Paris furious as Agassi withdraws

PARIS: Andre Agassi's last minute decision to pull out of the 2.45-million-euro Paris Masters provoked a furious reaction from organisers yesterday who claimed the ATP tour was becoming discredited. 

The American veteran, twice a champion here and seeded five, told organisers that he had injured his right hip and could not play while Argentina's David Nalbandian, the eighth seed, also said a similar injury had caused his withdrawal. 

World number one Roger Federer, former French Open champions Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain and world number five Guillermo Coria of Argentina had all pulled out last week, severely stripping the event of some of its top draw cards. 

“The organisers of the Paris Masters deplore these withdrawals which have added to the long list of players absent both from Paris and the Madrid Masters two weeks ago,” said a tournament spokesman. 

“Whatever the reasons, these withdrawals from the elite ATP tournaments bring discredit to the circuit. 

“Mark Miles, the chief executive of the ATP, indicated to the directors of the Masters Series tournaments who met in Madrid two weeks ago that he was aware of the seriousness of the problems which have affected the professional circuit and of the necessity to find quick solutions.” 

Such is the concern at the problem that the directors of the five European Masters tournaments will meet here today to discuss the problem. 

“Andre Agassi has withdrawn from the Paris Masters. He indicated to the organisers, through his agent, that he was suffering from a recurrence of an injury to his right hip,” said a tournament spokesman. 

“David Nalbandian has pulled out for the same reason.” 

Agassi was a runner-up in Stockholm on Sunday losing to Sweden's Thomas Johansson while Nalbandian was a losing finalist to Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic in Basel. 

The withdrawal of the two players will be a boost for defending Paris champion Tim Henman and Russia's Marat Safin who were competing with the duo for three of the remaining places at the season-ending Masters Cup in Houston. 

Federer, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Moya and French Open winner Gaston Gaudio have already made sure of their places in the Masters Cup leaving three spots still up for grabs. 

Coria, who hasn't played since July, Safin and Henman are the three next best placed in the Champions Race standings with Agassi and Nalbandian just behind. 

Nalbandian's withdrawal now rules him out of contention for Houston. 

Agassi's place in the draw here has been taken by Romanian lucky loser Victor Hanescu while Italy's Davide Sanguinetti, also beaten in the qualifying competition, replaces Nalbandian. 

Federer withdrew last week with a thigh injury while Moya has failed to recover from a right shoulder injury. – AFP

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