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New dad Agassi rallies to top Rafter

Andre Agassi needed some extra time to warm up in his first match since becoming a father.

He lost the first two games Monday, then came back to beat Patrick Rafter 6-2, 6-4 on the opening night of the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Sydney, Australia.

Agassi's wife, Steffi Graf, gave birth to son Jaden Gil last month.

"Very few things in your life you cherish so much," Agassi said. "I would be lying to say that it hasn't been a time of focusing on other things, but I have maintained my fitness and my preparation and it is really motivating."

After falling behind 0-2, Agassi won six consecutive games.

No. 2 Lleyton Hewitt beat No. 7 Sebastien Grosjean 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Hewitt and No. 3-ranked Agassi closed the gap on No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten in a tournament that will decide the top spot for the ATP Champions race.

OLYMPICS: The European Union nations made a commitment to send teams to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City despite security concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks. "The ministers unanimously said, "Yes, we need our celebration of sport and, yes, all teams have to come,' " EU Sports Commissioner Viviane Reding said of the EU's sports ministers.

HORSES: Swiftly Classic, a 4-year-old mare and sister to stakes winners Sky Alliance and Classic Alliance, brought $145,000 to top a session of Keeneland's November Breeding Stock Sale.

SOCCER: Leicester City said it will appeal a UK government decision denying Chinese striker Zhang Yuning a work permit to play for the English club. Immigration officials refused the permit because the 24-year-old didn't play for his country in 75 percent of recent international games. Milan Baros will be eligible for a permit to join Liverpool if he plays in the Czech Republic's World Cup playoff with Belgium on Wednesday, Liverpool said.

GOLF: Padraig Harrington entered the top 10 of the world rankings after winning the Volvo Masters Andalucia on Sunday in Jerez, Spain, and climbed six places from No. 16. Tiger Woods stayed No. 1.

WEIGHTLIFTING: Wang Mingjuan of China broke the world record in the women's 105{-pound class, hefting a combined 462 pounds at Beijing. Wang lifted 247{ pounds in the jerk and 214{ pounds in the snatch.

COLLEGES: The Tampa men's golf team shot 299 and led by six strokes after one round of the Saint Leo Invitational at the Lake Jovita Country Club. Tampa's Matt Freeman and Ryo Ishiguro and Webber's Hugo LaForest shared the individual lead at even par 72. The event ends today.

RODEO: Under pressure from an animal-rights group, Illinois officials agreed to promote better treatment of animals. The group videotaped alleged abuses of rules at the National High School finals in July 2000 at the Illinois fairgrounds. State Agriculture Department officials said they will distribute pamphlets to rodeo operators explaining appropriate shelter and treatment.

RUNNING: Blood tests will be used for the first time at next year's London Marathon in a bid to detect the banned drug EPO, a synthetic hormone that improves endurances by increasing the level of oxygen-carry red blood cells.

CYCLING: Michele Ferrari, a doctor who has worked with three-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong, will testify next week about whether he gave banned drugs to cyclists. Ferrari is charged with giving EPO to several Europeans. Armstrong has never tested positive for a banned substance and said Ferrari has never discussed drugs with him.

_ Compiled from Times wires.

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