Problems for Agassi and Williams before US Open

Andre Agassi's preparations for his US Open title defence, starting in eight days' time, suffered a setback with a poor performance in the final of the Legg Mason Classic when frustration at his form showed itself as he smashed a racket against his foot and another against his equipment bag during the second set of his straight-sets defeat by Spain's Alex Corretja.

Andre Agassi's preparations for his US Open title defence, starting in eight days' time, suffered a setback with a poor performance in the final of the Legg Mason Classic when frustration at his form showed itself as he smashed a racket against his foot and another against his equipment bag during the second set of his straight-sets defeat by Spain's Alex Corretja.

The women's defending champion, Serena Williams, is in worse shape. She had to retire during the third set of her Du Maurier Open final in Montreal against Martina Hingis with a foot injury that threatens her appearance at Flushing Meadow.

Agassi simply apologised to the crowd in Washington after his 6-2, 6-3 defeat on Sunday. "Sorry I didn't play a little better and sorry for acting like an asshole and breaking my racket," the world No 1 said after the 72-minute match. "I got what I deserved. I got my ass kicked."

He was erratic throughout from the baseline. He committed 38 unforced errors and finished with four double-faults, including one that ended the first set.

Not that the second-seeded Corretja was complaining. "Of course Andre didn't play his best tennis," he said. "If he always played his best, he would be unbeatable."

Agassi's first sign of faltering came when he was serving at 2-3 in the first set. Facing a break point, Agassi double-faulted, something he would do again in the set while serving at 2-5.

He appeared to return to the form that he had displayed earlier in the week by winning five consecutive points in the second set's opening game to break Corretja's serve. But the 26-year-old Spaniard responded by breaking back in the very next game, which drew prase from Agassi.

"The guy played an obscene game. He came in and made a couple of beautiful backhand volleys up the line," the American said. "He played well to stop the momentum."

After that, a clearly frustrated Agassi struggled to stay in the match. With Corretja serving at 1-1 in the second set, Agassi sent a forehand error into the net, prompting him to slam his racket into his foot twice. After Corretja held, the new racket was smashed against Agassi's equipment bag during the changeover.

"I was just really upset because I wasn't executing when the shot was there and I was trying to do something special when the shot wasn't," heexplained.

The outbursts signalled the end for Agassi's challenge and Corretja used his arsenal of groundstrokes to hit 21 winners, securing his second hard-court title of the year, and beating Agassi for the third time in their seven meetings.

"Sometimes I tried to mix it up, with my forehand I was trying to move him all around. It worked pretty well for me," said Corretja, who was naturally upbeat about his chances at Flushing Meadow. "I played well. If I'm playing this well at the Open, you never know."

Serena Williams' injury, to her left foot, cast doubts over her ability even to open the defence of her Open title. Hingis was leading 0-6, 6-3, 3-0 on Sunday when the fourth-seeded American dropped out, ending her family's WTA winning streak at four titles.

"I don't know what it is," Williams said. "I've never had a foot problem in my life. It was hurting last night, this morning, during the match."

The injury was diagnosed as an inflamed bone on the base of Williams' left foot. She was planning to take next week off anyway, but now rest is imperative.

The retirement gave Hingis her 31st career singles title and fifth of the season. She avenged a three-set defeat by Williams in last week's Los Angeles semi-finals and levelled their rivalry at 4-4.

Williams had won nine matches in a row and the Los Angeles title, while her sister, Venus, had won three previous events in a row - Wimbledon, Stanford and San Diego.

Greg Rusedski, a former US Open finalist, will reach Flushing Meadow with little match practice under his belt after withdrawing from this week's Hamlet Cup at Long Island.

The British No 2, who lost to the Australian Pat Rafter in the 1997 final, has been troubled by injury this season. He suffered a foot injury in the Davis Cup defeat against Ecuador in July and has not played competitively since. He had pencilled in the Hamlet Cup for his comeback, but will instead continue his preparations in Florida.

Rusedski's agent, Fran Ridler, expects the Canadian-born left-hander to be fit for the Open, but added he was "not feeling 100 per cent" at the moment.

Comments