Originally created 01/26/99

Overtime: Agassi may be nearing end of tour tennis



If Andre Agassi isn't quite ready to announce his retirement, the prospect can't be too far away after his doddering exit from the Australian Open.

Once possessed of the magic to lift his game to the highest level at the first hint of trouble, Agassi looked Monday as if he'd forgotten how to win and didn't much care.

Perhaps age -- Agassi will be 29 when the next major, the French Open, rolls around -- or long layoffs or interests in other things have conspired to rob him of his reflexes and desire.

Whatever it is, Agassi's 6-1, 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3 loss to No. 44 Vince Spadea in the fourth round only confirmed the downward spiral of a once-scintillating career.

In Agassi's last six Grand Slam tournaments, which are the only ones he really cares about at this stage, he has faded in the fourth round four times, the first round once and the second round once.

The only seeded players to reach the quarters Monday were No. 7 Karol Kucera, No. 10 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and No. 15 Todd Martin.

In the women's draw, winners were No. 2 seed Martina Hingis, No. 6 Monica Seles, No. 10 Steffi Graf and No. 7 Mary Pierce.

BASEBALL:

The Atlanta Braves have signed left-handed reliever John Rocker and four minor leaguers to one-year contracts.

Rocker, 24, was 1-3 with two saves and a 2.13 ERA in 47 appearances after being called up from Class AAA Richmond early last season. He also had seven appearances in last year's playoffs, not yielding an earned run while striking out seven.

Also signing were left-hander Micah Bowie, infielder Wes Helms, infielder Mark DeRosa and catcher Pascual Matos.

Helms, 22, was a late-season callup and hit .308 and a home run in seven games for the Braves last year. Before that, he hit .275 with 13 homers and 75 RBI for Class AA Greenville.

Bowie, 24, was 11-6 with a 3.48 ERA for Greenville in 1998.

DeRosa hit .267 with eight homers and 49 RBI for Greenville, and Matos hit .249 with 12 homers and 58 RBI for Greenville.

GOLF:

David Duval doesn't get any bonus points for his 59.

The Official World Golf Ranking released Monday still has Tiger Woods at No. 1 with 11.58 points, although Duval is closing fast. He moved up one spot to No. 2 at 11.38 points after his final-round 59 on Sunday that gave him a one-shot victory in the Bob Hope Classic.

It was Duval's second victory in as many starts this year, and the ninth in his past 28 tournaments. Duval has won $1,008,000 in his two '99 events.

Points are administered over a two-year, rolling system in which they count double for the current year. The amount of points available each week is determined largely by the strength of field -- how many players in the top 10 or top 100 in the world rankings, plus how many players from the top 30 on the money list of that tour.

Because Duval was the only top-10 player in the Hope field, he received 52 points for winning.

ESPN PROGRAM:

ESPN will air a 30-minute documentary honoring O.J. Simpson as one of the 50 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century, despite his reputation.

Simpson, the Heisman Trophy winner in his senior year at the University of Southern California, had an 11-year professional career. He was the first NFL player to run for more than 2,000 yards in a single season, in 1973, and finished his career with 11,236 yards rushing.

ESPN said Monday that the special, to be broadcast Friday, will take note of the allegations that Simpson killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a companion, Ronald Goldman. Although acquitted of criminal charges, Simpson was found liable for their deaths in a separate civil proceeding, a decision he is appealing.

But panelists voting on the 50 greatest athletes were asked to consider athletic prowess alone, the network said. ESPN also said nearly 60 percent of ESPN Web site users said they believed Simpson was one of the greatest athletes of the century.

Simpson is the second athlete to be honored in the 50-part series. Tennis great Chris Evert was first.