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Agassi out of French Open

Last updated on: May 24, 2004 20:00 IST

Results: Men's singles | Women's singles

Andre Agassi was humbled in the opening round of a Grand Slam for the first time in six years when he was unceremoniously dumped out of the French Open 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 by tour debutant Jerome Haehnel on Monday.

The American sixth seed, who had not suffered a first-round exit at one of the four majors since his visit to Paris in 1998, was just a shadow of the player who lifted the Roland Garros trophy in 1999 as he lost to the 271st-ranked Haehnel.

The French qualifier barely put a foot wrong as he ruthlessly dismantled Agassi's game-plan in just over two hours.

The 23-year-old had never before entered the main draw of a major tournament, let alone a Grand Slam.

"It's difficult to say what I feel, I've surprised myself. Right now it's unbelievable," he said.

"Andre just said well done and good luck."

Agassi's only previous first-round defeat at Roland Garros in 16 appearances had been against a young Marat Safin.

While Haehnel scored his first victory at tour level, Agassi was attempting to obtain his 800th.

To start his career on centre court at home against one of the most successful players of all time would have been a daunting task for most newcomers but Haehnel simply took the occasion in his stride.

The signs looked ominous for Agassi when he dropped the first set.

However, as the match progressed, it became obvious Agassi was paying the price for his lack of matchplay on clay.

The eight-times Grand Slam champion had played only one match on the surface this season -- in the first round in St Poelten last week -- before arriving in Paris.

Haehnel grabbed the second-set tiebreak 7-4 before snatching a 3-1 lead in the third set.

Agassi fought back to level at 3-3 but eventually succumbed as Haehnel won the last three games, finishing in style with an emphatic ace.

"There's really no explanation. I wish I could give you an excuse," Agassi said.

WINNING RETURN

By contrast, defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne made a successful if unspectacular return from illness, beating Sandrine Testud 6-4, 6-4.

The Belgian world number one shook off the after-effects of a viral infection to oust Testud in 87 minutes and gain a foothold in the draw.

"I'm not in the best shape I have been... but I think it is enough," Henin-Hardenne said.

"I need a lot of rallies, I need to be in a good rhythm. I need to hit a lot of balls."

Former men's champion Carlos Moya was more convincing, the fifth seed beating the solid Dutchman John Van Lottum 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Moya won the title here in 1998 -- reaching world number one later in the year. He rates his prospects of adding to that lone Grand Slam crown here this year, saying his form tops that of six years ago.

Briton Tim Henman, seeded ninth had to fight back from two sets down to beat Frenchman Cyril Saulnier 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 6-4, 6-3.

That Henin-Hardenne has not played competitively for six weeks was all too evident from her hesitant tactics. However, that she is a class apart from the Frenchwoman was equally clear.

"It's not an easy situation to be playing here in Paris against Sandrine," the Belgian said. "Many times we have seen players having trouble in their first matches.

"But there were a couple of good rallies so I hope that will help me. I just need a little bit of time and some matches."

Results of men's first round singles matches: (prefix number denotes seeding)
27-Vincent Spadea (U.S.) beat Florent Serra (France) 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 9-7
Alex Corretja (Spain) beat Jan-Michael Gambill (U.S.) 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Julien Jeanpierre (France) beat Karol Beck (Slovakia) 6-2, 6-4, 7-5
3-Guillermo Coria (Argentina) beat Nikolay Davydenko (Russia) 6-4, 6-2, 6-0
21-Andrei Pavel (Romania) beat Oscar Hernandez (Spain) 6-2, 0-0 retired
9-Tim Henman (Britain) beat Cyril Saulnier (France) 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3
Jerome Haehnel (France) beat 6-Andre Agassi (U.S.) 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) beat Dennis van Scheppingen (Netherlands) 6-0, 6-4, 6-2
Irakli Labadze (Georgia) beat Joachim Johansson (Sweden) 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5
Fernando Verdasco (Spain) beat Greg Rusedski (Britain) 7-6, (9-7) 6-0, 6-0
5-Carlos Moya (Spain) beat John Van Lottum (Netherlands) 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
Juan Monaco (Argentina) beat Alex Bogomolov Jr. (U.S.) 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
13-Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand) beat Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
22-Juan Ignacio Chela (Argentina) beat Harel Levy (Israel) 6-3 6-1 6-4

Results of women's first round singles matches: (prefix number denotes seeding):
32-Dinara Safina (Russia) beat Julia Schruff (Germany) 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3
8-Nadia Petrova (Russia) beat Catalina Castano (Colombia) 6-2, 6-3
1-Justine Henin-Hardenne (Belgium) beat Sandrine Testud (France) 6-4, 6-4
14-Paola Suarez (Argentina) beat Milagros Sequera (Venezuela) 6-3, 6-4
Yuliana Fedak (Ukraine) beat Mara Santangelo (Italy) 6-3, 6-1
Marissa Irvin (U.S.) beat Tara Snyder (U.S.) 6-2, 6-0
Tathiana Garbin (Italy) beat Conchita Martinez Granados (Spain) 6-1, 6-2
18-Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Barbara Schwartz (Austria) 6-3 6-0

Francois Thomazeau
Source:
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