Notes and quotes from the US Open

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The Independent Online

Andre Agassi is attempting to become the third straight man to win back-to-back titles at the U.S. Open.

Andre Agassi is attempting to become the third straight man to win back-to-back titles at the U.S. Open.

Pete Sampras won U.S. Open titles in 1995 and '96 before Patrick Rafter won back-to-back titles in 1997 and '98.

Since the Open Era began in 1968, only six men have won consecutive U.S. Open championships: John McEnroe in 1979-81, Jimmy Connors 1982-83, Ivan Lendl 1985-87, Stefan Edberg 1991-92, Sampras and Rafter.

Last year, in attempting to win his third consecutive title, Rafter became the first U.S. Open defending men's singles champion to lose in the first round when he retired against Cedric Pioline at 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-0 because of a torn right rotator cuff.

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DEBUTANTS

Twelve players are making their U.S. Open debuts in the women's singles. And for Kristin Schlukebir of Kalamazoo, Michigan, it is the first Grand Slam tournament main draw of her career.

Others playing in the U.S. Open for the first time are Greta Arn of Germany; Daja Bedanova of the Czech Republic; Alison Bradshaw, San Diego; Dawn Buth, Wichita, Kansas; Ansley Cargill, Fulton, Georgia; Marta Marrero, Spain; Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Russia; Kyra Nagy, Hungary; Francesca Schiavone, Italy; Selima Sfar, Tunisia, and Alena Vaskova, Czech Republic.

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INJURED

Colombia's top player, Fabiola Zuluaga, withdrew on Monday from the U.S. Open because of acute tendinitis in her right shoulder.

Ranked 34th in the world, Zuluaga was replaced in the singles draw by "lucky loser" Alicia Molik of Australia.

Zuluaga, who will return home to Bogota for rehabilitation, is scheduled to represent Colombia next month at the Sydney Olympics.

"I'm looking forward to fighting for a medal at the Olympics, but if I am not 100 percent, I won't go," she said.

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BELL RINGER

Although defending U.S. Open women's champion Serena Williams wasn't scheduled to play on the opening day of the year's final Grand Slam tournament, she was still busy.

She began Monday by talking to Matt Lauer on the Today Show on a temporary tennis court built outside the studio. Then she raced down to Wall Street where she rang the bell to open trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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CELEBRITY VIEWING

New York Mets pitchers Mike Hampton and Pat Mahomes and third baseman Robin Ventura were on hand for the opening day of the U.S. Open at the National Tennis Center, located across the subway tracks from Shea Stadium, home of the Mets.

Also taking in the tennis were former New York Mayor David Dinkins, photographer/cinematographer Gordon Parks, comedian Alan King, football commentator John Madden, music star Dave Matthews, singer Tony Bennett, former Mets third baseman Ed Charles, and former tennis stars Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Ilie Nastase, Fred Stolle and Stan Smith.

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