Agassi says he will skip French Open to prepare for Wimbledon

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Andre Agassi will skip the entire ATP clay-court season, including the French Open, to improve his chances of playing at Wimbledon.

Agassi, 35, said cortisone injections are helping him stay on the court after sustaining a lower back strain and a sprained left ankle in the last few months.

"It is not realistic for me to consider myself competitive on clay," Agassi said Monday after a first-round win at the Dubai Open. "The wear and tear it puts on my body has set me back the last couple of years. And Wimbledon is something that I don't want to miss this year."

Agassi is playing only his second tournament of the season and third since lossing to Roger Federer in the final of the U.S. Open last September. Two weeks ago, Agassi pulled out of the SAP Open with a lower back injury.

The eight-time Grand Slam champion hinted that he has been thinking about retirement.

"I am always on the edge," Agassi said. "I don't know when, but it can happen quickly. I get motivated with the challenge. This is what I do, and I have not decided to stop doing that. But it is getting more difficult on the body, it is getting more difficult on the mind."

His chronic back problem flared last May following a five-set loss in the first round of the French Open. The sciatic nerve injury sidelined him for two months, forcing him to miss Wimbledon for a second straight year. He had a hip injury in 2004.

Agassi had a 6-4 record last year on clay, where he's won seven of his 60 career titles.

In February, he played in a tournament in Delray Beach, Fla., after receiving cortisone shots between the vertebrae in his back.

"It is only nine minutes of absolute pain, but it does buy me three months of tennis on the tour," Agassi said. "There is nothing that suggests that my back is going to get better, and I will have to keep taking the injection for the rest of my playing days."

Agassi still managed to produce some magical shots against Greg Rusedski of Britain in a 7-6 (4), 6-0 win on Monday. He'll face either lucky loser Giorgio Galimberti of Italy or Bjorn Phau of Germany in the second round.

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