Agassi leads praise as Sampras bids a tearful farewell

'I'm at peace with stopping,' says Grand Slam record holder as US Open stages glitzy goodbye

The day after the "Pete Sampras Night" before, the United States Open settled back to business without quite so much razzmatazz.

There was another American farewell, this time for the 31-year-old Michael Chang, whose career came to a close with a first-round defeat by Fernando Gonzales, of Chile, 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Chang, the 1989 French Open champion, was given a standing ovation as he left the court. Andre Agassi, the last of the American string quartet (Sampras, Agassi, Chang and Jim Courier) played on, strumming past Alex Corretja, of Spain, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the French Open women's singles champion, joined her Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters in the second round, but not without a fight. Henin-Hardenne, the second seed, struggled in the opening set before overcoming Aniko Kapros, of Hungary, 7-5, 6-3.

The 19-year-old Kapros, ranked No 129, had troubled Henin-Hardenne before, eliminating her in the first round of the 2002 French Open. On that occasion Henin-Hardenne was suffering from a virus. Yesterday, the Belgian struggled to find her range in a topsy-turvy start to the match and then took control.

The Sampras tribute was the showpiece of the opening day, a glitzy ceremony sandwiched between the night matches featuring Clijsters, the world No 1, who defeated Amber Liu, an American wild card, 6-2, 6-3, and Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 men's singles champion, who dispatched Victor Hanescu, of Romania, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

As the 32-year-old Sampras shed tears for souvenirs during his farewell to tennis in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, Dick Enberg, the MC, stepped to the microphone and said: "It's what we all love about the guy ­ he never showed any emotion."

"To say I'm not going to play again or be out here on this court, it's emotional," Sampras said. "But I'm also realistic in knowing that my time is done. I've done everything I can do. I'm at peace with stopping. It's time to move on."

Sampras has not played competitively since he defeated Andre Agassi in four sets to win his record 14th Grand Slam title at last year's US Open. Agassi was among those lined up to pay tribute. "I've been privileged to be challenged by him and to share a rivalry with him," Agassi said. "I've never played anyone better."

Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon three times before Sampras began his all-conquering run at the All England Club, said: "Before you were around, I used to own that place."

And John McEnroe, who clashed with Sampras during his career and rarely had a kind word to say about him at the time, said: "You are the greatest player I've ever played against. We respect you, and that's the greatest compliment you can get."

Meanwhile, an unglamorous retirement was taking place on Grandstand Court. Alex Bogomolov, a 22-year-old wild card from Florida, the world No 117, was writhing in agony from cramp, with not a physio in sight, after serving at 30-40 in the second game of the fifth set of his first round match against the Dutchman Martin Verkerk.

Bogomolov spent eight minutes in this sorry state until Bill Norris, an ATP trainer, arrived to treat him. Bogomolov, who held two match points in a fourth set tie-break, eventually left the court and the championships on a stretcher. "My whole body closed down," Bogomolov said. "I've never cramped before. It feels like you're paralysed."

Ironically, Bogomolov was a spectator on Grandstand Court in 1995 watching the match that led to a change in the rule concerning the treatment for cramp. At that time players were not allowed to be treated for cramp, which was considered a conditioning problem. Shuzo Matsuoka, of Japan, who was playing the Czech Petr Korda, was first given a warning, then penalised a game, and finally disqualified.

Yesterday, the organisers investigated why it had taken so long for Bogomolov to receive treatment and discovered that the training staff had not been advised of a change in the access to the court.

Greg Rusedski, the British No 2, lost in the first round on Monday to Gregory Carraz, of France, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. Rusedski, who gave a weary performance, later erased concerns that he may have been injured again. He said he was looking forward to next month's Davis Cup tie in Morocco. "I'm fine," Rusedski said. "I hadn't played a five-set match since my comeback [after nine months recovering from injury], and the hard courts are quite difficult. Unfortunately, my tennis level wasn't that great."

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