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cbs.sportline: Agassi falls to Ferrer in Italian Open first round

ROME — Andre Agassi’s hold on No. 1 in the ATP entry system slipped away about as quickly as his lead against a 60th-ranked opponent at the Italian Open.

In his first match since becoming the oldest man to lead the rankings, Agassi lost to David Ferrer of Spain 0-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 Monday.

Agassi was the defending champion at the Tennis Masters Series event, so the first-round defeat will drop him below Lleyton Hewitt in the 52-week rankings.

“To get to No. 1 at my age was already an accomplishment, and it’s a long year so we’ll be going back and forth,” the 33-year-old American said. “But the most disappointing thing is to come to Rome and lose in the first round. There’s nothing good about that.”

He cruised through the first set in 24 minutes. But Ferrer — who had lost six first-round matches in a row — started holding serve in the second set, and Agassi’s command began to slip away.

In the final set, Ferrer forced Agassi to hit into the net on break point to go up 5-4. Agassi’s four unforced errors allowed Ferrer to serve out the match.

“He didn’t play his best,” Ferrer said. “I think I played the match of my life. In the first set I was very nervous. But then I just told myself: ‘Stay calm, relax, enjoy.'”

Two other seeded players lost to Spaniards at the clay-court tournament. U.S. Open semifinalist Sjeng Schalken, seeded 10th, was beaten by Alberto Martin 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, while Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian, seeded 11th, was eliminated by Felix Mantilla 6-3, 1-6, 6-0.

Sixth-seeded Marat Safin pulled out with a sore wrist.

Agassi came in with a 23-1 match record and four titles this year, including the Australian Open for his eighth career Grand Slam tournament championship.

“In the first set I was taking my chances, everything was going well,” he said. “In the second set I also had my chances, but he started playing better, and I took my foot of the gas pedal.”

A week ago, Agassi rallied to beat Andy Roddick in the final of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, giving him enough points to surpass Hewitt. Agassi hadn’t been No. 1 since Sept. 10, 2000, when he was replaced by Pete Sampras.

Hewitt and Sampras both withdrew from the Italian Open.

Hewitt indicated he wants more time to rest before preparing for the French Open, which starts May 26. Sampras hasn’t played since beating Agassi in the U.S. Open final in September.

In other action Monday, the fifth-seeded Roddick beat Andrea Gaudenzi 6-2, 6-3, 15th-seeded Guillermo Coria beat Tim Henman 6-2, 6-1, seventh-seeded Albert Costa defeated Zeljko Krajan 6-4, 7-5, Ivan Ljubicic topped Xavier Malisse 6-2, 6-4, and Mardy Fish eliminated Fabrice Santoro 7-5, 7-5.


The Associated Press News Service

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