TENNIS : Draw favours Agassi

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The Independent Online
Andre Agassi, the US Open champion, was yesterday given the perfect start in his attempt to win a second successive grand slam title, when the draw for the Australian Open pitted him against qualifiers in both his opening two matches.

The second-seeded American, who will be playing at Flinders Park for the first time when the tournament gets under way on Monday, will not have to face a player ranked higher than 136 in the world until at least the third round.

In contrast, Pete Sampras, the defending champion, has been drawn in the same quarter as Jim Courier, his predecessor as world No 1, the Grand Slam Cup winner, Magnus Larsson, and the seventh seed, Michael Stich.

Sampras begins with a first- round match against Gianluca Pozzi of Italy, 92nd in the world.

Boris Becker, who meets Patrick McEnroe in the first round, has a potential quarter-final against Stefan Edberg, with Agassi seeded to face Todd Martin and Goran Ivanisevic set to meet Michael Chang at the same stage.

Britain's Jeremy Bates faces a tough opening match against Henrik Holm of Sweden, while Mark Petchey meets Radomir Vasek of the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, all four British players in the men's qualifying competition - Jamie Delgado, Miles MacLagan, Ross Matheson and Gary Henderson - were beaten in the first round yesterday.