I'm not quitting, says Agassi
2 hours, 17 minutes ago
PARIS, (AFP) - Grand Slam record-setter Andre Agassi insists his shattering, injury-hit French Open first round defeat will not rush him into retirement.
The 35-year-old says he fully intends to play Wimbledon and the US Open this year even if he has to undergo more cortisone injections to dull the crippling pain which reduced him to walking pace in his 7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1, 6-0 defeat at the hands of Finland qualifier Jarkko Nieminen on Tuesday.
"I have every intention of playing at Wimbledon. With another injection I have high hopes," said the American whose record 58th Grand Slam appearance ended in bitter disappointment with his second successive Roland Garros first round exit.
Agassi was forced to take his first cortisone injection after the San Jose tournament in February to cure the pain caused by the inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
But the effects of the treatment wore off leaving Agassi, the champion here in 1999 and the holder of eight Grand Slam titles, to once again fend off more questions over his future.
"The injection only takes about 10 minutes so if I give up 10 minutes to get a few months, I will choose that," said Agassi who made his debut at the French Open back in 1987.
"It's hard to deal with hypotheticals as I head down the rest of the year and how things are going to respond. It's disappointing not to be competitive but I will keep plugging away until I feel like there's nothing I can do about it.
"Tennis is what I do. It's given me a lot and I will assess the necessary components at the end of the year. I can't afford to pollute the potential of my winning matches or tournaments with sitting on the fence with where I am and what I'm going to do.
"I will put my head down and work and look at it at the end of the year."
Despite his pledge to keep playing, it is unlikely that Agassi will be back at Roland Garros in 2006, when he will be 36, and having to face the prospect of putting his ageing limbs through the pain of clay courts, the most gruelling of surfaces.
But he is counting on getting through Wimbledon and the US Open where the rallies are shorter and the demands gentler.
"The last time I took an injection it helped for a few months but I wasn't playing three sets out of five on clay. I will probably get another one and hope that three out of five on grass is different.
"I don't know what to expect but I hope it works."
Agassi was the sixth seed here and is just one of five men to have won all four Grand Slam titles. He was also bidding to become the oldest man to win the French Open.
But despite battling back in his first round tie against Nieminen to lead two sets to one, it proved to be an assignment which left the Las Vegan struggling to keep up with an opponent 12 years his junior.
The defeat follows on the heels of another first round exit last year when he was bundled out in straight sets by French qualifier Jerome Haehnal.
"In the middle to late part of the third set, the nerve in my back started to get inflamed and it sent pain down my right leg and it got worse by the minute," said Agassi.
"I was close to shaking hands at the end of the third set, but I didn't want to walk off, I didn't want to finish that way."
Agassi said he has been told he can take up to three cortisone injections in a year.
"When I go home and walk just a couple of blocks, you wouldn't think I was a professional athlete," he said.
"When the weather's cold, it's a problem. When the temperature drops and the wind blows, I get stiff and the pain gets worse from the top of the right hip all the way to my ankle. There's no way of controlling it."
Andre Agassi forever