Tennis: Agassi and Johansson keep Masters Cup hopes alive
STOCKHOLM : Top seed Andre Agassi and Sweden's number two Joachim Johansson both stormed into the quarter-finals of the 632,750-euro Stockholm Open with both men determined to book their places in the end-of-season Masters Cup.
Agassi clinched a 6-3, 6-4 win over fellow veteran Jonas Bjorkman in their second-round clash.
It was Agassi's fourth career victory against the Swede dating back to 1996.
Johansson, a surprise US Open semi-finalist and now ranked 11th, pulled off a 6-4, 6-4 victory over American Jan-Michael Gambill to join Agassi in the last eight.
Both men are heading towards a seeded Sunday final collision course with a spot in next month's eight-man Masters event a glittering prize.
Provisional eighth-placed Agassi needs to pass Briton Tim Henman - still alive this week in Basel - to book in on the seventh spot.
Johansson has a chance at a possible alternate's spot in the field if he does well here and next week in Paris to end the regular ATP season.
"It would be great to finish in the top eight," said Agassi.
"That would be an accomplishment to be appreciative of. It's also important for next year and at the Australian Open."
"I'm always hungry for a chance to compete against the best in the world."
Agassi, competing here for the first time since 1994, will face off Friday against Spanish eighth seed Fernando Verdasco, who knocked out Raemon Sluiter of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-2.
Agassi put Bjorkman into a two-break deficit in the second set, but the Swede got one back as he broke while Agassi served for victory.
But the Las Vegas holder of eight Grand Slam trophies hardly bowed under pressure, constructing a winning break-back to claim his place in the last eight.
"Every day, you have to be better than one person," Agassi said of his effort.
"And what's required each day is always different. To deal with Jonas the way I did today wasn't easy to do. I can feel good about many parts of my game for it to go in straight sets."
Johansson will face the surprise packet of the event in Swedish teenager Michael Ryderstedt.
The 19-year-old is on a purple patch after winning his first ATP match this week, and carrying on with an upset of fifth seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3.
The left-hander began the season ranked 514th and has improved by nearly 300 places.
Johansson has reached at least the quarters of his last five tournaments stretching back to August, his big serve accounting for nearly 15 aces per match; he struck 16 Thursday.
German fourth seed Tommy Haas took a third win this season over Kenneth Carlsen as he ousted the Dane 7-5, 7-5, adding to success in Halle and Los Angeles.