Andre Agassi insists he still enjoys tennis. His results and demeanor say otherwise.
The truth is, Agassi's career is in a tailspin and he needs to do something fast to re-establish himself.Agassi's miserable year hit a low point Monday when he lost in the first round at Wimbledon to Doug Flach, a qualifier ranked 281st in the world, in one of the biggest upsets of the Open era.
"At some stage you've got to put things in perspective and say, you know, `OK, let's just start working on getting it better, getting my game better,' " the third-seeded Agassi said unconvincingly after the 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) defeat.
Agassi could start by seriously preparing for Grand Slam tournaments for a change. He wrote off the clay-court season and promptly lost in the second round of the French Open to journeyman Chris Woodruff.
Agassi didn't play any grass-court events before Wimbledon, and it showed against Flach. It was only his fifth match on any surface in the last three months.
"I probably stayed away from playing for too long, and then the disappointment kept me from really attacking the needs of my game after the French," Agassi said.
In 1992, Agassi came to Wimbledon without any grass-court preparation and won the tournament. He admits that he probably can't do that any more.
"You start getting older, your body starts feeling different afer tough matches," he said. "I think a lot of things change. That certainly can be one of them."
Agassi's lack of commitment contrasted with all the hard work Flach has put in. He's played 10 events this year on the satellite circuit and he won three qualifying matches to get into the Wimbledon draw, coming from two sets down to beat Anders Jarryd in the final round of qualifying.
"I've played a lot of tennis in the past couple of months," Flach said. "I think that probably was part of the reason why I won today - I was really match tough."
Agassi was one of four men's seeds eliminated on the opening day, joining No. 6 Michael Chang, No. 8 Jim Courier and No. 15 Arnaud Boetsch. It's the second time in the Open era that only four of the top eight seeds remain after the first round.
Pete Sampras, the three-time defending champion, recovered from a slow start to beat Richey Reneberg in four sets. Also advancing were No. 2 Boris Becker, No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic and No. 12 Stefan Edberg.
Among the women, No. 2 Monica Seles beat Ann Grossman 6-1, 6-2 in her first match at Wimbledon in four years.
In today's matches, top seed and six-time champion Steffi Graf was scheduled to open defense of her women's title on Centre Court against Ludmila Richterova.
Graf, suffering from a swollen left kneecap, asked for a postponement until Wednesday, but was turned down.
"My knee is a bit better today," Graf said Monday. "I've been undergoing all sorts of therapy - acupuncture, electric stimulation, massage - everything I can do to improve it. Hopefully, it will hold up."
In other featured matches, fifth-seeded French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov faced Britain's Tim Henman, and No. 10 Michael Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion who lost to Kafelnikov in the French Open final, was up against Sjen Schalken.
Agassi unveiled a new Wimbledon outfit Monday: a long-sleeved white shirt with a zipper front, hanging over knee-length baggy white shorts. But he never looked comfortable, sweat pouring off his white cap and coughing throughout the match, the result of a flu and chest infection he picked up last week.
"I certainly haven't been feeling great, but if I had just been hitting the ball better, I think I could have pulled it off," he said.
Agassi looked slow and dispirited for much of the match.
"I heard he was kind of lackluster but I really expected him to come out today and be really focused and try to kill me," Flach said. "So I was a little surprised that he wasn't as sharp as he usually is."
The fourth game of the fourth set featured one of the most spectacular points seen in years. Agassi flicked a sharply angled forehand crosscourt on the run. Flach dived forward onto his belly and flipped the ball over and deep across the court from Agassi. Agassi darted back to hit a backhand, and Flach popped up and reached high for a desperation volley winner.
"I think that's the first time I've ever dived for a ball on grass," Flach said. "That was a crazy point. After the point, I was like freaked out. I didn't know where I was for a minute."