Agassi cruises past Aussie - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Agassi cruises past Aussie

By Chris Lines 20/01/2004 05:19:59 AM Comments (0)

Andre Agassi began his quest for a fifth Australian Open crown in ominous fashion with a regulation win over Australian wildcard Todd Larkham.

Seeking to become outright second on the list of all-time men's champions behind six-time winner Roy Emerson, 33-year-old Agassi was relatively untroubled in winning 6-1 6-3 6-4.

The good omen for Agassi was that in all four of his successful Australian Open campaigns he had won the opening match in straight sets.

The oldest man in the Open field remained favourite to win, not surprising as he had now won 22 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park.

Taking into account he missed the 2002 tournament through injury, Agassi had not lost a match since the fourth round in 1999 against Vince Spadea.

Facing a player with such an awesome record, Larkham was regarded as little more than a sacrificial offering for Agassi to ease himself into the tournament.

The 29-year-old Melbourne resident had suffered the humiliation of taking just one game off Lleyton Hewitt on Rod Laver Arena in the second round last year, compounded by comments by John McEnroe that he had no right to be on Centre Court.

Such indignity looked likely again as Agassi raced through the first set in 24 minutes, but the second set was more of a contest than the score would suggest.

Larkham remarkably broke Agassi's serve early in the set, and while the American rattled off five successive games to close out the set, the journeyman Australian was a worthy opponent.

Larkham, whose career prizemoney of $US291,519 ($A382,720) was dwarfed by Agassi's $US28 million ($A36.76 million), never wilted, even saving two match points before the number four seed closed out the match.

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