Sharapova, Henin Struggle, Agassi Bows Out with Back Injury at French Open

Posted on May 25, 2005

Injury Fells Agassi Tuesday at French Open

Former No. 1 and Roland Garros champ Andre Agassi was enjoying a two sets to one lead over Finnish qualifier Jarkko Nieminen Tuesday at the French Open when a recurring back injury struck the American, who eventually fell to a 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-0 painful defeat.

"In the middle to late part of the third set, the sciatic nerve in my back started to get inflamed and it sent pain down my right leg and it got worse by the minute," said Agassi who appeared in tears near the end of the match, and totally dejected in his post-match conference. "It's a concern that needs to be addressed because it hurts. I had the (cortisone) injection and it worked for a while...I was close to shaking hands at the end of the third set, but I didn't want to walk off, I didn't want to finish that way."

Agassi said he will likely need additional shots to finish out his season, and likely his career, at the final slams at Wimbledon and the US Open.

"It's bad," Agassi said. "It's something that needs to be addressed because I can't be out there like that. I literally hurt...I don't enjoy being on the court like that. There were a lot of things about today that were difficult. But something tells me I'm at a stage of my career where I'm going to be living with these injections because this is unplayable when it feels like this."

Agassi said he will play until the end of the year before considering retirement.

"(Tennis is) what I do until I don't do it any more and it's given me a lot," Agassi said. "I'll assess the necessary components at the end of the year," Agassi said. "But I can't afford to pollute the potential of my winning matches or tournaments with sitting on the fence, with where I am, what I'm doing, why I'm doing it...I choose to put my head down and work and look at it at the end of the year."

In addition to the former American champ, three other seeds made exits Tuesday in (13) Ivan Ljubicic (l. to Puerta), (22) Nicolas Massu (l. to (Q) Wawrinka in four), and (24) Feliciano Lopez (l. to Mathieu in four).

Seeds safely into the second round were (2) Andy Roddick (d. (WC) Tsonga), (3) Marat Safin (d. Sluiter in four), (8) Guillermo Coria (d. Carlsen), (9) Guillermo Canas (d. (WC) Monfils, bagel in the third), (12) Nikolay Davydenko (d. (Q) Tuksar), (15) Tommy Robredo (d. (WC) Luczak after dropping the first), (19) Thomas Johansson (d. Draper in five), (21) Tommy Haas (d. Mayer), (27) Filippo Volandri (d. Saulnier, losing only three games), (28) Nicolas Kiefer (d. Karlovic), (29) Mikhail Youzhny (d. Muller, bagel in the third), and (32) Juan Carlos Ferrero (d. Beck).

"I've been playing well this season," Ferrero said. "If I'm not considered a favorite, well, that's all right. I think if I keep playing well, I might become a favorite."

Qualifiers were on fire Tuesday, with five into the second round in Czech Lukas Dlouhy (d. Enqvist),  Belgian Kristof Vliegen (d. (Q) Dupuis), Aussie Chris Guccione (d. Ventura in five), Serb Novak Djokovic (d. Ginepri, dishing out two bagels), and resurgent American James Blake (d. Tenconi).

Two lucky losers also continued their lucky streaks in Belgian Dick Norman (d. Lisnard) and Brazil's Flavio Saretta (d. Rusedski).

Other unseeded winners on the day were Russian Igor Andreev (d. Bjorkman after dropping the first), Czech Jan Hernych (d. Santoro in five), Spaniards David Sanchez (d. Kuerten in four) and Al Montanes (d. Sargsian, bagel in the third), French wildcard Arnaud Clement (d. Popp in four), Austrian Jurgen Melzer (d. Arthurs), Belgian Olivier Rochus (d. Garcia-Lopez in four), Korean Hyung-Taik Lee (d. Calatrava in five), Argentine Jose Acasuso (d. Mirnyi), and American Vince Spadea who straight-setted former Roland Garros champ Albert Costa.

On court Wednesday for the men are (30) Gasquet vs. Peter "Nuclear" Wessels, (4) Rafael "The Prodigy" Nadal vs. Xavier "X-Man" Malisse, (23) Grosjean vs. Sanguinetti, (1) Federer vs. Almagro, (7) Henman vs. Luis "Me So" Horna, (20) Ferrer vs. Olivier "All We Need is Just a Little" Patience, (5) Gaudio vs. Tursunov, (16) Stepanek vs. Serra, (26) Novak vs. Mantilla, Tipsarevic vs. Vicente, (31) Juan Ignacio "The Spitting Snake" Chela vs. Hanescu, (25) Gonzalez vs. Behrend, (10) Nalbandian vs. Berdych, (14) Moya vs. Vik, (18) Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic vs. O.Hernandez, and (33) Soderling vs. H.-T. Lee.

Sharapova, Henin-Hardenne Survive 3-Setters at French Open

World No. 1-wannabee Maria Sharapova was tested on her weakest surface Tuesday by unseeded fellow Russian Evgenia Linetskaya at the French Open, surviving into the second round 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4.

"I was letting her play her game," said Sharapova who was down 1-3 in the third set. "There's nothing on my balls. One, the conditions were heavy, yes. Another one, I didn't realize and I didn't change anything...In the second set, I think I had a little more pace on my shots and whenever you feel like you're hitting a heavier ball and deeper ball, you get more confidence and you feel like you can hit it over and over again."

Former No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne was also forced to three sets by 33-year-old Spaniard Conchita Martinez, cruising through the first set 6-0 before struggling to the finish line 4-6, 6-4.

"I know what I did wrong and I have to correct the mistakes," said Henin-Hardenne, who improved to 21-1 on the year. "But it's better to win in three sets than to go home."

Other seeded winners on Tuesday were (3) Amelie Mauresmo (d. Dominikovich), (6) Svetlana Kuznetsova (d. (WC) Johansson 1-and-1), (7) Nadia Petrova (d. Washington), (12) Elena Bovina (d. Vento-Kabchi, bagel in the first), (13) Nathalie Dechy (d. Pastikova), (17) Tatiana Golovin (d. Osterloh, bagel in the first), (22) Francesca Schiavone (d. Zheng in three), (24) Magdalena Maleeva (d. Fujiwara), (29) Ana Ivanovic (d. Foretz), and (30) Gisela Dulko (d. Mirza).

Four low-rent seeds were sent home early in first round play in (15) Jelena Jankovic (l. to Smashnova-Pistolesi, bagel in the first), (23) Ai Sugiyama (l. to Llagostera in three), (26) Paola Suarez (l. to Chakvetadze, bagel in the third), and (28) Marion Bartoli (l. to Peer).

Un-seeds into the second round were France's Severine Beltrame (d. Spears) and wildcards Alize Cornet (d. Jidkova) and Aravane Rezai (d. (WC) Pin from a set down), American Marissa Irvin (d. Pratt from a set down), Swedish qualifier Sofia Arvidsson (d. Daniilidou), Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues (d. Mandula 0-and-1) and Virginia Ruano Pascual (d. (Q) Yakimova), Italy's Antonella Serra Zanetti (d. Weingartner) and Tathiana Garbin (d. Sucha in three), Czechs Kveta Peschke (d. Randriantefy 1-and-0), Klara Koukalova (d. (Q) Jugic-Salkic in three), Nicole Vaidisova (d. (LL) Safarova from a set down) and Iveta Benesova (d. (WC) Parmentier), Aussie Sam Stosur (d. Talaja), Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld (d. Vinci in three), and Puerto Rico's Kristina Brandi (d. (WC) Fedossova from a set down).
On court Wednesday for the women are (11) Venus vs. Fabiola "The Fabulous One" Zuluaga, (21) Pierce vs. Kostanic, (4) Dementieva vs. Mamic, (14) Clijsters vs. Cervanova, (27) Amy "Joltin' Joe" Frazier vs. Loit, (1) Davenport vs. Peng, Sesil "The Mouth" Karatantcheva vs. (19) Asagoe, C.Fernandez vs.   Razzano, (31) Karolina "The Spreminator" Sprem vs. Morigami, (20) Hantuchova vs. Castano, in doubles Navratilova/Sanchez-Vicario vs. Spaniards Dominguez Lino/Nuria Llagostera "Pancho" Vives, Gagliardi vs. Sanchez Lorenzo, (18) Farina Elia vs. Parra Santonja, (9) Vera "The Crying Game" Zvonareva vs.   Birnerova, (8) Schnyder vs. Kloesel, (16) Likhovtseva vs. Diaz-Oliva, and (32) Flavia "Of the Day" Pennetta vs. Domachowska.

