Tennis: Agassi makes commanding start

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The Independent Online
ANDRE AGASSI gave the United States a 1-0 lead and the psychological advantage in the Davis Cup final last night by overwhelming Switzerland's Jakob Hlasek 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the opening singles match in Forth Worth, Texas.

The ease of Agassi's victory came as a rude awakening for the Swiss, who had brushed aside Brazil 5-0 in the semi-finals to earn their first chance of winning the tournament. The big-serving Marc Rosset faced immense pressure to level the best-of-five-match tie in the second singles against Jim Courier, who he beat in Barcelona on his way to the Olympic gold medal in the summer.

Agassi, determined that the United States should make a strong start to their attempt to retrieve the trophy they surrendered to France last year, needed less than an hour and a half to see off the Swiss No 1. He had predicted Hlasek would need to be at his best to beat him and he quickly silenced the cowbell-ringing Swiss among the 12,000 crowd at the Tarrant County Convention Center.

Employing one of the best returns in the game to good effect, Agassi put his opponent on the back foot from the start on the hard Plexi-Court surface and it was not until the sixth game that Hlasek held serve, after six deuces. The tone of the match was set, and having dropped only four points on serve in the first set, Agassi did not face a break point until he was serving for the match.

'I just wanted every point,' Agassi said, who had not played a match for five weeks. 'I wasn't expecting to play this well. This was a little bit more than I had hoped for.'

The two teams took contrasting routes to the final. Five different players won singles or doubles matches to carry the United States through the first three rounds, but the Swiss have relied on Rosset and Hlasek.

Having seen off the challenge from the Netherlands, the Swiss pair put an end to France's reign as champions in the second round before the whitewash of Brazil in Geneva. The United States, who beat Australia in the 1990 final, first encountered Argentina and followed that success by dismissing the threats posed by Czechoslovakia and Sweden in their attempt to win the Davis Cup for the 30th time.

Today Pete Sampras and John McEnroe will take on Hlasek and Rosset in the doubles, with the reverse singles completing the tie on Sunday.

DAVIS CUP FINAL (Fort Worth, Texas): A Agassi (US) bt J Hlasek (Swit) 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. United States leads 1-0.