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Agassi loses fifth straight; Sampras wins; Becker out

Andre Agassi should be thankful he doesn't need money, because he's not making much lately by playing.

Agassi, the two-time defending champion at the Lipton Championships, lost his opening match Saturday to Scott Draper 7-6 (7-5), 6-1. The defeat was Agassi's fifth in a row, his worst slump.

In other men's play, Adrian Voinea warmed up to the theme from Mission: Impossible, then lost to top-ranked Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-0. Second-seeded Thomas Muster and No. 3 Michael Chang also advanced to the third round. Seeds eliminated included No. 6 Thomas Enqvist, No. 13 Felix Mantilla, No. 14 Tim Henman, No. 15 Marc Rosset and No. 16 Alberto Berasategui.

No. 10 Boris Becker, bothered by a wrist injury since summer, withdrew before his opening match.

Anna Kournikova, at 15 the youngest player in the tournament, beat No. 12 Amanda Coetzer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Two other women's seeds were eliminated in their opening matches. No. 9 Karina Habsudova lost to Natasha Zvereva 6-4, 6-3, and No. 15 Brenda Schultz-McCarthy was beaten by Tatiana Panova 1-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4.

Motivation may be a problem for Agassi, a 26-year-old multimillionaire, but he denies it.

"I'm not tired," he said. "I'm not through."

Still, Agassi's career has become a celebrity tour: one match and on to the next stop.

He has failed to win a set in the past six weeks, losing to Greg Rusedski, Gustavo Kuerten, Javier Sanchez, Mark Philippoussis and Draper. His ranking slipped from eighth at the beginning of the year to 13th, and now he'll drop out of the top 20.

In 1995, Agassi won 73 matches. This year he has won three.

Against Draper, a 22-year-old ranked 79th, Agassi played as if he were double-parked. He lost his serve at love in the final game, and the lackluster performance prompted speculation that he tanked the second set.

Agassi said poor shot selection is at the root of his trouble.

"I wish sometimes I believed in myself out there as much as most people believe in my capabilities," he said. "I'm second-guessing myself a lot out there. It's something I'm going to have to get through."

Because Agassi has lost his opening match in four consecutive tournaments, he has played just eight times this year, making it difficult to shake the slump.

"It feels like a real vicious cycle at the moment," he said. "I need to get through some of these tough ones to start putting it together."

Agassi missed the lines by 6 feet against Draper and had trouble with his service return, usually the best. He misfired twice while returning second serves in the tiebreaker, including once on set point.

Draper gave up an early service break but immediately broke back and overcame three break points serving at 5-5. After winning the tiebreaker, Draper broke serve twice for a quick 4-1 lead in the second set and closed it out in 80 minutes.

"Andre is struggling for confidence at the moment, and a lot of guys have been beating him," Draper said.