Shock defeat puts Agassi's future in doubt

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The Independent Online

Andre Agassi received another unwelcome indication that his powers may at last be on the wane yesterday, when he was beaten 6-2 7-6 by Agustin Calleri at the Nasdaq-100 Open.

Andre Agassi received another unwelcome indication that his powers may at last be on the wane yesterday, when he was beaten 6-2 7-6 by Agustin Calleri at the Nasdaq-100 Open.

The 33-year-old American has been defying the laws of age and sport in recent years but his hegemony here in Miami, where he has won the title the last three years' running, may have been ended for good by the doughty Argentinian.

After losing the first set amid a blitz of winners from Calleri, Agassi found himself in even deeper trouble when he twice went a break down in the second set. He retrieved both breaks and had set points at 5-4 on the Calleri serve before the Argentinian sealed the match in the tie-break.

A few more losses like this, to lesser players, and Agassi may be persuaded that the decision on when to retire is no longer in his own hands.

"He was just playing too good for long stretches of time there," said Agassi. "I raised my game to hang in there and it just wasn't enough."

In one of her latest tennis outfits, Serena Williams looks dressed to carry the Olympic torch. However, the Wimbledon champion appears to change her mind about competing in Athens next August as often as she alters her clothes.

Last Sunday, Williams said she was worried about security: "If it became a real concern to where I personally wouldn't feel comfortable, then I wouldn't go to Athens because I like my life, I like waking up in the morning."

Within 24 hours, she contradicted herself: "I just said that i was aware of things that happen in the world, but I will not let things that happen in the world stop me from living my life. I'm 100 percent planning on going to Athens. I just want to clear the air, I can't wait to play singles."

In her first tournament since a knee operation after Wimbledon last year, Williams, the defending champion, has advanced to the quarter-finals, her usual mixture of power and athleticism overcoming worrying moments in her matches against the Russians Elena Likhovtseva and Maria Sharaplova when, as she admitted, she was "a little sloppy."

Yesterday Serena was due to play a compatriot, Jill Craybas. Venus Williams, seeded to meet Serena in the final, was scheduled to meet the fifth-seeded Elena Dementiava, of Russia, in the quarter-finals.

Andy Roddick, the second seed, was due to play Guillermo Canas, of Argentina, in the quarter-finals yesterday after prevailing against Jonas Bjorkman, of Sweden, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament.

There was added interest in the contest, because Roddick and Bjorkman will duel again when the United States play Sweden in the Davis Cup in Delray Beach, Florida, over the Easter weekend.

"Obviously, you can't help but think forward a couple of weeks to the Davis Cup tie," Roddick said, "but winning tonight doesn't do anything to help our chances."

Roddick, along with the spectators, was impressed by a shot Bjorkman conjured behind his back in the seventh game of the concluding set. "I was thinking, 'This is really beautiful. He hit that shot and now we're at 30-all at three-all in the third.' That was a cute shot," Roddick said. "I tried as best I could to keep going and pretend that I just played a great point and he came up with a passing shot and didn't hit the behind-the-back."

Roddick went on to make the decisive break, passing Bjorkman down the line. "At first I thought I'd hit [the shot] wide," Roddick said, relieved that the line judge had his eye on the ball.

* The ATP will not appeal against Greg Rusedski's acquittal after the British No 2 tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone. Rusedski will not receive financial compensation, but tournaments have been asked to look favourably on requests for wild cards as he rebuilds his career. The ATP has also recruited Rusedski for its anti-drugs task force.

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