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Shock deficiency elevates Rusedski; AUSTRALIAN OPEN MEN.

The doping storm created by Greg Rusedski's positive nandrolone test remains the main topic in tennis as the Australian Open refuses to produce an upset.

Guillermo Coria's defeat on Monday remains the only major surprise in the men's draw -and in the tournament as a whole - as the the major seeds continue their inexorable march.

Defending champion Andre Agassi, world No 1 Andy Roddick and all the leading seeds progressed into the third round at Melbourne Park yesterday.

However, the draw is beginning to throw up some spicy encounters, with Roddick set to face fellow big-hitting American Taylor Dent and Paradorn Srichaphan up against exuberant Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten.

Agassi will meet the 1999 runner-up, Thomas Enqvist, after a quick straight-sets victory over Czech Thomas Berdych.

The defending champion stunned the 18-year-old 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 in only 82 minutes, stretching his unbeaten run at Melbourne Park to 23 matches. However, he rated his opponent as a hot prospect.

Agassi said: 'I thought that was a high-standard match. Sometimes, the scoreline is not reflective of the work that's going into a match. I was coming up with the right shots at the right time.

'I like his game a lot. He's going to be a real good player.'

Roddick thumped Bohdan Ulihrach 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 but was warned by Agassi that Dent, the 27th seed, will be a far tougher proposition.

The 22-year-old battled through five sets to beat Juan Ignacio Chela 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

Agassi said: 'Taylor has a lot of firepower off the serve, his groundstrokes, he's very athletic at the net, has great hands.

'Taylor is a guy you expect to only get better. He has the potential of making anybody feel uncomfortable, even somebody with the serving and holding ability of Andy.'

Kuerten, three times a French Open champion, had never progressed further than the second round on Melbourne Park's Rebound Ace surface but yesterday the Brazilian beat Ivan Ljubicic, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3.

American veteran Todd Martin battled past Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7) and will face Marat Safin after the Russian beat Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Frenchman Nicolas Escude overcame Rainer Schuettler's conqueror Robin Soderling 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 and will face 32nd seed Robby Ginepri, of America.

James Blake, handed a first-round reprieve after a qualifier replaced the injured seventh seed Carlos Moya, beat Nicolas Lapenti 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 2-6 6-1.

Tests get under skin

Bohdan Ulihrach, the Czech whose overturned doping ban could form the backbone of Greg Rusedski's defence, wants an end to drug-testing.

The 28-year-old also suggested a move to delete nandrolone from the list of banned substances because, he says, 'that is the problem'.

Rusedski must convince a three-man tribunal on February 9 that he should not be held culpable for the traces of nandrolone found in his system last July.

The 30-year-old argues his case is the same as those of Ulihrach and six other unnamed players, who were cleared of doping offences last year because the Association of Tennis Professionals could not be certain their positive tests were not linked to supplements provided by tour trainers.

Ulihrach said: 'The best thing would be to maybe cancel thetests, because innocent players can be punished. Maybe they should take nandrolone off the list (of banned substances), because that's the problem - not only in tennis.'

Meanwhile, Andre Agassi says he is scared to drink anything other than water or specific bottled drinks in case he gives a positive sample. He said: 'I had an irritation on the back of my right hand that was leaving me with swelling. In order for me to put on basic skin irritant cream, I had to fill out three pages of forms and get them faxed (to the ATP) and confirmed it was OK to put cream on my hand.'

CAPTION(S):

Taylor Dent piles on the power on his way to a five-set win over Juan Ignacio Chela and a date with Andy RoddickPictures/GETTY IMAGES
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Title Annotation:Tennis
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 22, 2004
Words:671
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