Originally created 05/25/04

Aging Agassi upset in Paris



PARIS - With sagging shoulders and head bowed, Andre Agassi left the French Open through a courtside doorway Monday, uncertain if he'll return next year.

Blame his unceremonious departure on Jerome Haehnel, a qualifier from France ranked 271st, who pulled off an upset to rival the biggest in Grand Slam history. Playing his first tour-level match at age 23, Haehnel beat Agassi, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

A lethargic, tentative Agassi struggled with his service return - normally his best weapon - and was outplayed on the biggest points. He was bidding for his 800th match victory, but instead Haehnel improved to 1-0 lifetime.

"I probably got what I deserved," said the sixth-seeded Agassi. "I was never comfortable with my shot selection, never comfortable with where I was putting the ball."

The appearance at Roland Garros was the 16th for Agassi. What are the chances he'll return next year?

"Hard to say," said Agassi, who is 34 and won the tournament in 1999. "You want to come back, but you just don't know. I don't know. It's a year away, and that's a long time for me right now. The chances get less every year, that's for sure."

Said Gil Reyes, Agassi's trainer and close friend: "We're in uncharted waters right now. We need to find a reason to wake up tomorrow."

No. 2-seeded Andy Roddick beat fellow American Todd Martin, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-5. Roddick had lost in the opening round the past two years.

Another American, Vince Spadea, overcame nine match points to beat Florent Serra, 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 7-6 (9), 9-7. Spadea rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the final set of a 4-hour marathon.

On the women's side, Justine Henin-Hardenne returned from a six-week layoff and began her bid for a second successive French Open title by beating Sandrine Testud, 6-4, 6-4.

Haehnel closed his victory with his third ace, then walked impassively to the net to shake hands with Agassi, showing the same poise he displayed throughout the match.

"For somebody like me, who has never been on the real circuit, it was amazing to play against him today," Haehnel said.

Haehnel (pronounced eh-NEL) plays without a coach and prefers tournaments near his home in eastern France because he dislikes flying. He won the Australian Open boys doubles title in 1998, until now his biggest claim to fame.

Agassi lost in the opening round of a major event for the first time since the 1998 French Open, when he was beaten by Marat Safin, who was playing as a qualifier in his first major tournament.

Among Grand Slam upsets in recent years, Agassi's defeat ranked with these stunners:

l Lleyton Hewitt's loss as defending champion at Wimbledon to qualifier Ivo Karlovic in the first round last year.

l Pete Sampras's second-round loss to George Bastl at Wimbledon in 2002.

l Ivan Lendl's first-round loss at the French Open to wild-card Stephane Huet of France in 1993.

The top-ranked Henin-Hardenne, sidelined since April 10 by a viral ailment that left her weak and dizzy, decided last week she was healthy enough to try to defend her Roland Garros title, and she overcame a slow start and shaky serve to beat Testud.