AUSTRALIA OPEN TENNIS Agassi holds off Escude for victory



The American advanced to the fourth round to meet Guillermo Cora.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Andre Agassi bunted, blocked and even hit baseline winners off his shoelaces to fend off Nicolas Escude in the third round of the Australian Open.
Escude attacked Agassi's serve and rushed to the net 65 times. The Frenchman hit 60 winners and had 20 breakpoint chances, but still ended up falling 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 today.
"My experience in these Grand Slam tournaments is you need to play well at the right time," said Agassi, a three-time Australian Open winner. "Today was a day that was pretty dangerous for me. ... It was a question of playing the big points well.
"I thought Nicolas was hitting the ball really well, timing it superbly on the returns, putting me under a lot of pressure. So it's good to get through."
The second-seeded Agassi, riding a 17-match winning streak in the event, will face Argentina's Guillermo Coria in the fourth round. Coria beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.
Williams, Davenport win
Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport advanced to the fourth round of the women's event, with Williams beating Germany's Anca Barna 6-1, 6-4, and Davenport, the 2000 winner, routing No. 24 Tatiana Panova of Russia 6-2, 6-1.
Williams, winner of four Grand Slam events and runner-up to sister Serena in the last three, trailed 1-4, 0-40 in the second, before pulling away.
She advanced to face Australia's Nicole Pratt, who upset 23rd-seeded Paola Suarez of Argentina 7-5, 6-4 to reach the fourth round for the first time in 31 Grand Slam tournaments.
Davenport, who missed the first three majors last year after an operation on her right knee, will play No. 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, a 6-2, 6-0 winner over Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik.
Saved 16 break points
Against Escude, Agassi held his ground in the back court, saving 16 break points and frustrating the Frenchman into 44 unforced errors before finishing him off with a strong forehand winner down the line on his second match point.
"I was down many break points throughout the whole third set. I felt like it was love-30 or 15-40 every time I went to the baseline to serve," Agassi said. "I hit a few good shots down breakpoint, bustled, he made a few errors."
In a late women's match, seventh-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia beat Australia's Samantha's Stosur 6-4, 6-2.

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