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Henin-Hardenne, Agassi win to advance to semis

Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2004

MELBOURNE, Australia Andre Agassi advanced to the semifinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday when ninth-seeded Sebastien Grosjean retired in the second set with a strained groin.

Agassi, the fourth seed, was leading 6-2, 2-0 when Grosjean, a semifinalist here in 2001, called him to the net and told him he couldn't continue. Grosjean had called for the trainer between sets.

In women's play, top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne advanced to the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Lindsay Davenport. She will face 32nd-seeded Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia, who advanced when No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo of France pulled out of their match because of torn back muscles.

''That's not a good way for anything to end,'' Agassi said. ''It's been a great week for Sebastien, it's unfortunate. He'd appreciate everyone's understanding.''

Agassi extended his win streak to 26 matches at the Australian Open, spanning championships in 2000, '01 and last season. He will face either top-ranked Andy Roddick, the reigning U.S. Open titlist, or Marat Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open titlist.

Roddick and Safin were playing a night match.

A center court daytime program that was to feature two women's quarterfinals and one men's lasted 2 hours, 11 minutes and little more than three sets.

Henin-Hardenne, the French and U.S. Open champion, lost the opening four games before reeling off seven of the next eight to take the first set in 52 minutes.

''That wasn't easy. Lindsay was playing unbelievable at the start, I wasn't ready for that,'' Henin-Hardenne said. ''I played every point as best I could. I came back in the set and that gives me confidence.

Davenport lost only one point in her first two service games but ended with 33 unforced errors as her forehand failed in the long rallies. The loss left Lisa Raymond as the only American woman remaining in the singles event.

Davenport was serving for the first set at 5-3 and had triple set-point against Henin-Hardenne's serve in the 11th game but missed consecutive backhand returns and then her forehand floated long.

''I started off playing the match really great, and really attacking balls,'' she said. ''Then the next three, really tough games, I had game points in all of them.

''That's a lot of times when the match turns around. You've got to be able to pull some of those out and I just wasn't able to.''

Mauresmo withdrew 90 minutes before the match was to start.

Mauresmo ''is tough to play, but I can beat her,'' Zuluaga said. ''It feels good to be in the semi, but I didn't want it to be this way the first time. I'd rather play matches than have the rest.''

Mauresmo was injured while stretching for a backhand volley Sunday against Alicia Molik. Mauresmo had a 10-minute hitting session Tuesday morning with coach Loic Courteau, then tearfully announced she was withdrawing.

''I wanted to try this morning and have a little hit and see how I felt. I have pain. I have to withdraw from this tournament,'' she said. ''When I hit some shots, I can feel really strong pain. The other thing is it could get worse if I play. The best thing to do is to rest.''

Courteau said Mauresmo insisted on preparing for the match despite scans showing problems in her back.

''As soon as she went up to the net to volley, it was like a knife thrust in her back,'' he said.

Mauresmo has won 10 tournaments but never a Grand Slam. She lost the final here in 1999 and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all four majors, although she has been plagued by injuries.

''I was playing some good tennis and I had some opportunities in this tournament I always play well here,'' Mauresmo said. ''But that's just the way it is, there's nothing to do about it.''

Mauresmo lost only six games in her opening three matches here before Molik took her to 7-5, 7-5.

Zuluaga, 25, was off tour for 10 months in 2001 following operations to correct a congenital defect in her right shoulder. She was 2-5 against Mauresmo, including a first-round win at the Sydney Olympics.



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