Agassi upstaged by performing Seal

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The Independent Online
Tennis

It seemed apposite that the pop star Seal should top the bill at the ATP Tour awards gala here last night, given his success with the Batman Forever soundtrack plus the fact that it was an ideal day for performing seals.

Steady rain caused lengthy delays at the Monte Carlo Open, Andre Agassi being among the frustrated competitors as he endeavoured to win his first match in three visits to the tournament. Agassi was on and off the Centre Court three times before defeating the Dutch left-hander Jan Siemerink 6-2, 6-3, after 62 minutes.

The Las Vegan won the first set after 35 minutes, then play was interrupted with Siemerink leading 2-1 in the second set. It resumed for five minutes more - just enough time for Agassi to retake the lead 3-2 - before the players adjourned to the locker-room again.

Although Agassi had controlled most of the points, he did not to take anything for granted, remembering his three-set defeats here against Austria's Horst Skoff in 1991 and the Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1994.

There was no blip by the American on this occasion. Although Siemerink saved three break points in the seventh game, he lost his nerve under pressure in the ninth, double-faulting on the second match point.

The weather did not hinder those scheduled for No 2 Court, which is blessed with a folding roof. Bohdan Ulihrach, a promising young Czech, took advantage of the amenity to record a 6-4, 6-2 win against Sweden's Magnus Larsson, and Sergi Bruguera began to resemble the player every opponent used to fear on the clay courts in defeating Andrea Gaudenzi, 6-2, 7-6.

Last week, Bruguera lost to Larsson in three sets in the third round of his home tournament in Barcelona, and a year ago the Spaniard was defeated by Gaudenzi here in straight sets in the quarter-finals.

That result was typical of Bruguera's fortunes last year, when the winner of the French Open back-to-back in 1993 and 1994, following two victories in Monte Carlo, struggled to overcome injury problems.

"When you don't play it's very difficult," Bruguera said. "You can practise a lot, very hard, but it doesn't matter if you're out of the competition. When you are out for a long time, maybe you relax and have an easy life and you have to recover the hunger to win. I had a very bad year, and I still feel that I'm not moving as well as before, but now I'm hungry to win something."

Results, Sporting Digest, page 27

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