Originally created 09/06/98

Top players need little time to win



NEW YORK -- The world's top tennis players are doing little work on this Labor Day weekend.

Defending U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter needed just 66 minutes and lost only three games in a third-round victory. Andre Agassi advanced while losing just five games. Venus Williams needed to play only half a match.

"You never feel badly about winning. You want to get on and off as quick as you possibly can," Rafter said after his 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory over David Nainkin. "This is a Grand Slam. You want to conserve your energy."

Only two seeded women and three seeded men have been eliminated.

The third-seeded Rafter, who lost just six points on his first serve and never faced a break point, will face No. 14 Goran Ivanisevic in the fourth round.

Ivanisevic had 21 aces in a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4 win over Paul Haarhuis, a player who had tormented him in the past. The temperamental Ivanisevic said he has been playing better since banging his head on the court during a second-round win over Todd Martin earlier this week.

"Sometimes I am a little bit messed up," he explained. "I have to bang, then everything comes together."

Agassi won 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in 96 minutes over Davide Sanguinetti, who twisted his right ankle late in the first set and played the rest of the match with the ankle heavily taped. Agassi's next opponent will be No. 9 Karol Kucera.

Williams' match lasted just 13 minutes. She was leading 5-0 in the first set when Larisa Neiland retired because of a painful lower back injury that prevented her from sitting on the final changeover.

Neiland was unable to move more than a few feet from the middle of the court, watching helplessly when Williams hit shots into the corners. Neiland's face was contorted with pain as she held onto the umpire's chair for support after five games and told Williams she could not continue.

"I really would have enjoyed to have a match where she could have played to her full ability," Williams said. "I can get the preparation on the practice court."

Agassi, who played third on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court after Rafter and Williams, was shocked to start playing so early in the afternoon.

"Both matches combined were like an hour and 15 minutes, phenomenal," Agassi said. "I felt rather rushed, I didn't enjoy that at all."

Other men advancing to the fourth round were No. 12 Jonas Bjorkman and Marat Safin, the Russian teen-ager who became a crowd favorite with his improbable run through this year's French Open.

Safin's next opponent probably will be four-time champion Pete Sampras, who faced Mikael Tillstrom in a third-round match Saturday night.

Women's winners included No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, No. 10 Nathalie Tauziat, No. 13 Amanda Coetzer and No. 15 Anna Kournikova.

The only men's seeded player spending much time on court was No. 10 Carlos Moya, who needed 3 hours, 49 minutes to rally from a two-set deficit for the first time in his career in a 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-3 win over Michael Chang that began Friday night and lasted until 1:33 a.m. Saturday.