Tennis: Agassi set to start US Cup challenge

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The Independent Online
ANDRE AGASSI, the Wimbledon champion, is expected to shake off a leg injury and open the United States attempt to regain the Davis Cup when he meets Switzerland's Jakob Hlasek in Fort Worth, Texas, today.

Agassi goes into the rubber full of confidence on the back of a nine-match winning streak in Davis Cup play. 'I think I play well in the Davis Cup for one main reason,' Agassi said. 'There are four days of good practice. I've never really had that kind of opportunity to play with such great players for preparation.' One of those, Pete Sampras, the 1990 US Open champion, will take over in the singles if Agassi is unfit.

The second singles match, on the hard indoor surface, is between Jim Courier, the world No 1, and Marc Rosset. Their match will complete the first day of the three-day event, which is the best-of-five rubbers. Tomorrow Sampras and John McEnroe face Hlasek and Rosset in the doubles before the reverse singles on Sunday.

The United States, still smarting from last year's defeat by France, are strong favourites to beat the surprisingly successful Swiss combination of Hlasek, ranked 34th in the world, and Rosset, ranked 36th.

'Basically the mission for this whole year has been to win back the Cup,' the non-playing captain, Tom Gorman, who has led the Americans to their third consecutive final, said. 'Our players want it too badly not to make it happen.'

Both camps have had problems with their preparations for the final. Turmoil in the Swiss camp led to the expulsion of captain Roland Stadler last month. He resigned after receiving a no-confidence vote from his players and has been replaced by Dimitri Sturdza. The US team have had to cope with the distracting publicity generated by the marital problems of McEnroe and his actress wife, Tatum O'Neal.

The United States, making a 57th appearance in the finals, will be going for a record 30th Davis Cup. The Swiss, new to this kind of Davis Cup pressure, completed their run to the finals with a 5-0 win over a Brazil. They also had earlier victories over the Netherlands and the cup holders, France.

Rosset, who beat Courier in Spain this year on his way to winning the Olympic gold medal, is convinced his country can triumph. 'If I didn't believe we could win, I'd just stay home and go ski,' he said.

DAVIS CUP (Fort Worth) Today's order of play: Singles: A Agassi (US) v J Hlasek (Swit); J Courier (US) v M Rosset (Swit). Tomorrow: Doubles: J McEnroe and P Sampras (US) v Hlasek and Rosset. Sunday: Reverse Singles: Courier v Hlasek; Agassi v Rosset.