Jeers for Agassi's parting shot

Tennis
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The Independent Online
Andre Agassi headed for a six-week break from the game here yesterday with the boos and whistles of angry, disappointed fans ringing in his ears.

For the second time within a month, Agassi faced a cacophony of jeers and whistles from German fans after a 76-minute, 6-3, 6-4 defeat by the Australian doubles expert Mark Woodforde in the first round of the Compaq Grand Slam Cup.

The chorus of disapproval was not as loud it was in Hanover last month when Agassi put up a spineless display against the world No 1, Pete Sampras, in the ATP World Championship and promptly pulled out of the event, citing illness.

But Agassi admitted he had been suffering with motivation problems in the last few months and needed a break from the game, and has decided to miss next month's Australian Open.

"I certainly am taking the time off in the hope and desire and plan of getting strong, fit and getting my game back to where it can be," he said. "I seem to thrive in kind of digging myself in a bit of a hole and getting excited to come out of it again.

"None of it's worth it if you just keep running yourself into the ground, if you keep having to play events and keep chasing your tail."

The defending champion, Goran Ivanisevic, had no such problems. The Croat powered past Sweden's Mikael Tillstrom. Ivanisevic put on a fine display of aggressive serving to clinch a 6-4, 6-2 victory in just 55 minutes.

There were very few rallies on the fast surface as both players hammered in massive serves. Ivanisevic is capable of some subtle tennis, but he rarely needed any this time. The only drama came in the seventh game of the first set when Ivanisevic had a break point.

Tillstrom's volley at the net clearly landed out but was called in. Ivanisevic argued with the umpire after watching a replay on the television screen above the court.

The Croat eventually cooled down and went on to clinch the set after 31 minutes after the best rally of the match during which he hit a half- volley through his legs. A break early in the next further settled his nerves, and Ivanisevic moved on to the quarter-finals.

Switzerland's Jakob Hlasek, who recently announced his retirement from the game, won his opening match against Frenchman Cedric Pioline 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will now play the tournament favourite, Boris Becker, in today's first quarter-final.

In the last first-round match, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia's French Open champion, eased past Spain's Alex Corretja 6-4, 7-6 and he now faces Jim Courier.

Tim Henman, the British No 1, faces a quarter-final contest with MaliVai Washington which could earn him a $425,000 (pounds 257,000) if he beats the American today.

n Monica Seles was forced off court again by a nagging shoulder injury, retiring after losing the first set of her match against Slovakia's Karina Habsudova on her debut at the Komercni Banka Open in Brno, the Czech Republic, yesterday.

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