Agassi wins 1 st match at French Open - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Agassi wins 1 st match at French Open

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Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2003 7:43 am | Updated: 2:26 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

PARIS - Andre Agassi has this Grand Slam thing down pat.

No victories on European clay this year? That’s OK.

One tournament match in a month? Fine.

Oldest man in the draw? Ho hum.

He concentrates on fitness, then gets to town and goes to work, adjusting to the vagaries of the surface, balls and weather. On Monday, Agassi began constructing what he hopes will become his ninth major title, beating Karol Beck of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 at the French Open.

‘‘I could come in here with more clay matches and sort of be in the grind and find myself plateauing off,’’ the No. 2-seeded Agassi said. ‘‘I’d rather come in and sort of struggle to find a bit of a groove, but know that once I do, I’m ready to shift the gear and have some bigger upside later in the tournament.’’

Right now, no one knows more about being in a groove at majors than Serena Williams, whose 29 th straight Grand Slam match win came Monday against Barbara Rittner, 6-2, 6-1. Williams is aiming for her fifth straight major title, something last accomplished in 1988-89 by Steffi Graf — now Agassi’s wife.

Indeed, Rittner, a 14-year tour veteran, said Graf is the only woman she’s played who dominated an opponent the way Williams does.

Williams ‘‘makes you feel like you have no influence on the game,’’ Rittner said.

‘‘Players generally believe that I’m the player to beat in any tournament, especially in Slams, because I kick it up to a new level physically and mentally,’’ Williams said. ‘‘This is what I play tennis for, mostly: to be remembered.’’

It was a rather mundane opening day at Roland Garros, without one truly stunning result.

Sure, there were upsets on paper, with five of 32 seeded players out: No. 5 Roger Federer, No. 10 Paradorn Srichaphan and No. 16 Alex Corretja among the men; No. 27 Alexandra Stevenson and No. 29 Elena Likhovtseva among the women. But Federer, for example, lost in the first round at three of five French Opens, Paradorn went 1-5 recently on clay, and Stevenson is 4-15 at majors since making the 1999 Wimbledon semifinals.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, Amelie Mauresmo, and Chanda Rubin won, as did lower-seeded Americans Lisa Raymond, Laura Granville and Meghann Shaughnessy, who outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova 11-9 in the third set.

As temperatures reached the high 60s, No. 24 James Blake beat fellow American Taylor Dent to reach the second round, joined by past French Open champions Carlos Moya and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and the man Agassi beat in the Australian Open final, Rainer Schuettler.

Playing today: defending champion Albert Costa, No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, 2001 women’s champion Jennifer Capriati and Venus Williams.

The Williams sisters practiced on center court 1 1 /2 hours before Serena’s match there Monday, swapping strokes where they met for the 2002 title.

Against Rittner, she needed to save three break points to avoid a 2-0 hole. Williams made 10 unforced errors in the first three games — 14 the rest of the way.

French Open

What: Day 1

Men’s seeded winners: No. 2 Andre Agassi, No. 4 Carlos Moya, No. 7 Guillermo Coria, No. 11 Rainer Schuettler

Men’s seeded losers: No. 5 Roger Federer, No. 10 Paradorn Srichaphan, No. 16 Alex Corretja

Women’s seeded winners: No. 1 Serena Williams, No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 8 Chanda Rubin

Women’s seeded losers: No. 27 Alexandra Stevenson, No. 29 Elena Likhovtseva

Stat of the day: Consecutive wins for Serena Williams in major tournament matches

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