Moroccan tennis star Hicham Arazi yesterday upset the world's top ranked player, Andre Agassi, in the first round of the $4.9 million Tennis Masters Series-Indian Wells.
After falling to Arazi 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, Agassi bolted from the Tennis Garden site and skipped a mandatory post-match interview, which drew an automatic $1,000 fine. Both players saw the match's outcome from entirely different perspectives. Agassi told an ATP Tour spokesman that "I'm incredibly frustrated right now. That was a pitiful performance." Arazi's reaction was that, "this is definitely my best win."
The two players met back in January in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, with Agassi easily prevailing in straight sets. The Moroccan presented his own analysis of the difference between the two matches. According to Arazi, in Australia Agassi "played so great and there was nothing I could do. Today, he double-faulted a lot and made a lot of unforced errors. I took my chances."
Match statistics definitely support Arazi's analysis. Agassi committed 57 unforced errors, including 11 double faults, while Arazi ended the match with only 31 errors and four double faults. Arazi clearly demonstrated superior quickness and greater variety in his shot-making.
Yesterday's loss represents a striking twist of fate in Agassi's season thus far. He began the year by winning the Australian Open and two Davis Cup singles matches in Zimbabwe, displaying his brilliant talent along the way. Since returning to the United States, however, he withdrew from a tournament with a back injury and then fell to journeyman Spaniard Francisco Clavet in the second round of last week's event in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Agassi's loss opens up the draw for other first round winners, including third seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia and defending champion Mark Philippousssis of Australia. Pete Sampras plays his first-round match later today.
The Indian Wells tournament is one of only a handful of events (excluding the Grand Slams) in which both the men and women compete at the same venue. The women's tournament began last week, and those reaching the quarterfinals include Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Mary Pierce, Conchita Martinez and Monica Seles.
Photographs courtesy of 1st Serve (www.1stserve.com).
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