Originally created 06/29/01

Agassi, Venus, other favorites move on



WIMBLEDON, England -- Andre Agassi rallied to an easy win on a day of showers but few surprises at Wimbledon.

Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt, Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport joined the march of seeded players into the third round, where they join a struggling Pete Sampras.

Sampras, the top-seeded man who has won seven of the last eight Wimbledons, barely survived a five-set match Wednesday against unheralded Barry Cowan of England, the world's 265th-ranked player.

Agassi had no trouble with his own English opponent, rolling over Jamie Delgado 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 as he seeks his first Wimbledon title since 1992, the year before Sampras began his surge.

Delgado, ranked 182nd, couldn't match Agassi's rallying skills or deft touch when the tournament's second-seeded player went to the net. Delgado saved four match points in the eighth game of the last set, but won just one point in the final game and lost on a forehand that went wide.

"I didn't need to see Pete struggle out there to have respect for somebody in the second round of Wimbledon," Agassi said. "I have an incredible ability to stress myself out against anybody."

Delgado learned from his defeat.

"Just to play against him and see how he does it is a big bonus for me," he said.

Agassi played a complete game. Early in the match, he ran from the baseline between points to retrieve his towel that had blown away and tucked it in his bag near the umpire's chair.

And one overhead smash nearly hurt more than Delgado. It bounced into a corner section where nine members of the Chelsea Pensioners, a group of war veterans wearing bright red uniforms with brass buttons, were sitting.

Agassi waved and the crowd chuckled.

"I take big swings at the ball and I don't allow a lot of margin for error," he said. "If I start finding my range out there, my confidence comes quickly."

The third-seeded Rafter, who beat Agassi in last year's semifinals, advanced with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Slava Dosedel of the Czech Republic.

Rafter wowed the crowd with the shot that broke Dosedel's serve in the fourth game of the last set - a lunging backhand volley that sent Rafter rolling across lawn as the ball landed in the open court.

Hewitt, seeded fifth, faced a stiff challenge and a serve topping out at 144 mph from American qualifier Taylor Dent before winning 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3. When Dent returned Hewitt's final serve into the net, the relieved Australian fell flat on his back, got up and smacked a ball into the stands.

Williams, seeded second, moved closer to her second straight title at the All England Club with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 18-year-old Daniela Hantuchova. The match was delayed about an hour by the day's second shower with Williams ahead 2-1 in the second set.

"I'm not that far away" from her peak, said Williams, whose last match before Wimbledon was a first-round loss May 28 at the French Open.

The third-seeded Davenport, in her second tournament since missing three months with a knee injury, beat Alicia Molik of Australia 6-4, 6-2. Davenport trailed 3-2, then won eight of the next nine games.

The layoff "hasn't hurt me yet," Davenport said, laughing. "I'm really feeling good out there, very excited to be playing."

Other seeded players who won included Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Sebastien Grosjean, French Open runnerup Kim Clijsters and 2000 Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic.

The first rain of the tournament hit just past noon Thursday and caused a one-hour suspension of play. Agassi's match, scheduled to start shortly after 1 p.m., was delayed 15 minutes.

He was in control throughout, unlike Sampras. But Sampras didn't become master of Wimbledon by crumbling under pressure.

He survived spectators roaring as Cowan flirted with the unimaginable. Outside, the crowd grew at the huge video screen showing Sampras struggling.

As Sampras said, they could have been watching "the upset of the century."

Instead, they saw the top-seeded player in the top tennis tournament reach back with his experience and powerful serve and barely hang on. And they gazed at Cowan fighting to the end of the 2-hour, 52-minute thriller.

"As soon as I walked off court, I was disappointed," Cowan said, "but the more I reflect and think about the match, I've got to be pleased."

Entering the tournament, Sampras was 53-1 at Wimbledon since 1993, while Cowan was 0-5 there in his career. Sampras wins almost every year. Cowan had to get a wildcard invitation just to play in each of his six years.

"You always respect who you're playing. It doesn't matter what he's ranked," Sampras said. But, "I never really felt like I was in danger of losing."

The fans were charmed by another player who hadn't won at Wimbledon before this year. But 18-year-old Andy Roddick figures to win plenty of matches at the All England Club.

His overpowering serve is suited for fast grass courts like Wimbledon's. And his energy, emotion and fresh face topped by a white cap often worn backward captivates audiences.

"I've been getting asked a lot about Roddick," Jennifer Capriati said after her 6-3, 6-1 win over Francesca Schiavone. "He's got a lot of pizzazz."

Roddick beat 11th-seeded Thomas Johansson with a 7-6 (1), 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (3) victory that ended Johansson's winning streak at 11 matches.

"I definitely didn't expect to be on Centre, for sure," Roddick said. But when he checked the schedule Tuesday night, there was his name. "I said, 'OK, cool.'

"It's a place like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park," he said. "It's just kind of majestic."