First-round shocker


Andre Agassi lost to Gaston Gaudio 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the Tennis Masters Series-Cincinnati on Monday, the second first-round defeat in as many weeks for the world’s No. 2-ranked player. The second-seeded Agassi was thoroughly outplayed by Gaudio, who is ranked 56th in the ATP Entry System. Last week at the Tennis Masters-Canada in Montreal, Agassi lost in straight sets to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, ranked 58th. “He was moving well and spinning his forehand and slicing his backhand, and I was making more errors than I needed to make to settle in,” Agassi said of Gaudio. “The ball wasn’t going where I was hitting it. It’s as simple as that.” The 22-year-old Gaudio said his solid play frustrated Agassi. “I think I ran a lot, and when you run a lot, he doesn’t like that,” Gaudio said. “I was returning back all of the balls that he was hitting, and that made him crazy.” Agassi, who won the Australian Open in January for his seventh Grand Slam title, was the only seeded player to fall on the first day of the US$2.95 million event. Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, seeded 14th here, survived a grueling match against Francisco Clavet in hot, humid conditions to advance to the second round in his first appearance since capturing the title at the All England Club. The big-serving Croat, a wild-card entry in the tournament on the strength of his Wimbledon performance, needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat Clavet 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5). Top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten avenged an upset loss to Andy Roddick in Montreal last week by beating the 18-year-old American 7-6 (3), 6-1. Kuerten was also seeded No. 1 in the Tennis Masters Series-Canada when Roddick beat him. Roddick twisted his left ankle while serving in the fifth game of the first set, though he held his serve and went on to force the tiebreaker. “It was tough. When you play against somebody like Gustavo, you know you’re going to have to run and grind out points. I had to try to finish off points quickly, and that leads to errors,” Roddick said. “I couldn’t run on my forehand very well, and he picked up on that right away.” Tim Henman overcame back spasms to advance with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Michal Tabara of the Czech Republic. The 26-year-old Briton, watched by new coach Larry Stefanki, said his back bothered him the day after his second-round loss to Albert Costa last week in Montreal. Straight-set wins also were recorded by fourth-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, Max Mirnyi of Belarus, Nicolas Escude of France and Xavier Malisse of Belgium. Also advancing were Spain’s Alberto Martin, Greg Rusedski of Canada and American veteran Todd Martin. On Tuesday, Boris Becker makes his return to competitive tennis as Ivanisevic’s partner in a doubles match against the top-seeded pair of Todd Woodbridge and Jonas Bjorkman. The 33-year-old German retired in 1999. The Cincinnati tournament was still known as the ATP Championship when Becker won it in 1985, one of three — including Wimbledon — that he won that year at age 17. He retired with 49 singles championships and 15 doubles titles. The German star said Monday it felt strange returning to Cincinnati for the first time since 1995. “On one hand, it felt like it was 20 years ago,” he said. “On the other hand, it felt like it was only yesterday. It felt like I hadn’t left. The players made me feel very comfortable.” He said he has barely touched a racket since leaving the game. “Do you ever work on your free time?” Becker said. “Tennis was like my profession. It was like going to the office.” Becker decided to use doubles as a way of preparing for his debut in seniors competition and he said he chose Cincinnati because it could serve as a final tuneup for an event in Austria next week.