Tennis: Wimbledon '93 / Agassi lets his hair down to conclude the day's business: While the champion loosens up after tightening his game, Foster flies the flag for Britain with a barnstorming three-set performance

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THE media wanted Andre Agassi to get something off his chest at Wimbledon yesterday, and the playful defending champion was only too happy to oblige.

'Why and how did you have your body hair removed?' The question was inspired by before-and-after photographs in a tabloid newspaper showing the Agassi torso hirsute today, gone tomorrow.

'It's not gone. It's right here.' To be fair, spectators on Court One had already been treated to a glimpse of the fluff when the Las Vegan removed his shirt during a changeover and waved and blew kisses when female admirers expressed their approval.

But surely there was less body hair than last year. Does he remove it? 'Yes, I guess you could say that,' he replied. Why? 'It makes me a little bit more aerodynamic out there on the courts, you know?'

The business of the day largely went to form. MaliVai Washington, the 14th seed, fell to a compatriot, Aaron Krickstein, but 'The Kricker' can upset anybody on his day. Pete Sampras, the No 1 seed, continued to advance, as did other leading contenders in the top half of the draw, Boris Becker, Michael Stich and Richard Krajicek.

Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, the 11th seed, disappeared from the women's singles, and Jennifer Capriati experienced another false start before defeating Liz Smylie in three sets. But there was little trouble for the leading ladies.

Agassi had toiled through a dreadful opening phase of a second-round match against the Portuguese Joao Cunha-Silva, then managed to tighten his game before matters became serious and swept on 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Now it was time for fun.

What method does he use to have the hair removed? 'Well, I'll do it myself most of the time, but if there are other options I'll have somebody else do it. But I'm very selective.'

Someone asked if there was anyone he particularly liked to do it for him. 'Let me put put it this way: I wouldn't let you do it.'

At this point, there was an interjection by the obligatory All England Club official. 'Could we have questions on tennis, please?'

'You see,' Agassi said, 'now we're back to where we belong. The first day you asked me all about tennis. I thought, 'There's something wrong with this.'

Likewise, there had been something wrong with his game when he stepped on the court, sluggish and lacking the touch to put away six break points before Cunha-Silva, ranked No 119 in the world, set himself up for the opening set.

'I felt like my serve had no rhythm and I felt like my return had no rhythm,' he said. 'I felt like everything I counted on kind of wasn't there at the start, for technical reasons actually. Then I made an adjustment in the middle of the second set, sort of watching the ball more cleanly on the second serve and moving forward to take it a little earlier.'

There were also updates on Agassi's progress in view of the dodgy arm and elbow and the improvised serve. 'I've been working really hard physically, and I feel really good as far as being in shape. But there's always a difference when you are training and running and then coming out and playing a match, especially on grass. I feel like I'm not really responding as quickly as I should. But I feel it's coming alive. By the end of the match I was hitting the ball as well as I can.'

Yes, fine. But did he use a razor or waxing to remove the body hair?

Official: 'You don't have to answer that.'

Agassi: 'No, I'm having fun with this. Settle down, it's all right. It's a revolutionary idea on how I do it because it just keeps it a certain length and I don't have to remove it entirely. I may even market the idea.'

What is it? 'I can't tell. It's a secret. I mean, I can't give it away. Everybody is going to start doing it. The girls like me better with shorter hair. I don't want them to start liking other guys, you know.'

Is it painful? 'No, it's not painful. That's what makes it so special.'

On a related matter, was he following a special diet? 'At different stages of the year I do. Off-time I have a strong craving for things that probably aren't as good for me as they should be, which has been no secret. But I do monitor what I eat as I get closer to the event, especially something like Wimbledon.'

And the trademark cap: Why did he not wear it from the start? 'Just a change of pace, you know. I've just kind of been a little tired of it lately, but I put the thing on as soon as I lost the first set. Maybe it's superstition, but it felt good going back to it. You know, I kind of miss the headband so I tried it. I tried it here last year, second round, and I lost the first set and went back to my hat then as well.'

Cap or no cap, having stuttered at the start of two matches, how far does he expect to advance? 'If I get better each match - and certainly my expectations are no less than that - I believe I can do what I did last year. That's just the bottom line. But to come into this tournament early in the first week and say I feel like I've got a good chance at winning it is a ridiculous comment to make because there are so many tough players, and on this surface anything can happen. I feel what happens is a lot up to me and a lot up to fate.'

Does he read the stuff that is printed about him and what percentage is fiction? 'If I miss a movie that night, I get all the papers and put them down, and that's what I do instead because it really kind of keeps me amused. I really enjoy reading it, I have to be honest. And what was the second part of the question?'

What percentage of it is fiction? 'If I answer that, then a lot of people may stop reading it. It's everybody's goal here to get everybody to read, so you don't want me to answer that.'

Surely he could not send us home without detailing his revolutionary mystery method of cutting body hair?

'It's not patented yet.'

Graf's punchline, Results,

Today's Order of Play, page 39

(Photograph omitted)

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