Irritable Agassi makes heavy weather of Diaz

No sooner had Monica Seles played her part in a dedication ceremony to re-name Court A in honour of Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open here yesterday than Andre Agassi appeared to confuse the place with the nearby Avenue Gordon Bennett. The American's penchant for expletives brought him within one curse of disqualification.

Agassi became increasingly irritable as he attempted to hold his game together in almost constant drizzle on a cold, miserable opening day at Stade Roland Garros. He was warned for one audible obscenity and penalised a point for another.

That took the No 3 seed to the brink when he hardly needed the additional handicap of disciplinary worries. His erratic form had already awakened hope in his opponent, Jacobo Diaz, a Spanish qualifier ranked No 261 in the world. Agassi managed to regain control of his shots and his tongue after a 90-minute rain delay in the fourth set, advancing to the second round, 6-1, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.

"I have a tendency to make it more difficult on myself than it needs to be," Agassi acknowledged, while rejecting the notion that he ever feared he would be leaving the grounds in disgrace. "I felt pretty much in control as far as that goes," he said.

The umpire, Australia's Wayne McKewen, was also involved in a notorious incident during one of Agassi's matches at the US Open in 1990. On that occasion Agassi spat in McKewen's direction, but he was given the benefit of the doubt by the supervisor after pleading that he was not aiming at the umpire.

Agassi's struggle within himself yesterday was symptomatic of the sense of anxiety which pervaded the start of the championships, with so many competitors desperate to reassure themselves that they were healthy enough and sufficiently well prepared to make a decent challenge. Although Mary Pierce seemed in danger of catching her death of cold in a skimpy dress, the leading players emerged unscathed.

In Seles's case, the only threat came during the Court Lenglen ceremony, when one of the dignitaries evidently forgot about her injury and gave her damaged shoulder a friendly pat. Otherwise, her first appearance here since completing a hat-trick of singles triumphs four years ago - before Gunther Parche and his knife disrupted her life - went well.

Judgement regarding the efficiency of Seles's serve, however, will have to be reserved until she faces a more challenging opponent than the 22- year-old Caroline Dhenin, a sturdy French wild card ranked No 168 in the world. There was certainly no lack of potency in Seles's returns as she swept to victory, 6-1, 6-1, in 52 minutes.

"Last Thursday I stopped my practice because I literally could not serve," Seles said. "Sunday was the first day I served easily. I just have to make the best of it, take it a match at a time, but I definitely have to serve some better serves.''

Pete Sampras felt no twinges from his back injury when defeating Sweden's Magnus Gustafsson, 6-1, 7-5, 7-6, but the top seed knows that his problems here are just about to begin. A year ago, his second-round match against Sergi Bruguera would have been hailed as an ideal final.

Bruguera, the champion in 1993 and 1994, is not ranked high enough to be seeded this time. Yesterday he advanced to meet Sampras with a straight- sets win against Javier Sanchez, a Spanish compatriot. "My road here just gets tougher," Sampras mused, remembering that Bruguera eliminated him in four sets when they played in the quarter-finals in 1993.

While Bruguera's game was made for clay courts, Sampras is still learning to come to terms with the sport's slowest surface. "I'm trying to play on my terms, be aggressive, not be so passive like I have been in the past," the American said.

Tim Henman is another who needs to find his feet on clay, although the British No 1's debut here was not helped by five weeks' absence because of a virus. Henman's participation ended with a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 defeat by Kris Goossens, of Belgium.

Being French, there were tears from Henri Leconte in his retirement year. He bade farewell by climbing into the umpire's chair and addressing the crowd after losing to Sweden's Thomas Johansson, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.

Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Stephen Hawking is reportedly taking steps to trademark his name
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales Executive - Software & Hardware Automation

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leading hardware an...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

Recruitment Genius: CAD Technician - Structural Engineering

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are Consulting Str...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Account Executive is require...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor