posted on Aug, 31 2004 @ 08:23 PM
Andre Agassi was just finding his groove in the main stadium as another one of his peers was winding down a long career on a side court.
Jim Courier was the first of the great Americans from Agassi's generation to call it quits. Pete Sampras and Michael Chang were honored in retirement
ceremonies last year during the U.S. Open. On Monday night, it was Todd Martin's turn.
And Agassi just keeps on going.
The 34-year-old two-time U.S. Open champion struggled with his serve early before beating Robby Ginepri 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 to open his 19th Open.
Martin, also 34, announced his retirement after his 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 loss to No. 31 Fabrice Santoro.
"It's always a bit sad when somebody you spent so much time with over the years, played so many matches against, decides it's time for them to move
on," said Agassi, who beat Martin in the 1999 final. "In some respects, you miss everybody, that you grew up with. You know you do.
"When you get down to what you have to do out there, it doesn't matter, really, who's on the other side of the net," the sixth-seeded Agassi added.
"The only thing that matters is what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, what you have to do to find a way to get through?"
In the first set it was Ginepri, a U.S. Davis Cup player, who took a page from Agassi's gameplan. He stepped in on Agassi's second serve, ripping
winners and breaking him twice. But Agassi's experience and top-notch conditioning took over.
His percentage of points won on his first serve increased from 67 percent in the first set to 82 in the third, and Agassi had 13 winners in the final
set to only two unforced errors.
Agassi started off the year poorly. He lost in the first round of the French Open and withdrew from Wimbledon because of a hip injury, but he won an
Open tuneup event in Cincinnati, beating Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt.
"I was practicing well, and things were improving quickly but it wasn't sort of translating match after match in a tournament until Cincinnati,"
Agassi said. "Once it sort of translated, I really relaxed and played a level of tennis that I haven't played in a while."
If he's going to win a ninth Grand Slam title, Agassi might have to go through top-ranked Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Federer struggled in his
opener, too, but got past 2002 French Open champion Albert Costa 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.
On Tuesday, Roddick and Justine Henin-Hardenne play their first matches as defending champions. The top-seeded Hardenne, the Olympic gold medalist,
opens against Nicole Vlaidisova. Roddick, the second seed, will face American Scoville Jenkins in a night match.
Others playing first-round matches are former champions Lindsay Davenport, seeded fifth, and Marat Safin, 13th in the men's draw, and two-time winner
Venus Williams, No. 11.
Serena Williams made her first appearance at the Open since she won in 2002 a flashy one. She strutted into the Arthur Ashe Stadium in black knee-high
boots over her sneakers and wearing a pleated denim skirt with a black studded tank top.
Once warmups were finished and she removed the boots - U.S. Open officials told Williams last month that she couldn't wear them during a match - the
two-time tournament champion gave good indication that her surgically repaired left knee was healthy by routing Sandra Kleinova of the Czech Republic
6-1, 6-3 in 53 minutes.
"I performed at a decent level today. I'm finally getting to a point where I'm actually playing better and focusing better," said Williams, who had a
35-3 edge in winners.
Williams could face the eighth-seeded Jennifer Capriati, who beat Denise Chladkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, in a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the third time this
year. She lost to Capriati in the French and overpowered her at Wimbledon.
Amelie Mauresmo, the No. 2 seed, waited out a 20-minute rain delay before beating American Marissa Irvin 6-4, 6-2.
The men's silver medalist, American Mardy Fish, advanced with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 win over David Ferrer of Spain. Fellow American Taylor Dent, seeded 21st
and a semifinalist in Athens, was leading Younes El Aynaoui 6-1, 2-1, when the Moroccan quit because of a right foot injury.