MELBOURNE, Australia - Andre Agassi overcame a record number of aces from Joachim Johannson on Sunday and set up an Australian Open quarterfinal against defending champion and top-ranked Roger Federer.
Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam winner and four-time champion in Australia, produced one of his great performances to defeat the 6-foot-6 Johansson, who slammed 51 aces in their 2-hour, 38-minute fourth-round match.
One of the best returners of serve, the 34-year-old Agassi endured Johansson’s serves, breaking the Swede three times to win 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Agassi dropped his own serve twice, at the start of the first and fourth sets, and made only 13 unforced errors in the match.
“It was a tough day,” said Agassi. The 11th-seeded Johansson was pushing the limits on almost every shot. He mixed 66 unforced errors with a remarkable 96 winners, including his aces and service winners.
He surpassed Richard Krajicek’s mark of 49 aces in a match at the 1999 U.S. Open. Krajicek also set his record in a loss, to Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia.
Johansson’s final three aces came in his last service game.
“Joachim today was hitting the ball so big,” Agassi said. “What can you do but sort of react?
“I was anxious the whole time,” he added. “I had to stay focused and disciplined, give myself a look and hope I can convert on the few chances I do get.”
Quite simply, Agassi said, returning against Johansson “is not fun.”
“It’s very uncomfortable,” he said. “You just have to admire it while you’re out there because there’s just not a whole lot you can do when destiny is in somebody’s hands that extremely.”
Tim Wimborne / Reuters
Roger Federer races to return a shot from Marcos Baghdatis during his 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory in the Australian Open on Sunday.
Federer has won 48 out of his last 50 matches, and hasn’t lost since the second round at the Athens Olympics last August.
Baghdatis broke Federer’s serve once and stunned Federer with some whipping crosscourt forehands in the fourth set.
Federer, who beat Baghdatis at the last U.S. Open in the 19-year-old Cypriot’s only other appearance at a major, fell behind 3-0 in the tiebreaker before reeling off five straight points.
“I enjoyed the battle for sure,” said Federer. “After I’ve won, it’s always good to battle it out and win it.”
Federer bristled when asked if he thought he was playing well enough to beat 34-year-old Agassi, the oldest player in the tournament.
“He’s not as good he was when he was at the top of the rankings, otherwise he would be there. Fortunately I’m there,” Federer said.
Like Federer, Agassi has also been in rich form and had not dropped a set until his match with Johansson. But Federer said the American would have to be at his very best to beat him.
“I think he has to raise his game, not me,” he said.
Marat Safin, who lost to Federer in last year’s Australian final, converted just one of his 18 break-point chances in a fiery 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) win over Olivier Rochus that lasted 3 hours, 42 minutes.
Safin received a code violation for spiking his racket into the court after wasting three opportunities to get back on serve in the fifth game of the third set. After the code violation from the umpire, the fourth-seeded Russian belted the broken racket three times on a water cooler at the side of the court.
In the end, he closed with a pair of aces, taking his total to
29. He next faces Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, who beat the other Swedish Johannson in the draw — 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson — 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.
Dominik Hrbaty beat former champion Thomas Johansson 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 to book his place in the quarterfinals.
The 20th seed sealed victory in just one hour, 41 minutes to reach the last eight at a grand slam for the fourth time in his ninth season as a professional.
Johansson, a surprise winner in Melbourne three years ago, survived three gruelling five-setters just to make the fourth round but the effort had clearly taken his toll and he needed treatment to a leg injury.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic wasted a chance to serve out the match and was beaten 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 by sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the Italian Open quarterfinals Friday.
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