Roger Federer and Andy Roddick overcame minor worries and moved on at the Cincinnati Masters. Andre Agassi dropped out and headed home with a lot on his mind.
Federer worked off the rust from a five-week layoff caused by a sore foot, and Roddick compensated for an undependable serve during their first-round wins yesterday in Mason, Ohio.
Agassi came and went without lifting a racket.
The 35-year-old defending champion decided to withdraw because a chronic back problem flared up. He hoped that a couple of weeks of rest and perhaps another cortisone shot would soothe an inflamed nerve, allowing him to play in the U.S. Open.
"Unfortunately, I know this process all too well," said Agassi, bothered by back problems in recent years. "I know exactly what it needs."
Federer needs to sharpen his game after missing so much time. The world's top-ranked player hadn't entered a tournament since winning his third straight Wimbledon title, and it showed.
During the first set of a 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 win over James Blake, Federer set up for a routine backhand and barely touched the ball, which skittered off the tip of his racket. Federer dropped his head in disbelief.
Meantime, Roddick struggled with his serve, but was solid in every other aspect of a rejuvenating 6-3, 6-4 win over Jurgen Melzer.
* BASKETBALL: The undefeated U.S. women's basketball team overcame a slow start to beat Poland, 89-63, earning a quarterfinal spot against Taiwan in the University Games in Izmir, Turkey. Megan Duffy scored 13 points and Seimone Augustus added 12 for the United States (4-0).
* YOUTH SOFTBALL: Sophie Giaquinto scored the winning run in the sixth inning on Abby Petersen's sacrifice bunt as McLean defeated Asia-Pacific champion Bacolod City (Philippines), 4-2, in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore. Jillian Falle pitched a three-hitter for McLean (3-1), which will play in the semifinals today.
* HOCKEY: The Czech and Russian hockey federations refused to sign the proposed player transfer agreement between the NHL and the sport's world governing body as yesterday's deadline passed, leaving unsettled the NHL's participation in next year's Turin Olympics.
* TRACK AND FIELD: Indian discus thrower Neelam Jaswant Singh denied using a banned substance after she was suspended for a failed drug test at the world track and field championships in Helsinki earlier this month.
Singh, the 2002 Asian Games gold medalist, tested positive for the stimulant pemoline Saturday.
* COURTS: A judge in Chicago approved a $16 million settlement of a lawsuit that calls for Northwestern University to pay the family of a football player who collapsed and died during practice four years ago. Rashidi Wheeler's mother, Linda Will, who has objected to settling the case, filed an appeal to the order.
* AUTO RACING: John Beckett was killed Sunday when his car rolled at more than 200 mph during time trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The 58-year-old North Carolina driver was a former president of the East Coast Timing Association, which organizes race events along the Eastern Seaboard.
-- From News Services