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Pierce's father up to old tricks, again

Time has done little to slow Jim Pierce.

He is as fanatical as ever about the tennis career of his daughter, Mary, even though he is banned from attending WTA TOUR events.

"She's nowhere near the shape that she was in when she was working with me," he says time and again.

Not even illness has settled him down. About two months ago, he was found to have cancer of the bladder. Doctors discovered a malignant tumor.

"I ain't never had no operation except for when I was shot," said Pierce, who led a somewhat lurid life before getting Mary into tennis. "Put a gun in my face, and I ain't scared. But I don't like no hospitals."

He was told surgery to remove the tumor would cost $3,000 to $4,200. Pierce, however, is unemployed and doesn't have insurance.

His only hope: get Mary to pay for it. But his relationship with her has been strained for years.

He told British tabloids about his plight during Wimbledon, he said, in order to get Mary's attention. He was told she didn't appreciate it.

"It took two months before I could get in touch with her," he said. "What was I supposed to do?"

Mary, who made nearly $700,000 on tour last year, paid for the surgery. Pierce, who lives in a Delray Beach apartment owned by his daughter, is up and about again _ and still railing about Mary. He is convinced she hasn't received the kind of coaching he provided before they split several years ago.

"Nobody knows her game the way I do," he said.

IT AIN'T OVER: From the we've-all-done-that-before department, Karsten Braasch blew a 4-0 lead in the third set to lose an opening-round match in the Mercedes Cup last week to Filip Dewulf.

"It is really a minor catastrophe to lose like that," he said.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Andre Agassi's participation in the Olympics (the tennis competition began Monday) makes him a second-generation Olympian. His father, Mike, was on the Iranian boxing team in the 1948 and 1952 Games.

"My father is as proud or prouder of my being here as he is of anything else I've accomplished," Agassi said.

His father hasn't had much to cheer about lately. The young Agassi is in slump and dropped to No. 6 in the world rankings. It's the first time since October '94 he is ranked outside the top three.

SPEAKING OF RANKINGS: French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, skipping the Olympics in hopes of reaching his goal of being No. 1, moved a couple of steps closer, climbing from sixth to a career-high fourth. Former French Open champion Sergi Bruguera slipped from 53rd to 67th and retiring pro Stefan Edberg slid from 20th to 28th.

Tampa's Jared Palmer, coming off surgery on both knees, is 166th.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: In the wake of a report German officials are dropping their investigation of Steffi Graf, did anybody really believe she intentionally tried to evade paying taxes?

Graf, like all of us, is no angel. But, taking into account everything she's done over the years on and off the tour, it's safe to say she's no criminal, either.

NOW HERE THIS: Former Georgia star Wade McGuire, living in Tampa and playing the pro tour, has a bone to pick with TV tennis commentators.

"TV commentators say that guys who are around 30 are journeymen, but that's a joke," McGuire said. "Anyone in the top 30 or 50 or 60 or 100 is a great player."

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report; Darrell Fry can be reached by e-mail at frysptimes.com.

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