Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

French Begins with No Strong Favorite

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

French Begins with No Strong Favorite

Article excerpt

Andre Agassi has the incentive, Thomas Muster has the momentum and Sergi Bruguera has the know-how.

The French Open starts today with three main contenders but no overwhelming favorite.

On paper, Muster should be considered the man to beat: He has dominated the clay-court season by winning five tournaments and 28 consecutive matches.

But several players wonder whether Muster may have peaked too soon and question whether he can keep up the pace for seven best-of-five matches over two weeks.

"You wonder if maybe Thomas has had such a successful season on clay that he might be a little tired going into the French," said Michael Chang, the 1989 champion.

"You often see that guys who have great results before Roland Garros (the tournament site) lose a bit of force," tournament director Patrice Clerc said. "I think it will be tough for Muster to go all the way."

Even Muster, who is seeded fifth, is downplaying the expectations and taking a casual attitude about his chances.

"Nobody's going to expect me to win," the Austrian lefthander said. "If it happens, it's a great day at the office. If not, I have another week off. That's OK."

Muster reached the semifinals in 1990 but never has advanced as far as the quarterfinals in eight other appearances. Last year, he outdueled Agassi in five sets in the second round, but let down against Patrick Rafter in his next match.

The top-seeded Agassi has won the last two Grand Slam tournaments, the 1994 U.S. Open and the Australian Open in January, to go with his Wimbledon title in 1992. He took over the No. 1 ranking from Pete Sampras in April and now is on a mission to win the French, the only Grand Slam title to elude him.

Agassi was runner-up at Paris in 1990 and 1991. If he succeeds this year, he will become the first American since Don Budge in 1938 - and the first of any nationality since Rod Laver in 1969 - to win all four Grand Slams in his career. …

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