Mixed fortunes for Sampras and Agassi

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The Independent Online

Pete Sampras shook off the rust. Andre Agassi couldn't.

Pete Sampras shook off the rust. Andre Agassi couldn't.

The second-seeded Sampras, playing his first match since winning Wimbledon for the seventh time, recovered from a shaky start to beat Michael Llodra of France 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the first round of the $2.95 million Tennis Masters Series-Canada.

The top-seeded Agassi, playing for the first time since injuring his back in an automobile accident, lost 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6) to Jerome Golmard of France in a first-round match that was completed on Tuesday after being suspended by rain after three games Monday night.

With former tennis great Steffi Graf at courtside cheering him on, Agassi had nine double-faults in the loss to Golmard, who is ranked 61st on the ATP Tour.

"(My back) obviously wasn't ready for the pounding," said Agassi, sitting awkwardly in a chair while answering questions. "I wasn't able to be at my best because of it. ... I'm just not quite there."

Agassi says he was rusty coming in to the event as he recovered from the July 9 accident as he returned from Wimbledon. He was forced to miss the United States' semifinal loss to Spain in the Davis Cup.

"It's been a few weeks for me since I really hit tennis balls," he said. "I expected it to be tough ... but I'm just not ready yet."

Admitting the back injury worried him, Agassi hopes to be in full form for the U.S. Open which starts Aug. 28.

"There's no question I still have a lot of ground to cover," he said.

Golmard was excited with the win.

"It's a dream for me. I need a few days, maybe a few weeks, to enjoy this victory," Golmard said. "I never thought in my mind I could beat the No. 1 in the world.

"I can't wait to tell my parents."

Sampras said he was fully recovered from the tendinitis in his shin that hampered him in London.

He was pushed to the limit by the 20-year-old Llodra, who is ranked 142nd on the ATP Tour, pulling away in a third-set tiebreak to end a match which was delayed three hours by a downpour.

"I thought he came out and played great. I give him credit," Sampras said of Llodra.

"It was a match that I didn't feel like I was in control," said Sampras, who played his first hard-court match since April. "But I never felt like I was going to lose."

It wasn't Llodra's first encounter with Sampras, having lost to him at the Queen's tournament in mid-June, a Wimbledon warm-up.

"It's not easy to play Pete Sampras, especially after him just winning Wimbledon," Llodra said. "I think he's the best player in the world right now."

Llodra had 13 aces to 11 for Sampras.

"He's got a huge serve," Sampras said. "... I played him at Queen's. I knew he had a big game."

Sampras says he didn't touch a racket for two weeks after winning Wimbledon, his record 13th Grand Slam title.

"I needed that time off to emotionally and physically recover," he said.

But he added: "It feels good to go out there and compete again. It's the time of year that I love to play."

In other matches Tuesday, eighth-seeded Marat Safin of Russia beat Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 and No. 14 Patrick Rafter of Australia defeated Arvind Parmar of Britain 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Seeded players who lost Tuesday were No. 10 Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador, who was beaten 6-4, 6-3 by Stefan Koubek of Austria, No. 15 Tim Henman of Britain, who lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to Marcelo Rios of Chile, and No. 16 Mark Philippoussis of Australia, who fell 6-4, 7-6 (6) to Sargis Sargsian of Armenia.

Results from the $2.45 million Tennis Masters Series-Canada ATP Tour hard-court tournament:

Singles - First Round

Stefan Koubek, Austria, def. Nicolas Lapentti (10), Ecuador, 6-4, 6-3. Arnaud Clement, France, def. Mariano Puerta, Argentina, 6-3, 6-3. Sebastien Lareau, Canada, def. Fabrice Santoro, France, 6-4, 6-1. Pete Sampras (2), United States def. Michael Llodra, France, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4). Marcelo Rios, Chile, def. Tim Henman (15), Britain, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Gaston Gaudio, Argentina, def. Jeff Tarango, United States, 7-6 (3), 7-5. Paradorn Srichaphan, Thailand, def. Chris Woodruff, United States, 6-3, 6-4. Nicolas Escude (17), France, def. Mariano Zabaleta, Argentina, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Jerome Golmard, France, def. Andre Agassi (1), United States, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6). Marat Safin (8), Russia, def. Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. Karol Kucera, Slovakia, def. James Sekulov, Australia, 6-4, 6-4. Wayne Ferreira, South Africa, def. Franco Squillari (13), Argentina, 7-6 (6), 6-4. Patrick Rafter (14), Australia, def. Arvind Parmar, Britain, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Cyril Saulnier, France, def. Emilio Alvarez, Spain, 6-2, 6-3 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia (5) def. Fernando Vicenti, Spain, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (0) Juan Carlos Ferrero, Spain (12), def. Daniel Nestor, Canada, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4 Sargis Sargsian, Armenia, def. Mark Philippoussis, Australia (16), 6-4, 7-6 (6) Michael Chang, United States, def. Hicharn Arazi, Morrocco, 6-3, 6-3.

Doubles - First Round

Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer (1), United States, def. Roger Federer, Switzerland, and Andrew Kratzmann, Australia, 6-4, 7-6 (1). Mahesh Bhupathi, India and Mark Knowles, Bahamas, def. David Rikl and Jiri Novak (4), Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-3.