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Agassi limps off in defeat to end French Open bid


PARIS -- Andre Agassi lost his bid for his first French Open title and limped off Stadium Court yesterday after falling to ninth seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. He later called it his greatest disappointment in four years.

The world's top-ranked player became the latest in a long list of injured top players at the French Open when he strained his right hip flexor early in the first set.

While Agassi offered little opposition after re-injuring the muscle in the second set, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Conchita Martinez and Kimiko Date overcame their ailments to advance easily to the women's semifinals.

All four semifinalists, who criticized tournament officials for scheduling them on an outside stadium instead of the main arena, spent nearly as much time in the training room as they did on court. During their hour-long matches, Graf sought treatment for thigh and back problems, Sanchez Vicario cited a stomach ailment, Martinez complained of a cold and complete body fatigue and Date pointed to her whole leg as the source of her soreness.

There had been no indication that the top men's seed was in any danger before he took court on the cold, clammy day.

The cleanly shaven American had breezed through his first four rounds with relative ease.

"I didn't think Andre was injured at all," Kafelnikov said. "When he first came on to the court, I felt that basically I had no chance. But then all of a sudden I started to realize that I [may have] much fortune in the second set when I broke him. I don't know what injury he had or what treatment he was getting in the locker room. . . . I was just going for every shot because I had nothing to lose. I went to the court without any pressure."

After Agassi took an injury timeout in the second set and $H hobbled off court so trainer Bill Norris could tape his right side from his thigh to his stomach, the sold-out Stadium, as well as Kafelnikov, became aware of the top seed's predicament.

Although Agassi raced to a 4-0 lead in the third set after losing the first two, Kafelnikov exploited the American's injury with drop shots and short, angled ground strokes and won 15 of the next 16 points and the set, 7-5.

"I'm disappointed for a lot of reasons," said Agassi, who was out for 10 months with a wrist injury in 1993 and was flying home immediately on his private jet to have the injury evaluated.

"The 1991 final [he lost] was as disappointing, but it's a different disappointment. To get beaten, that's OK; it's going to happen at times. But it's disappointing to not go out there and feel like you got beat, to lose [it]. . . . To come close and to get injured worries me about Wimbledon and the summer."

Men's singles, quarterfinals

Thomas Muster (5), Austria, def. Alberto Costa, Spain, 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (9), Russia, def. Andre Agassi (1), Las Vegas, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

Women's singles, quarterfinals

Kimiko Date (9), Japan, def. Iva Majoli (12), Croatia, 7-5, 6-1. Steffi Graf (2), Germany, def. Gabriela Sabatini (8), Argentina, 6-1, 6-0. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1), Spain, def. Chanda Rubin, Lafayette, La., 6-3, 6-1. Conchita Martinez (4), Spain, def. Virginia Ruano-Pascual, Spain, 6-0, 6-4.

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