretty easily, with a lot of intensity, then, at 1-all in the second, the intensity came down a little and she just took her chances — it was a big fight in the second set.”

Henin-Hardenne beat Davenport in the fourth round last year, rallying from a 4-1 deficit in the deciding set and overcoming cramps to win 7-5, 5-7, 9-7.

Mauresmo struggled to beat the 40th-ranked Molik after losing only six games in the first three rounds.

“Obviously she gave me a lot of trouble,” Mauresmo said. “I just really wanted to go through this one and go to the quarters.”

Mauresmo, a finalist in 1999, missed the tournament last year because of injuries and said she was bothered by back trouble against Molik, but didn’t think it would upset her campaign.

“I’m going to go for treatment and make sure everything is OK for the quarterfinals,” she said.

With the victory, Mauresmo is assured of breaking into the top three for the first time when the next WTA Tour rankings are released. Her career high was No. 4 in October 2002.

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