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Andy Roddick
won his first career match on Center Court Roland Garros Tuesday...Andre Agassi has never retired in 264 career Grand Slam matches. Battling a hip injury, Agassi dropped the final two sets in just 38 minutes Tuesday...Guillermo Canas won 15 of the 16 games against an outclassed Gael
. Canas has a pretty good road to the semifinals with Andre Agassi now out...Three former champs bit the dust on Tuesday: Gustavo Kuerten, Andre Agassi and Albert Costa...Andre Agassi has lost four times in his career to qualifiers in Slam play, three of them at the French Open. The other, you ask, was at Wimbledon against Doug Flach...Give Marat Safin credit, he's never lost before the third round at the French Open...You can count on two fingers the number of times Max "The Beast" Mirnyi has advanced out of the first round of Grand Slam play since the start of 2002...Wednesday is Kids' Day at the French Open...Roger Federer has not dropped a set in his last seven matches...Jo-Wilfred Tsonga is a pretty smooth player, he just needs to cut the doughnuts out of the diet...Martina Navratilova and Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario are playing doubles together Wednesday...Justine Henin-Hardenne has won 18 straight matches...Xavier Malisse is playing in his first event since serving a six-week ATP suspension...Including Challengers and qualifying, American James Blake has won his last 14 matches. Blake now plays 2003 Roland Garros junior champ Stanislas Wawrinka...What's up with that afro Marat Safin is working on? "I'm scared, actually," said Safin, who could have been talking about his out-of-control mop but was actually fearing the return of hand blisters that caused his exit at Roland Garros last year. "I have no idea where they came from. I am praying they will not come back again." We're praying you find a barber...Andre Agassi set an Open-era record for the men by playing in his 58th Grand Slam tournament this year at Roland Garros...Justine Henin-Hardenne on having words with her coach during her opening-round match: "Yes, yes, a certain tension. We will discuss this. We've been working together for the last nine years and we are very open, very blunt. I'm sure we will discuss this. I'm sure Carlos is not very happy today, but that's fair enough. That's his role not to be happy. We had this discussion. It was not violent or anything. A bit tense. But it's good. It's always been very dynamic between the two of us. We always speak very frankly. I'm sure it's going to be very good."...Maria Sharapova's thought on Lindsay Davenport taking most of the claycourt season off, allowing her to close on the No. 1 ranking: "Just great, don't play and I'll become No. 1. Thanks, Lindsay (laughing)...I mean, she's been No. 1 before and she's won Grand Slams. I think, I mean, just tell her in the next press conference to step back and give me the place."...Hey French crowd, way to boo Gael "Force" Monfils at the end of his loss Tuesday, way to buoy his confidence...A sneak peek at Anna Kournikova's new fitness column in Elle magazine: "As I've shifted from an intense training schedule to a more moderate pace...I'm suddenly facing the real issues of a nonprofessional athlete -- which means worrying about how often I should hit the gym and what I need to incorporate into my diet and figuring out what fitness and food combination works best for me. Finally I can risk some new activities (such as rock climbing and Yogalates) without fearing that I'll get hurt and be sidelined, and report back on how rigorous and fun they really are. When I was playing competitively, I never really thought much about my body. As long as I could slam my serve at a WILLIAMS sister (VENUS or SERENA), I didn't worry about what I ate or if I needed to log StairMaster time because I wasn't exercising."...Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram left the French after the sudden death of his father...This year was Conchita Martinez's first first-round loss at the French Open in 18 visits...Pat Rafter and wife Lara had their second child yesterday, a girl yet to be named.