<
>

Agassi advances 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4

WIMBLEDON, England -- Andre Agassi, playing his 14th and
final Wimbledon, advanced to the third round Thursday with a 6-4,
7-6 (2), 6-4 win over Andreas Seppi of Italy.

Agassi will next face French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who pulled off an escape, coming back from two sets down to defeat 237th-ranked American qualifier Robert Kendrick on Centre Court.

Two-time runner-up Andy Roddick advanced with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
win over Germany's Florian Mayer, a quarterfinalist here two years
ago. Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, split the first four sets
with South Korea's Lee Hyung-taik before play was suspended because
of darkness.

Lee won the first set 7-6 (4), Hewitt took the next two 6-2, 7-6
(6), and the Korean won the fourth 7-6 (5).

Kendrick, who plays mainly on the lower-tier challenger circuit, came within two points of victory in the fourth set before the Spaniard took charge to win 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4. It's only the second time Nadal has come back from a two-set deficit.

"He was very tough, he was serving unbelievable," Nadal said
of Kendrick, who had 28 aces. "I was playing with a very good
attitude all the time because it was very tough."

Kendrick, who missed a simple backhand volley in the third set tiebreaker, was twice within two points of winning at 5-4 on Nadal's serve in the fourth set.

"I knew he wasn't going to give up," Kendrick said. "He's
just got so much fight in him. If I could just close it out with a
few more returns, different story. But he's a great player. He's
going to come back from two sets to love down a lot more
tournaments to come."

Nadal will next face Agassi.

"He's very confident, great competitor," Agassi said of Nadal,
who has won 60 straight clay-court matches but has never been past
the third round on the grass at Wimbledon. "Needless to say, very
talented and fit. So it's going to be a hard match."

The two have played only once, with Nadal beating Agassi in the
final of the Masters Series event in Montreal on hard courts last
year.

"It's a nice match for me, so it's a nice match for
everybody," Nadal said. "It's going to be tough."

The 36-year-old Agassi, the oldest player in the men's draw,
dropped serve only once -- while going for the second set -- and
broke three times to subdue the 68th-ranked Seppi.

"That was a considerable improvement," he said. "I felt much
better today. Felt pretty good."

Just as he had after his opening round win Tuesday on Centre
Court, Agassi received a raucous standing ovation from the fans on
Court 1. Agassi, who won the first of his eight Grand Slam titles
here in 1992, announced last weekend that he will retire after the
U.S. Open in September.

"It means the world to me," he said of the fans' reception.
"I want to go out there and do something special for them. I want
to be my best."