| Andre Agassi after his victory over Spaniard Alex Corretja in Round One at the Flushing Meadow on Tuesday. (AFP)
New York: Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick rubber-stamped their credentials as US Open favourites on Tuesday, keeping the stars and stripes flying high over Flushing Meadows.
Hours after American pair Pete Sampras and Michael Chang turned their backs on tennis, Agassi and Roddick hammered out emphatic messages on Centre Court.
Top seed Agassi smashed Spain’s Alex Corretja off the court for the loss of only five games while Roddick pulverised Tim Henman 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.
Agassi, twice a champion here and runner-up to Sampras last year, reached the second round with the 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 demolition of a player once ranked as high as two in the world.
“He knows how to win big matches so I just wanted to step up my game and make sure I executed well,” Agassi said. “Today I got through it.”
Fourth seed Roddick got through it too, proving too canny for Briton Henman.
Seldom does a seed face such an examination so early in a major tournament and Roddick’s animated reaction after his two hours six minutes dissection of the former world No. 4 spoke volumes.
“I went into this match knowing good and well I could be going home afterwards,” said the 20-year-old.“And I knew it would be so disappointing if I was playing so well and just came here and lost in the first round.”
In the women’s draw, Jennifer Capriati showed her desire to capitalise on the absence of the Williams sisters by pummelling Spain’s Cristina Torrens Valero 6-0, 6-1 in the first round.
With Serena and Venus Williams missing through injury, sixth seed Capriati is a leading contender for the title and she was in sublime form during her 35-minute victory over Torrens Valero.
The American, unveiling a new blue dress covered in white stars, lit up the night sky at Flushing Meadows in the first match of the evening session.
Despite enduring an indifferent season, the 27-year-old said she had developed as a player since her Grand Slam-winning years of 2001 and 2002.
“It’s amazing how things turn around in my game when I’m feeling physically and mentally good,” said Capriati.
Less emphatic but equally successful was women’s second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne.
The Belgian followed her compatriot and top seed Kim Clijsters, a winner on Monday, into the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 triumph over Hungary’s Aniko Kapros.
She needed to dust off every weapon in her impressive armoury against the tennis equivalent of a brick wall. “I say the same thing, the first match at a Grand Slam is always tough,” said the Belgian.
Chang, the 1989 French Open champion, brought the curtain down on his career with a 3-6, 5-7, 7-5, 4-6 first-round defeat at the hands of Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in his 17th US Open.
Thai 11th seed Paradorn Srichaphan overcame illness to beat France’s Cyril Saulnier 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. “He was playing well and I was sick,” Paradorn explained.
“I just had a problem breathing in the first set. It was a tough time and I had to ask the doctor for some medicine.”
Kapros, while never likely to punch holes in Henin-Hardenne’s game, ran and ran, chasing every ball and harrying her classy opponent in the opening match of the day.
The 129th-ranked Kapros continually threw up lobs, scrambled groundstrokes back and confounded the French Open champion’s best efforts at clean winners throughout the 88-minute centre-court contest.
Yugoslav Jelena Dokic beat Swiss Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-4, 6-2 while France’s Mary Pierce scored a 6-3, 6-2 win over German Stephanie Gehrlein.