Agassi skips clay to focus on grass

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The Independent Online

Andre Agassi has underlined his determination to play at Wimbledon this summer by entering the Stella Artois Championships at Queen's Club. The American, who is skipping the clay-court season to concentrate on his grass campaign, has been troubled by injuries and has not played since the Indian Wells Masters Series event in March.

Agassi, 36, reached the US Open final last September, but ankle and hip problems have restricted his appearances over the past eight months. He has had cortisone injections in his back and hopes his conservative schedule will improve his chances of playing in England in the summer.

"It's a preservation plan," Agassi said. "The clay has been pretty tough on my body over the last few years. In the last two years it's unfortunately been the specific reason why I haven't been ready for Wimbledon."

Agassi strengthens an impressive line-up for the Stella Artois Championships, which take place from 12 to 18 June. The field includes Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Ivan Ljubicic, James Blake and the British trio of Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.

Murray will miss this week's Estoril Open after injuring his back at the Barcelona Open last week. The British No 1 will rest to prepare for the forthcoming Masters Series events in Rome and Hamburg.

Murray's friend and rival, Rafael Nadal, won the Barcelona Open on Sunday, putting him in sight of Guillermo Vilas' clay-court streak of 53 successive wins. With his victory over Tommy Robredo, Nadal overtook Bjorn Borg, claiming his 47th consecutive clay win, and he is looking towards the French Open to break the record.

"I guess I could try to go for Vilas' total in Rome," the 19-year-old Spaniard said. "But I have my sights set on Roland Garros."