Agassi, Hewitt withdraw

PARIS, NOV. 15. A long season took its toll on the field at the $2.95 million Paris Masters Series as defending champion Andre Agassi and Aussie teen star Lleyton Hewitt withdrew through injury.

Agassi's participation had been in some doubt following the hip flexor injury he picked up last week at Lyon and Frenchman Stephane Huet will now take his place in the draw against American Jan-Michael Gambill.

``I suffered an injury to my hip last week in Lyon and this has been bothering me since then,'' said Agassi, who last season won Roland Garros and the indoor event in the French capital.

``I practised on Monday and Tuesday morning in Paris to see if I was fit to compete at the level that I wanted to. Unfortunately I came to the conclusion that I could not go out there and play at the professional level I would want.''

Players have been dropping like flies here at the final Masters Series event of the season with Gambill himself only ousting Romania's Andrei Pavel after the latter quit when 1- 4 down in the opening set.

Hewitt saw his tournament, like Agassi's, end before it had even begun as he pulled out with an allergy that has hampered his progress for several months.

Hewitt was to have faced Michael Chang of United States in his second-round match but said he was not feeling well and did not want to jeopardise his chances of playing in the Davis Cup final against Spain next month.

Israeli lucky loser Harel Levy replaces him in the draw.

``I've been struggling since Toronto and it got a little worse after the U.S. Open,'' explained the 19-year-old Adelaider.

Hewitt now has to sweat on making the Masters Cup end of season event in Lisbon in a fortnight's time. He can still claim one of two remaining berths in the eight-man field.

``It's a little bit annoying with such big tournaments coming up at the end of the year. But the big one for me is the Davis Cup final,'' he said.

The losing seeds were Norman, beaten 2-6, 4-6 by gutsy Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, 14th-seeded Frenchman Cedric Pioline, beaten 5- 7, 5-7 by Swiss giant Marc Rosset - who now plays Santoro.

Two top names did advance to the last 16. Top-ranked Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil survived a second set scare to oust U.S. qualifier Chris Woodruff 6-3, 7-6 (7-0) in 1hr 17min.

Kuerten was backed by a sizeable Brazilian contingent in the Bercy Stadium crowd to score his first win in three visits here.

The South American was joined in the third round by Olympic champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov as the Russian fourth seed ousted Swedish qualifier Magnus Gustafsson 7-6, 6-4.

Kafelnikov, still looking for his first Masters Series title, recovered to put a spurt on from 1-4 down in the second set.

Stuttgart Masters champion Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, seeded 10th, defeated Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-4, 2-6, 6- 4.

Dominik Hrbaty ousted Swiss hope Roger Federer 4-6, 6- 2, 6-2. Frenchman Arnaud Clement followed up on his first career title in Lyon over the weekend as he controlled Greg Rusedski 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

The results: Jan-Michael Gambill.bt Andrei Pavel 4-1 (latter conceded); Fabrice Santoro bt Magnus Norman 6-2, 6-4; Marc Rosset bt Cedric Pioline 7-5, 7-5; Gustavo Kuerten bt Chris Woodruff 6- 3, 7-6 (7-0); Yevgeny Kafelnikov bt Magnus Gustafsson 7-6, 6-4; Wayne Ferreira bt Max Mirnyi 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; Dominik Hrbaty bt Roger Federer 4-6, 6-2, 6-2; Arnaud Clement bt Greg Rusedski 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

Earlier result: Albert Costa bt Tim Henman 6-4,6-4.