Agassi advances in Wimbeldon match

By The Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England – A homemade necklace proclaiming “Daddy Rocks” has replaced the thick gold chain and dangling earring Andre Agassi sported when he won Wimbledon in 1992. A shaved head glistens where tresses once flowed underneath a sponsor-touting ballcap.

And when Agassi stepped out Tuesday for the first match of his final Wimbledon, he lingered a moment, taking in the raucous standing ovation.

All the applause and whistles and hoots of good will got to him, so much so that Agassi played an awful opening set before righting his racket and beating 71st-ranked Boris Pashanski of Serbia 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

“To feel that sort of support – it just meant the world to me. I just wanted to do ’em proud,” Agassi said. “So I got a little nervous about trying too hard early, overhit a lot. Took me awhile to settle down.”

Long a crowd favorite, he’s drawing extra interest and adulation this fortnight. He missed Wimbledon the past two years with injuries, and, more significantly, he announced Saturday he’ll retire after the U.S. Open.

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    That made Agassi the focal point at the All England Club on a day filled with all manner of matches thanks to rain Monday that permitted only about 30 minutes of play.

    Among the winners were three-time defending champion Roger Federer, 1997 champion Martina Hingis, and Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.

    Federer completed a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory against Richard Gasquet for his 42nd win in a row on grass, breaking Bjorn Borg’s record set in 1976-81.

    Federer worked only 37 minutes Tuesday; he led 6-3, 1-2 when action was suspended Monday.

    Agassi came to Wimbledon having played one match the past three months because of back problems; he also missed the Australian Open with an ankle injury.

    When he won the first of his eight Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon 14 years ago, he beat Boris Becker in the quarterfinals, John McEnroe – yep, that John McEnroe – in the semifinals, and Goran Ivanisevic in the final.

    At the final changeover, Agassi leaned forward in his chair, stretching his bothersome back.

    “I’ve had years where I felt better; sort of don’t want to harp on any of the negatives,” he said. “This is a challenge for me in more ways than I probably ever communicate.”

    “I went from nervous to slightly embarrassed to digging in and getting more comfortable as it went on,” said Agassi, seeded 25th.

    He had 33 winners and only 14 unforced errors during the last three sets. Those quick strokes from the baseline were there, accompanied by exhales that were more groan than grunt. And he swatted 17 aces, including his last two serves.