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Agassi out of Nasdaq for first time in two decades

3/24/2006 - Tennis

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Andre Agassi pulled out of the
Nasdaq-100 Open on Friday because of chronic back trouble and will
miss the tournament for the first time since his Key Biscayne debut
in 1987.

Agassi, who turns 36 next month, said he hopes rest will help
his back. But he acknowledged that he might be unable to play
again.

"I really, really want to. I plan on it. I'm optimistic about
it," said Agassi, who was the oldest man in the draw. "But I have
to also call it like it is right now.

"Is it possible that I can't anymore? It's definitely possible.
... I'm hoping the decisions I make over the next several months
will put my body in a better place."

Key Biscayne's only six-time champion, Agassi withdrew a few
hours before his opening match against Christophe Rochus. Lucky
loser Bjorn Phau replaced Agassi and was to play Rochus.

Agassi's back has bothered him for the past four years, and he
already announced he would skip the entire clay-court season to
improve his chances of playing at Wimbledon, where he last appeared
in 2003. He said he won't play for the U.S. Davis Cup team against
Chile on grass in California on April 7-9.

An eight-time Grand Slam champion, Agassi was runner-up to Roger
Federer at the U.S. Open last September. But he has played only
seven matches this year, including a loss to Tommy Haas at Indian
Wells last week.

This year would have been Agassi's 20th in a row at Key
Biscayne, which he won for the first time in 1990 and most recently
in 2003. Wife Steffi Graf won the tournament five times, giving the
family 11 titles.

"I love playing here -- a lot of memories, a lot of great
matches," Agassi said. "This is disappointing. It would have been
nice to be here, but it's not worth being less than my best."