| Armenia’s Sargis Sargsian after winning a point during his third-round match against Mark Philippoussis in Melbourne Friday. Sargsian won 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-4. (Reuters)
Melbourne: Americans Andre Agassi and Venus Williams safely made it through to the last 16 of the Australian Open on Friday after recording contrasting wins. But the biggest upset of the day came when Armenian Sargis Sargsian beat Australia’s Mark Philippoussis 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 and advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Agassi had to dig deep to overcome determined Frenchman Nicolas Escude 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 while Williams crushed Germany’s Anca Barna 6-1, 6-4.
The other big casualty of the day was French Open champion Albert Costa. The eighth seed blew a two sets to one lead in losing to fellow Spaniard Felix Mantilla 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Second seed Agassi stayed on course to become the first foreign player to win four Australian Opens with a battling win over Escude in a see-saw match. “I needed to play well, no question. I’m happy to be through that,” a relieved Agassi said. “You never look ahead in the draw but he’s a guy you never want to be near.”
Williams’s performance was littered with mistakes but the world number two raised her game whenever it mattered to complete an easy win over Barna. Despite losing the last three Grand Slam finals and the number one ranking to her sister Serena in 2002, Venus said she was starting to get back into the groove.
“I’m enjoying it a lot, especially when I’m winning,” she said. “When things get a little tight, I tend to be a little bitter about my performance, that’s natural, but when I’m on a roll it definitely feels great.”
A popular attraction at the Open this year, the American will be public enemy number one when she faces Nicole Pratt in her next match.
Pratt upset 23rd seed Paola Suarez 7-5, 6-4 to become the first local woman to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open in a decade. “I’ve been a hard worker for a long time now...to be in the fourth round of a Grand Slam, especially the Australian Open, is very satisfying for me,” the 29-year-old said after reaching the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
“I have taken a few knocks, put in the hard work. I’m happy to be here.”
Last year’s Roland Garros runner-up, Spanish world number four Juan Carlos Ferrero had to fight back from a set down before he could book a place in the fourth round with a 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.
But the best comeback of the day came from South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira, who recovered from two sets down to beat American Mardy Fish 2-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 after all seemed lost.
Justine Henin-Hardenne, Lindsay Davenport and Daniela Hantuchova eased through the women’s draw with straight set wins.
Davenport, calling herself an underdog here but playing like a hot favourite, will next play fifth seed Henin-Hardenne. Davenport, Australian Open champion three years ago, beat Russian Tatiana Panova 6-2, 6-1 while the fifth-seeded Henin-Hardenne cruised past Slovenian Katarina Srebotnik 6-2, 6-0.
Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, Mario Ancic of Croatia and Argentina’s Guillermo Coria also advanced. Spain’s Virginia Ruano Pascual ended German giant killer Marlene Weingartner’s run, who knocked out defending champion Jennifer Capriati in the first round, with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory.
Venus says she is finally over the disappointment of losing the last three Grand Slam finals and the No. 1 ranking to her little sister Serena.
The World No. 2 said her near-misses had initially left her deflated and sick of tennis, but she was now over the pain.
“I do spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself,” said Venus, who relinquished the top ranking to Serena last July. “But after I pat myself on the back, I get back up.
“I think last year for me was tough because I was mentally and physically tired. I was always going the extra mile to do my best but I really didn’t want to go to practice all the time.”
She took a complete break from tennis at the end of last year to revitalise herself.
“If I’m not enjoying my tennis then I’ll definitely take a step back and re-evaluate my life and things on the court,” she said.
“(But) I’m enjoying it a lot, especially when I’m winning. When things get a little tight, I tend to be a little bitter about my performance, that’s natural, but when I’m on a roll it definitely feels great.”
Venus has not dropped a set on her way to the fourth round, where she plays Australia’s Nicole Pratt, and said she was feeling good about her chances.
“I’m feeling better with every match,” the 22-year-old said.
“Serena probably feels confident that she could raise the level of her game when the time counts, and I also have that same confidence. “I’ve done it in the past and looking forward to doing it this tournament.”
The rivalry between the two sisters is already part of tennis folklore.
Coached by their eccentric father Richard, the siblings have won four grand slam singles titles each on their way to dominating women's tennis.