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Agassi Drawn Against Zimbabwe No. 2

February 4, 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Andre Agassi beat Pete Sampras on his way to the Australian Open title. Wayne Black nearly did the same.

Agassi and Black square off today in the opening match of the Davis Cup between the United States and Zimbabwe.

``It’s going to be quite an experience. You can’t take anything for granted,″ Agassi said on Thursday, noting that Black had won the first two sets before losing to Sampras in the Australian Open.

``There’s a lot of pop in Wayne’s game. He can be dangerous,″ Agassi said.

Agassi leads an injury-depleted U.S. team in John McEnroe’s debut as non-playing captain of the squad. Agassi will be followed today by Chris Woodruff, who plays Byron Black, the top-ranked player in Zimbabwe and the brother of Wayne.

``We are the underdogs. Andre is the best tennis player on the planet, but we will try to hold our own,″ Byron Black said. ``Wayne is comfortable with coming off the blocks first. He will be the aggressor and could give Andre a surprise.″

In other World Group ties, the Czech Republic plays host to Britain, Italy travels to Spain, Russia is at home against Belgium, Slovakia plays host to Austria, France plays at Brazil, and Germany is home against the Netherlands.

Woodruff was brought in at short notice to replace Sampras, who injured his hip the Australian Open. Todd Martin also withdrew because of a viral infection.

Throw in the altitude in Harare of nearly 5,000 feet, and the U.S. team could be in for a difficult weekend.

``I’d be lying to say it’s ideal,″ Agassi said. ``It isn’t comfortable for any of us. Once you throw in variables it’s better for the underdog,″ he said.

The Zimbabweans will be supported by a home crowd that traditionally beats African drums.

``As long as it’s fair and play isn’t disrupted, I prefer that. I like energy,″ McEnroe said. ``I consider we are slight favorites. There’s not a lot a tennis played at this altitude.″

Grace Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, drew Wayne Black’s name from an antique silver bowl in the gardens of the colonial-style State House presidential palace in Harare.

Under Davis Cup rules, a second-seeded player drawn first must play his opponents’ top player. The singles matches reverse on Sunday.

Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett are scheduled to meet Americans Alex O’Brien and Rick Leach on Saturday in the doubles.

The Black brothers led Zimbabwe back into the Davis Cup World Group by trouncing Marcelo Rios and Chile 4-1 last September.

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