The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heartbreak for Agassi
- Henin-Hardenne outplays Martinez

Paris: Hobbling in pain and blinking back tears, Andre Agassi left the French Open on Tuesday, his 35-year-old body unable to drive him through this most gruelling of Grand Slam tournaments.

While his spirit had been willing throughout, his body let him down and he slumped out of the first round 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, 1-6, 0-6 to Finn Jarkko Nieminen.

“You know, it’s bad. It’s something that needs to be addressed because I can’t be out there like that. I mean, I literally hurt,” the American said.

Agassi’s wife Steffi Graf called it quits after 16 trips to the French capital. Agassi has now had 17 cracks at the title he won in 1999 and there must be a question mark over the American’s willingness to return for more punishment in 2006 after two consecutive first round defeats in the French capital.

Agassi’s 1999 victory made him only the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam titles at least once and cemented his reputation as a giant of the modern game.

But on Tuesday the sixth seed looked a forlorn and anguished figure with his Finnish opponent outrunning and outgunning him.

Agassi was not the only seasoned campaigner to learn that experience was no match for youth on Paris clay.

In the women’s draw Conchita Martinez was felled 0-6, 6-4, 4-6 by Justine Henin-Hardenne in the first round.

Nobody betters Martinez’s 18 successive French Open appearances ' a record she shares with the retired Nathalie Tauziat ' but it takes more than experience and an almost matchless knowledge of claycourt tactics to beat 2003 champion Henin-Hardenne.

Martinez, whose lone Grand Slam triumph came at Wimbledon in 1994, pulled every trick she has picked up during her long career but the oldest woman in the draw at 33 ran out of ideas and energy.

“Conchita played well and both of us wanted the same thing... to win the match,” a relieved Henin-Hardenne said.

Maria Sharapova was given a wake-up call before dispensing with glamour and employing her grit to beat compatriot Evgenia Linetskaya.

The Wimbledon champion and world No. 2 was stretched to the limit by her game opponent but, shrieking with effort and frustration throughout, clawed her way to a 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 win.

Marat Safin also showed backbone, easing into the second round with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Dutchman Raemon Sluiter.

The Australian Open champion is bidding to become the first man since Jim Courier 13 years ago to win the first two Grand Slams of the year. “First round is always tough because you have to get used to the courts, to the balls,” Safin said. “You are nervous because you want to do well in the tournament.

“You know that you going to win, but still, you know, you don’t want to have a surprise. Really... I can’t complain. I’ve been playing decent tennis.” Safin is on track for a third-round clash with former champion and fellow former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The Spaniard is returning to form after a torrid time with injuries and thumped Karol Beck of Slovakia 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Safin lost to Ferrero in the semi-finals in 2002. “I think it was really big disappointment in my career,” he said.

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