Originally created 02/09/00

Agassi makes first stateside return to court since Open



SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Since his last tournament in the United States, Andre Agassi has added another Grand Slam title, a new girlfriend and a ton of frequent flier miles.

Now, after victorious stops in Australia and Zimbabwe, his journey takes him back to the Sybase Open -- a tournament at which he was defaulted in the second round last year for repeatedly cursing a linesman.

Agassi plays his first match in the Sybase Open on Wednesday night against Mark Woodforde. The world's No. 1 player is the only top 15 player in the tournament, which he has won four times.

It will be his first tournament in the United States since he won the U.S. Open in September. The following day, he returned to the No. 1 ranking and took off on a journey that included stops in Switzerland, Germany and France late last year.

This year, he won his second Australian Open in late January with girlfriend Steffi Graf applauding in the stands. He then flew to Zimbabwe, helping the United States rally for a 3-2 Davis Cup win.

Agassi won two matches in that first-round series despite altitude sickness and dehydration that caused him to vomit into a courtside trash can during his second victory.

"It is not easy. There are so many difficult parts of a professional tennis player's life, such as the continual change in time zones and jet lag and hours spent in the air and strange cultures and strange foods, things you are not familiar with," he said.

"You learn to kind of take care of the necessities and focus on your work. I have gotten it down to a pretty good science."

Agassi worked feverishly to rebuild his game after falling as low as 141st in the world in 1998. He has remained No. 1 since that U.S. Open victory last September, but fears all the travel could prevent him from getting stronger.

"You win a tournament like the Australian Open and you immediately think to yourself, `How can I get better?' And when you are kind of jumping across the world competing, what seems to be sometimes never-ending, you don't have the time to take those steps and that gets a little frustrating to me," he said.

After defeating Byron Black in straight sets on the final day of the Davis Cup on Sunday, Agassi experienced severe vomiting and cramping in the locker room. He returned to his hotel room, received intravenous fluids and a few hours later got on a plane with his Davis Cup teammates.

He arrived in San Jose on Monday evening. To win the Sybase Open, he'll have to win matches on five consecutive days beginning Wednesday.

"It is difficult coming off a Sunday final in Melbourne, a month in Australia, to fly 20 hours and get over the jet lag and the time change and the altitude adjustments," Agassi said from Zimbabwe last week. "It's not an easy journey to make. It certainly doesn't put me in the greatest situation going into the Sybase."