Boris Becker was convicted of tax evasion yesterday in Munich but avoided jail time. He was sentenced to a fine and probation.

"I'm a free man, that's the important thing," Becker said in a prepared statement. The three-time Wimbledon champion smiled briefly and shook hands with his lawyers when the verdict was delivered.

Becker, 34, was given two years of probation and fined $500,000, ending a 10-year investigation that he called "brutal" and said helped prompt him to quit tennis in 1999.

"I'm happy and relieved that this chapter is finally closed," his statement said. "This was my most important victory."

State attorneys had demanded Becker be sentenced to 31/2 years in jail for avoiding $1.7 million in taxes. Becker's lawyers argued that advisors, not their client, had misled authorities over his finances.

Prosecutor Matthias Musiol said he had not decided whether to appeal.

During Wednesday's hearing, Becker admitted that he kept a residence in Germany from 1991 to 1993 while claiming to reside in the tax haven of Monte Carlo. . . .

Andre Agassi's bid to win the ATP Champions Race was hurt when he was upset by Karol Kucera, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of the St. Petersburg Open in Russia. Agassi led 4-1 at the start before losing six straight games.

"He started a little bit nervous, he missed a few shots, but when he settled down he started playing very well," Agassi said. "He raised his level, and then I was unable to match that."

Agassi remains 43 points behind No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who lost in the second round of the Stockholm Open on Tuesday. . . .

Andy Roddick eliminated U.S. Davis Cup teammate James Blake, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, in the second round of the Swiss Indoors in Basel. . . .

Unseeded Alexandra Stevenson beat sixth-seeded Anastasia Myskina, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), to advance to the quarterfinals of the Generali Open in Linz, Austria.


Sutton Is Ryder Captain

Hal Sutton gets emotional just thinking about seeing the American flag and hearing the national anthem during the Ryder Cup. As the U.S. captain in 2004, Sutton's mission will be to instill such passion into his talented team.

Sutton was introduced as captain by the PGA of America at Oakland Hills Country Club in suburban Detroit, where the next competition between the United States and Europe will be played.

He said he is disturbed that the United States has lost six of the last nine matches, including last month, when Europe won by the largest margin in 17 years.

"We possess all kinds of talent," Sutton said. "I don't know what the missing ingredient is, but we do need to be more passionate."

Curtis Strange, who captained the U.S. team this year, was criticized for putting his two top players -- Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods -- at the bottom of the 12-man lineup on the closing day of singles.

Sutton defended Strange's strategy, but he plans to pair his four best players for the team matches to build a lead early in the three-day competition.

At The Belfry last month, Europe never trailed after taking a 3-1 lead after the opening round of matches.


Crew Rules Open Cup

Freddy Garcia scored in the 30th minute and the host Columbus Crew beat the Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-0, to win the U.S. Open Cup.

Garcia scored from six yards out after goalkeeper Matt Reis's diving punch save on a shot by Brian West went to Garcia, who volleyed the ball into the open net.

Los Angeles' best scoring chance came in the 78th minute when Carlos Ruiz crossed to Simon Elliott, whose header from five yards out went wide right.

This was the first championship for Columbus, which lost to New England in this year's MLS semifinals. The Galaxy won their first MLS Cup on Sunday with a 1-0 overtime victory over the Revolution.

The 89-year-old Open Cup features more than 100 professional and amateur teams nationwide in single-elimination competition. . . .

A Colombian soccer player who competed in the 1994 World Cup was killed when he was struck by lightning during practice.

The death of 32-year-old Hermam Gaviria was announced by the Valle de Lili hospital in Bogota. Teammates on Deportivo Cali tried to revive him on the field before taking him to the hospital.

Four other players were being treated at the hospital because of the lightning strike.

Gaviria, a halfback, played for Colombia's national team in the 1994 World Cup in the United States and in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Hal Sutton is all smiles after being named the U.S. Ryder Cup team captain. He succeeds Curtis Strange.