Federer backs Agassi over Masters Cup exit
World number one Roger Federer has given his support to Andre Agassi after the United States veteran was criticised for his early withdrawal from the Masters Cup tennis tournament.
Federer, the only top-five player left in the season finale after Agassi and Rafael Nadal added their names to the injury list, said the eight-time Grand Slam champion deserved credit for turning up.
“I don’t know how bad [the injury] really was. You know, only he can tell, and if it was really worth it to come over here,” said the two-time defending champion.
“But I think it’s still great that he shows up and tries.”
Agassi was singled out by aggrieved organisers after he backed out with an ankle sprain following his straight-sets loss to Nikolay Davydenko.
The announcement came just minutes after Spanish sensation Nadal withdrew at the last minute with a foot injury.
“I personally don’t appreciate what Andre Agassi is doing, so to speak,” said organising committee deputy director Wang Liqun, speaking through a translator.
“In 2000 when Andre came to Shanghai for the Heineken, in the first round he took an early exit. Two years later in the Tennis Masters Cup, after two defeats, he cited his injury again, a hip injury, and he took off again.”
The twin pull-outs brought the total number to five and prompted organisers to urge the ATP to re-think its hectic schedule to avoid another disaster next year.
Shanghai has spent $200-million on the 15 000-seat Qi Zhong Stadium which will host the Masters Cup until 2007.
The tournament now features five replacement players and world number 14 Thomas Johansson has been brought in as emergency cover after both alternates, Mariano Puerta and Fernando Gonzalez, were called into action.
Marat Safin and Andy Roddick withdrew with injuries before the tournament started and Lleyton Hewitt is with his pregnant wife.
However Federer, himself returning from a six-week lay-off and playing with his right ankle strapped, said the tournament would still be a success.
“I understand the big disappointment from the government, from the tournament, from the fans,” he said. “Also I’m a little disappointed I can’t play against them. But I think we’ll still see some great tennis this week.”
“We will still get to see enough great players over the years to come here,” he added. “I’m looking at this further ahead than just today and yesterday.”
Federer became the first player to qualify for the semifinals late on Tuesday after a nail-biting three-set win over Ivan Ljubicic.
Later on Wednesday, Russia’s Davydenko will play Safin’s replacement, Argentinian Gaston Gaudio, while Puerta and Gonzalez will face off in a battle of the alternates. - AFP