Tennis: Easy start for Agassi

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Andre Agassi began his road to the hard courts of next month's US Open with a convincing 6-2 6-2 victory over the Frenchman Rodolphe Gilbert at the Legg Mason Classic yesterday.

In his first match on a hard surface this season, the world No 1 won his first 17 points on serve and never faced a break point. He won 95 per cent of the points when he got his first serve in, and he controlled the tempo throughout.

"If I can get you on the defensive right off the bat, you're fighting an uphill battle," said Agassi, twice winner of this tournament.

Agassi's easy victory was a departure from the norm on a day when most of the seeded players struggled in the heat. The fourth seed, Todd Martin, and the fifth-seeded Jason Stoltenberg won easily, but five of the 10 seeded players in action were upset.

France's Olivier Delaitre was the highest seed to fall when he lost 6- 3, 6-3 to the Australian Mark Philippoussis. The Colombian Mauricio Hadad came back from 4-0 down in the final set to beat the ninth seed, Aaron Krickstein, 3-6,6-1, 6-4.

Jeremy Bates' hopes of a hat-trick of titles at the Manchester Challenger at Didsbury - he won in 1984 and 1985 - were dashed when he was beaten 6- 3, 7-5 by Germany's Christian Saceanu.

The day began with seven British players in the singles. Now only two - Mark Petchey and Chris Wilkinson - remain. Tim Henman, who impressed against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, lost to the Dutchman Sander Groen.