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TENNIS FRENCH OPEN : Agassi Wins in Style; Chang Needs 4 Sets

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Andre Agassi spun around and waved his hand as he walked onto Center Court of Roland Garros Stadium, the world’s center stage of clay court tennis.

For Wednesday’s second-round French Open match, Agassi wore faded black shorts, pink tights and a pink, white and black shirt. His bleached hair was held behind a pink scarf, which he used as a headband.

As usual, Agassi worked the court like a fashion model on a runway. It was the spring fashion preview.

And with scarcely an unsettling moment, Agassi took his place in the third round. He moved swiftly past Australian qualifier Todd Woodbridge, 7-5, 6-1, 6-3, much to the delight of a crowd dominated by French children on a day off from school.

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But was his victory a preview of anything else, such as the French Open champion?

Hey, maybe so, but are those pink tights hot or what?

“Well, they keep my thighs and legs warm,” Agassi said. “I’ve never had a problem with my legs getting cold. It just looks good.”

Agassi is looking pretty good in the French Open, all right, now that Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker are out of the tournament. That leaves the shaggy-haired guy from Las Vegas as the highest-remaining seeded player at No. 3.

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When Agassi was warming up, many in the crowd yelled ‘Ole!’ as he swung his racket. Agassi winked. He was up, 4-0, in the first set, then down, 4-5. Agassi escaped.

During changeovers, Agassi toasted the cheering crowd with his water bottle.

After it was over, he changed into a sweat shirt and sat down in the interview room. He picked up a black, sponge-like microphone wind sock that was on the table in front of him and put it over his nose. Then he juggled it, knocking over two radio microphones.

Asked on French television about the stubble on his face, Agassi rubbed his beard: “I just forgot to shave.”

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The pressure is obviously underwhelming Agassi. Even though he is the top remaining seeded player, Agassi said there is no difference in his position merely because Edberg and Becker are gone.

“I feel really confident whether they’re in it or not,” he said. “My confidence level in this tournament is not based on whether they survive.

“Last year, I had plane reservations before every match,” he said. “This year, I packed two weeks’ worth of socks.”

Michael Chang, seeded 11th, is also faring well. He won his second-round match against 19-year-old Marc Rosset of Switzerland, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

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Chang, who will meet Christian Bergstrom of Sweden, seems to be coming around at the right time. He said it may be because of the locale.

“I don’t know what it is about this place,” Chang said. “I don’t know if it’s the people, the clay, the bread, or what, but something is definitely going well with me.”

Bergstrom, 22, has lost only 10 games in his first two matches and is looking to prove something against Chang.

“He has the press on his side, but I’ll take my chances,” Bergstrom said.

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After 5 1/2 weeks playing clay courts in Europe, Jim Courier is suffering some serious language jet lag.

“I don’t know whether to say danke schoen , grazie or merci any more,” Courier said. “I’ve got so many words in my head.”

Working to keep a fourth-round date possible with Agassi, Courier had to scale 6-foot-8 Milan Srejber of Czechoslovakia. Courier had little trouble with Srejber, other than trying to figure out what he was thinking.

Courier won, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, taking advantage of a few costly mistakes when Srejber served for the first set at 5-4. Srejber missed a low volley, double-faulted twice and then watched dejectedly as Courier deposited a forehand passing shot out of reach.

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Courier could scarcely believe his good fortune: “It was like a combination of Christmas and New Year’s.”

Finding rhythm was impossible for Courier, who said he never knew what to expect from Srejber in the most routine of situations.

“He was so unpredictable,” Courier said. “I didn’t know if on his second serve he’d hit it like a first serve or whether he’d kick it or double (fault) into the fence.”

In the third round, Courier faces Swedish-born Johan Anderson of Australia, and Agassi meets Arnaud Boetsch of France.

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Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini, the top-seeded women who played, led a sweep of favorites into the third round. Sabatini let down in the second set when she blew a 5-2 lead and two match points, but still beat Susan Sloane, 6-0, 5-7, 6-1.

Graf took 55 minutes to beat Jennifer Santrock, 6-1, 6-2, after taking antibiotics for an allergic reaction.

“I don’t know what it is, but I have it every year,” she said.

French Open Notes

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Stefan Edberg, who lost his first-round match, has decided to start his Wimbledon preparations next week by entering a grass court exhibition in Beckenham, England, joining Ivan Lendl and Pat Cash in the field. . . . Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union breezed into the third round with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-2, 6-0, victory over Jean Fleurian of France. Chesnokov’s path to the semifinals seems clear with Boris Becker gone and only one other seeded player in the way: No. 15 Guillermo Perez-Roldan of Argentina. . . . Jennifer Capriati plays Cammy McGregor of La Quinta in the second round. Monica Seles, seeded second, plays Helen Kelesi of Canada and defending champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario meets Mercedes Paz of Argentina.


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