Tennis: Agassi's injury fear for Wimbledon

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DOUBTS THAT Andre Agassi will be able to compete at Wimbledon surfaced yesterday when the newly crowned French Open champion withdrew from his sole grass court warm-up tournament, the Gerry Weber Open here in northern Germany, with a hip injury.

Agassi pulled out citing a "hip flexor strain". At a news conference originally scheduled for him to explain how he had celebrated his French Open triumph, the 29-year-old American found himself explaining how close the injury had come to scuppering his chances in Paris.

"I first became aware of it after my third-round match," he said, "and we were monitoring it every round after that. If it hadn't been for the tournament trainer and my own trainer I might not have gotten through the two weeks.

"I was helped by having a day off between matches, and I had the strong hope that after a day's treatment here that I could play, but I was not so lucky. I aggravated it significantly in the final and more damage was done."

A factor in his decision was the fear that playing on in Halle might not just have ruled him out of Wimbledon but done long-term damage. "The strain is significant enough that I ought to take care of it immediately," he said.

Agassi flew back to Los Angeles to have treatment from George Fareed, a doctor whose controversial dismissal by the US Tennis Association earlier this year reinforced Agassi's decision not to play in the Davis Cup for his country. Agassi has faith in Fareed, and is "confident" of being fit for Wimbledon, which starts in 12 days.

The withdrawal of the new world No 4 left the organiser at Halle, Gerhard Weber, frustrated but not angry after capturing the charismatic American for the second time in the seven years of his tournament. "I'm disappointed," he said, "but we're glad he's seen our facilities, it enhances our chances of getting him next year."

Another player whose grass court preparations suffered a blow was the 1996 Wimbledon champion, Richard Krajicek, a semi- finalist at the All England Club last year. The Dutchman lost in the first round here, 7-6, 6-4 to Daniel Vacekin.

With few opportunities to break, Krajicek was undone by a couple of tentative first volleys at critical moments. The first came at 6-7 in the first-set tie-break after he had saved three set points, a gently struck forehand volley allowing Vacek to pass him with a stunning forehand drive. The second came with the 28-year-old Czech at 4-4 with break point, Krajicek spooning a volley over the baseline to allow Vacek to serve for the match.

"I can't really explain it," Krajicek said. "I've been playing well in practice, but I need a couple of wins."