Monday, January 26, 2004

Cahill shows he has the right coaching stuff

Australian Open notebook

The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Andre Agassi calls Darren Cahill a coach for all ages.

"He's coached the youngest No. 1 in the world, and he's coached the oldest No. 1 in the world," Agassi said Sunday after reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals. "Those stats are hard to argue with."

Cahill, an Australian who used to play on the tour, has been coaching Agassi for two years.

"Darren has made an incredible difference to my game," said Agassi, ranked No. 4 and bidding for his ninth major title.

"He constantly helps me improve by always being aware of the subtleties that make my game tick."

Cahill coached Lleyton Hewitt, who was the tour's youngest year-end No. 1 in 2001 at 20 years, eight months.

The oldest No. 1 since computer rankings were introduced is Agassi, who reached the top ranking in May at 33 and held that spot for 14 weeks.

ON THE RISE: Hewitt came face to face with another phenom, 17-year-old Spaniard Rafael Nadal, in the third round.

Hewitt won 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-2, but not before Nadal showed why he's so highly regarded. Nadal was making his Australian Open debut.

"He's a great player," Hewitt said. "All the good stuff you've heard and seen in the past, you know, he's going to be very good in a couple of years."

Nadal turned pro in 2001. In his Wimbledon debut last year he reached the third round; at 17, he was the youngest player to do so since 16-year-old Boris Becker in 1984. Nadal finished the year ranked No. 47, up from 235th in 2002.

TENNIS KIDS: John McEnroe wants an early - very early - scouting report on a future match between the children of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf and those of Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters.

McEnroe, a commentator at the Australian Open, raised the possibility of such a match in a conversation with Agassi on Sunday.

Hewitt and Clijsters are engaged. Agassi and Graf have two children, Jaden Gil and Jaz Elle.

"If my son or daughter were to lose that match, 20 years from now, I'll be waiting for (the winner) in the finals or the next round," Agassi said. "I'll still be here."

SAW IT COMING: Amelie Mauresmo was not surprised to see Venus Williams make an early exit at the Australian Open.

Mauresmo had been unhappy that Venus Williams received a No. 3 seeding at the Australian Open. Williams was ranked No. 11 but was given the high seeding because of her Grand Slam play before she missed six months with an abdominal injury. Mauresmo was seeded fourth because of that decision.

Williams lost in the third round to 25th-seeded Lisa Raymond.

"Venus hadn't played in six months," Mauresmo said. "She needs a bit of time to get all her tennis back."

A GEM FOR COLOMBIA: Fabiola Zuluaga understands what her victory will mean for Colombia.

She beat Hungary's Aniko Kapros 6-4, 6-2 Sunday to become the first Colombian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Zuluaga, seeded 32nd, had never gotten past the third round in 12 previous Grand Slam attempts.

Zuluaga, playing in her third Australian Open, hopes her success will boost tennis' popularity in her homeland.

"It's great, what it means for my country," she said.

Zuluaga was asked about her next match, a far tougher test when she meets Amelie Mauresmo.

"First of all, I have to celebrate this," she said.

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