Agassi out of Nasdaq for first time in two decades

Updated: March 24, 2006, 3:48 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Andre Agassi
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesAndre Agassi, speaking to the media after Friday's withdrawal, has had a bad back for the past four years.

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."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press