MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer faces his first
serious test of his Australian Open defense when he faces Andre Agassi in a mouth-watering quarterfinal at the end of the day.
No. 1 Federer is the favorite to win the
tournament and has not dropped a single set all week, but Agassi,
a four-time champion at Melbourne Park, promises to test him.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity of
playing Roger," Agassi said. "He's been playing the best tennis in the world for a while
now but somebody has to beat him sooner or later, right? I hope
it's Tuesday night."
Agassi won his first three matches against Federer but the
Swiss master has won the last four, including an epic
five-setter in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open and says
he is confident of making it five in a row.
"I know I can beat him. He's not as good as he was when he
was at the top of the ranking, otherwise he would be there,"
Potential show stoppers
The only two remaining major champions from last season, Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and
U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova meet in an all-Russian affair.
Russian women have won the past three Grand Slam titles and
looked have a great chance of completing a sweep of the
four majors when seven made it through to the final 16.
But Sharapova and Kuznetsova were the only two to survive.
Adding spice to their meeting, the pair have never
been the closest of friends, though Kuznetsova was keen to hose
down any talk of a rift.
"I think she's all right. She's a bit different, like each
of us, we are all different," said Kuznetsova, who holds a 2-1 record against Sharapova. "Nobody does nothing against her. I don't mind as long as we defend the colors of our country."
Marat Safin explained some of the differences between Sharapova and the other Russian women. Sharapova spends most of her time in Florida training and the Russian people really don't know her, he said.
"Myskina, Dementieva, they spend much more time there, so the people get to know them so at least they can give an opinion about them," Safin said last week. "But about Sharapova, nobody sees. She lives in the States, as (far as) I'm concerned."
Serena Williams, the 2003 Australian Open winner meets French world
No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo.
Williams has won eight of her previous nine matches with
Mauresmo but says she's expecting a tough match.
"I really like playing her," Williams said. "I definitely think we've had some great matches. And she
definitely brings out some great shots."
"I don't have a very good record with her," Mauresmo said. "But, again, you know, as I said on the court, we play tennis -- I mean, I play tennis for these kind of big matches. So I'm looking forward for this one."
Awaiting the winner of Agassi-Federer is a semifinal against either No. 4 seed Marat
Safin or No. 20 seed Dominik Hrbaty. The pair have met 12 times for six wins apiece, but they last met almost three years ago.
Hrbaty beat 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson
to book his place in the last eight, while Safin won three
tiebreaks to defeat Olivier Rochus in four sets.
Safin made the final last year after surviving a series of
grueling matches but was too exhausted to mount any real
challenge to Federer. He said he is trying to conserve his energy this
"This week has been a little bit easier. I'm playing a
little bit smarter and I'm just trying to save my time on the
court," Safin said.
"It's a long tournament and there is no need to waste the
energy on something that you don't have to."
Information from Reuters was used in this report.