Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Agassi, Graf won't mix it up on court

FRENCH OPEN The tennis couple is making babies, so former German champ Steffi Graf is still too busy to accompany her mate in mixed doubles matches

AP , PARIS

Roger Federer of Switzerland lies on the clay of the central court at Roland Garros stadium in Paris after falling in the opening round of the French Open on Monday. Federer lost 7-6 6-2 7-6 to Peru's Luis Horna in the biggest shock so far in the tournament.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The only doubles in Andre Agassi's immediate future will involve fatherhood, not tennis.

Wife Steffi Graf is expecting the couple's second child, dashing any prospect of her playing mixed doubles with her husband this week at the French Open.

"It's amazing the lengths she'll go to not to play," Agassi joked.

So for Agassi at Roland Garros, it'll be all singles -- seven matches' worth, he hopes. The 1999 champion opened with a win Monday over Karol Beck, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

Agassi had played only one other time in the past four weeks, and that was a stunning loss to David Ferrer in the first round at Rome. He showed little evidence of rust against Beck but expects to play better as the tournament progresses.

"Once I get a match or two, I feel like then I'll be in position for the distance," he said. "It's always going to be a bit precarious starting a tournament, especially this one."

Roger Federer, Paradorn Srichaphan and Alex Corretja can testify to that. All were upset on the first day.

The No. 5-seeded Federer lost in the opening round for the second year in a row, this time to Luis Horna, 7-6 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (3).

Paradorn, seeded 10th, was eliminated by Dominik Hrbaty 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 7-5. Corretja, a two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, lost to Galo Blanco 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.

There were no comparable upsets on the women's side. Defending champion Serena Williams extended her Grand Slam winning streak to 29 consecutive matches, and No. 4-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo also advanced.

In January, Agassi raised the possibility of forming a thirtysomething dream team with Graf at Roland Garros, where she won six singles. Graf has shunned the spotlight since retiring in 1999, and Agassi acknowledged in February that he was having trouble persuading her to be his doubles partner.

On Monday, Agassi said they practiced together after the Australian Open.

"She definitely would have loved to play," he said. "Part of her frustration was the sort of perception that anything other would be the case ... Maybe one day it will really happen."

But he also said: "She hasn't played in three years. It would have been a difficult challenge for her anyhow. ... Now, expecting our second child, it's literally an impossibility."

Agassi disclosed last week that Graf was pregnant. The couple had a son in October 2001, and Agassi said they don't know whether their next child will be a boy or girl.

Seeking his ninth Grand Slam title at age 33, Agassi is the oldest player among the 128 entrants in the men's field. But he's seeded second, physically fit and the reigning champion of the year's first major event at Australia.

"I'm here because I believe I can win," he said. "I feel a lot younger on the court than I do off the court. When I'm out there on the court, I feel good. When I'm off the court, and I'm carrying around my little baby, and I'm pulling all the hair out of my ear, I feel old."

Agassi entered the French Open 11 times before winning it. Federer is now 0-for-5 at Roland Garros and has yet to reach a Grand Slam semifinal.

The stylish Swiss player has lost in the first round at three of the past five major events. Monday's defeat was especially surprising because he leads the men's tour this year with 38 match victories.

"It's a big disappointment," Federer said. "Very sad to leave so early. I should have played better."

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