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WIMBLEDON: DAY ONE // Seeds of discontent

Nice shirt, Andre. What else to say to the man who showed up at Wimbledon wearing a long sleeve garment on his back and sporting the No. 3 seed, only to be stripped to the bone by a guy who began the year ranked close to 600 and had won $2,205 in prize money going into Wimbledon.

So goes Andre Agassi, a champion here in 1992 and now a first-round loser, after getting dumped Monday 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) by No. 281-ranked Doug Flach, better known as the younger brother of former doubles specialist Ken Flach.

"I'm as excited as I can possibly can get," Doug Flach said. "It's the highlight of my career."

It was an unfashionable day for top-seeded Americans all around, as No. 6 Michael Chang and No. 8 Jim Courier were bounced. All this plus the return of Monica Seles to Wimbledon and the beginning of the end here for Stefan Edberg. All on a day that's supposed to be mostly a window-dressing lead-in to the week.

Instead, there were standing ovations for Seles and Edberg, both easy winners; a mini-scare for reigning king Pete Sampras, who lost a set and struggled with his serve before overcoming Richey Reneberg 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3; the dumpings of Chang and Courier, neither man a Wimbledon power but surprising losers nonetheless; and, finally, a continued fall for Agassi, who lost in the second round of the French Open.

Agassi, who said he had the flu a few days ago, coughed frequently and sweated profusely during the match. But he did not blame illness for his loss.

"I just couldn't put it together at the right times," Agassi said. "I had a lead going all the way in the fourth set, but couldn't come up with the shots."

A turning point came in the ninth game of the third set, with Agassi serving at 4-4. On a game point, he had an easy forehand but slapped the ball wide. Flach broke for 5-4 and held at love in the next game to win the set.

Flach served two of his 22 aces in the final tiebreaker. He squandered a first match point at 6-5 with a bad forehand error, but ripped a forehand return winner on the next point to give him a second chance.

Flach made his share of once-in-a-lifetime shots, none more spectacular than the volley he hit after rising from a belly-flop dive at the net.

"That's the first time I've ever dived for a ball on grass," said Flach, a 25-year-old who had played only one ATP Tour match the past two years. "I know it's possible, but that was a crazy point. Actually, after the point I was so, like, freaked out. I didn't know where I was for a minute. The crowd was clapping so loud, and that was really neat."

As inspired as Flach played, Agassi appeared equally indifferent.

"I'm trying to kind of get myself at the top of my game again," Agassi said, somewhat unconvincingly. "You know, when you've been there, and then all of a sudden your game is a little off, there's more frustration to it."

Not since 1978, when the seeded American threesome of Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe and Dick Stockton all lost in the first round, had American men endured so discouraging an opening day.

First Chang, who never has passed the quarterfinals here, was defeated 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 by the 17th-ranked Alberto Costa, a clay-coated Spaniard who had never before won a match on grass but behaved like an old hand as he shook off Chang.

Then Courier, the 1993 runner-up, was outplayed, 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, by Jonathan Stark, ranked 130th, who served up 19 aces to nine for Courier, and also broke Courier five times. The doubles specialist is best known here for his pairing with Martina Navratilova in last year's mixed-doubles competition, an 11th-hour partnership that yielded a Grand Slam crown.

"I know Jim's game really well," Stark said. "Unfortunately, we had to play first round. We're good friends and practice a lot together. But I had confidence going into the match, and I just knew if I could play well, I could win it, and luckily it happened."

Courier aggravated an injury when he fell in the fourth set, with Stark only a few games from victory.

"I just kind of tweaked the groin a little bit and the right leg is already a little bit weak at the moment," Courier said.

No. 15 Arnaud Boetsch of France lost to Alexander Radulescu of Germany 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 5-7, 9-7.

Wimbledon at a glance

MONDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

Pete Sampras (1) d. Richey Reneberg, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3; Doug Flach d. Andre Agassi (3), 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (8-6); Alberto Costa d. Michael Chang (6), 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4; Jonathan Stark d. Jim Courier (8), 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; Monica Seles (2) d. Ann Grossman, 6-1, 6-2; Conchita Martinez (3) d. Silvia Farina, 6-0, 6-0.

TODAY'S TOP MATCHES

Steffi Graf (1) vs. Ludmila Richterova; Yevgeny Kafelnikov (5) vs. Tim Henman; Adriana Serra-Zanetti vs. A. Sanchez Vicario (4).

TV: 9 a.m., HBO

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