Agassi's US Open hopes hit by early defeat

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The Independent Online

Andre Agassi, the top seed, made a quick exit in the opening round of the Masters Series event in Toronto on Tuesday. The American, having his first match since suffering a back injury in a car accident after being beaten by Rafter in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, lost two tie-break sets to Jerome Golmard, of France, in a match carried over from Mondaybecause of a rain delay.

Andre Agassi, the top seed, made a quick exit in the opening round of the Masters Series event in Toronto on Tuesday. The American, having his first match since suffering a back injury in a car accident after being beaten by Rafter in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, lost two tie-break sets to Jerome Golmard, of France, in a match carried over from Mondaybecause of a rain delay.

"My back is not ready for the pounding it got," he said. "It's been a few weeks since I hit any tennis balls and I certainly felt it stiffen up and hinder me." Agassi now faces a race against time to be fully fit for the US Open, which starts in New York on August 28.

Tim Henman and Arvind Parmar also went out at the first hurdle.Henman, seeded 15th, will have been desperately disappointed after losing 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to the Chilean Marcelo Rios. Parmar, however, who only qualified as a lucky loser, will have taken plenty of heart from his 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 defeat to the double US Open winner and this year's Wimbledon runner-up, Pat Rafter.

Henman was made to pay for 33 unforced errors and four double- faults and now looks set to fall from 16th place in the ATPChampions' Race. He had won his last two meetings with Rios, a former world No 1 now ranked 32 in the world, but never managed to find his best form.

Rios broke Henman's serve in the sixth game of the deciding set and looked set for a comfortable victory when going 40-0 up at 5-3. Henman rallied to save three match points, but it was to no avail as Rios held his nerve to clinch the win.

The second seed, Pete Sampras, was also in action for the first time since Wimbledon, where he claimed his seventh title and a record 13th Grand Slam win. He recovered from a shaky start to beat Michael Llodra, of France, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6.

Sampras was pushed to the limit by the 20-year-old Llodra, who is ranked a lowly 142nd on the ATP Tour, only emerging victorious after a third-set tiebreak that ended a match which had been delayed three hours by a downpour.I thought he came out and played great. I give him credit," Sampras said.

Rested and ready after a breakfollowing her quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon, Martina Hingis opened defence of her title at the WTA Acura Classic in Carlsbad, California, by beating Dominique van Roost, of Belgium, 6-2, 7-6 on Tuesday to book a place in the quarter-finals. Anna Kournikova, of Russia, powered past the hard-hittingAmerican Alexandra Stevenson 6-2, 6-3 in just 61 minutes.

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