Crowd Helps Agassi Move On


For a moment, it seemed like a decade ago, when Andre Agassi was first trying to win the French Open.

It was late Monday, opening day at Roland Garros, and the fans hadn't had much to be passionate about all day.

Agassi lost the first set to Franco Squillari of Argentina, then came back to take the next two. Now, serving at 5-3 in the fourth, he faltered, falling behind 30-40 in the game.

"AndRE," the fans started chanting. "AndRE." Ace. Then another. Then another. The match was over. Agassi pumped his fist and blew a kiss to the crowd.

It was a strong moment for Agassi, who believes he can still win a French Open and complete a career Grand Slam. But he will need a lot more than the luck of the draw and the warmth of the crowd to do it.

As recently as last week, Agassi wasn't even sure he'd be able to play the French this year due to a sore right shoulder that forced him to pull out of World Team Cup play.

On Monday, he said he wasn't greatly bothered by the injury. But he still showed little in his 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 victory to indicate he could win seven matches against younger players who specialize on the red clay in Paris.

Agassi, seeded 13th, was a French Open finalist twice and a semifinalist two other times before 1992. He has 117 Grand Slam match victories, second in this field only to Pete Sampras, with 153. He has three Grand Slam titles, and like Sampras would dearly love to have the French.

Agassi hasn't gotten past the fourth round of a major since 1996. Still, he was speaking positively on Monday.

"I have high expectations for myself here," Agassi said. "I'm focused. My eagerness is there for the grinding that's required to tough out some of these matches."

Alluding to his personal life, Agassi said there "was a time in my life when I was certainly focused on a few other things."

"But you can't come to this event, specifically, without being 100 percent prepared," he said.

Then he mixed his metaphors a bit, but made his point: "There's a lot of mirrors out there, and the man in the mirror can't lie in the heat of battle out there. It's brutal."

Other matches Monday gave a sense of what's ahead the next two weeks: long, close, seesaw matches that happen frequently on clay.

Both the defending champion, Carlos Moya, and top-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov struggled before prevailing.

For only the second time in his career, Moya came back from two sets down to win in five. He beat No. 85 Markus Hipfl of Austria 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Moya later admitted he was nervous about defending his title.

Kafelnikov, for his part, is still trying to show that he deserves the No. 1 ranking he earned three weeks ago.

A French champion in 1996, he's had a tough year since winning the Australian Open in January, winning only one tournament since, and losing repeatedly in th first round.

"I've had my ups and downs," he said. "But I feel like my game is coming back now."

In a match between former French Open champions, Kafelnikov edged Michael Chang 6-2, 5-7, 6-0, 7-6 (10-8).

It was yet another valiant attempt by Chang to recapture the magic he had in Paris in 1989, when, at 17, he beat Sampras, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg to take the title.

The crowd here remembers that well and has always been fond of Chang. Although he's slipped in the rankings to No. 51, he showed some of his trademark spirit Monday, pushing the fourth set to a closely fought tiebreaker that had him pumping his fists like the old times.

"My time's not up yet," he said.

Goran Ivanisevic can hardly be called inconsistent at Roland Garros; he hasn't won a match here since 1996.

Seeded No. 15, he became the first seeded player to fall, losing 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to Hicham Arazi of Morocco, the only player to reach the French quarters the past two years.

Also advancing were No. 5 Richard Krajicek, No. 9 Marcelo Rios and No. 12 Greg Rusedski.

The defending women's champion, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, breezed 6-2, 6-2 past Mirjana Lucic. Also winning on opening day were Jana Novotna, Venus Williams and her unseeded sister, Serena.

No. 1 Martina Hingis downed Amanda Hopmans of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-4 to set up a second-round match against Amelie Mauresmo of France. Hingis beat Mauresmo in the Australian Open final this year after stirring up a controversy by making a joke about Mauresmo's sexual orientation.

Mauresmo said the incident with Hingis will give her "more motivation to win."

"And I will have the public behind me," she added.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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