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Agassi, Nadal pull out; Masters depleted

The American withdraws after losing to Davydenko

SHANGHAI: Andre Agassi lost to Nikolay Davydenko, then pulled out of the Tennis Masters Cup less than an hour after second-ranked French Open champion Rafael Nadal withdrew with an injured left foot.

Agassi was on court losing 6-4, 6-2, while the 19-year-old Nadal had been due to face Gaston Gaudio in his opening round robin-match in the Gold Group.

Mariano Puerta became the fourth Argentine player in the draw when he was drafted to play compatriot Gaudio in Monday's later match at Qi Zhong Stadium. Gaudio won that match 6-3, 7-5.

Fernando Gonzalez of Chile will take Agassi's place in two remaining round-robin matches in the depleted Gold Group.

Defending champion Roger Federer, also on the comeback after injuring his right ankle last month, leads the Red Group. He overcame Argentine David Nalbandian in his opening match on Sunday.

Argentine Guillermo Coria and Ivan Ljubicic are in Federer's group.

Agassi, who lasted one hour and 14 minutes against Davydenko, said he could not play the rest of his round-robin matches because he aggravated an injury in his left ankle.

"No chance for me to play again, it's very dangerous and risky for my future," Agassi said. "This is unfortunate.''

Nadal said he had consulted local doctors in Shanghai and the tournament doctor, and all recommended him to withdraw. He said he hadn't been able to play or train since hurting the foot in his win over Ljubicic last month in Madrid.

No. 3 Andy Roddick and Australian Open winner Marat Safin withdrew before the tournament because of injuries. Lleyton Hewitt, ranked fourth, opted to remain in Sydney with his wife, actress Rebecca Cartwright, who is expecting the couple's first child within two weeks.

Agassi's defeat

Agassi was playing in his first tournament since losing the U.S. Open final to top-ranked Federer in September.

The loss to Davydenko extended his run in Shanghai to 0-4, including two matches at the 2002 Tennis Masters Cup before he withdrew from that tournament and a first-round loss at a tournament here in 2001.

The 35-year-old American started the match with his regular hustle, losing only one point in his first three service games.

He had a break point chance in the sixth game, but hit a forehand wide and Davydenko held for 3-3. Agassi led 40-15 in the next game before dropping serve when his 24-year-old Russian opponent produced three consecutive backhand winners.

Davydenko needed three set points before closing with a booming first serve.

Agassi started the second set aggressively, winning his first seven points on serve for a 2-1 lead.

Davydenko broke Agassi in the fifth game and then saved triple-break point in the sixth as he went on a five-game winning roll.

Federer No.1

Defending champion Federer was officially recognised as the winner of the 2005 ATP Champions race before play on Monday. He had an unbeatable lead in the season standings ahead of the Masters Cup.

"It gives me great satisfaction to finish as the No.1 player in the world for the second straight year," said Federer. "I haven't lost my No.1 ranking this year so I will try to keep it up and who knows, I could be standing here in 365 days' time."

Federer won 11 titles, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and had a 78-3 singles record coming into Shanghai, where he is aiming for a third consecutive Masters Cup title. — AP

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