Andre Agassi blamed a trapped nerve in his back for his shock exit by Finland's Jarkko Nieminen in the French Open here yesterday but says he is not yet ready to retire.
Nieminen beat the 1999 Roland Garros champion 7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 6-0 on the Philippe Chatrier centre court - Agassi's second consecutive first-round loss here.
The 35-year-old said: "In the late part of the third set the nerve in my back started getting inflamed and I was sensing pain all the way down my leg, and it was getting worse by the minute.
"I had an injection in the nerve deep in my back a few months ago and it lasted for a while. But week by week I could feel it was less and less effective. I have to live with this.
"Tennis is what I do, and it's given me a lot. I'll assess the necessary things at the end of the year.
"But I can't afford to pollute the potential of my winning matches or tournaments with sitting on the fence, with where I am, what I'm doing or why I'm doing it.
"You just have to put your head down and work. I will look at it at the end of the year."
Nieminen, understandably ecstatic, called the win "the greatest of my career".
He added: "I had played him once before and he had destroyed me. Mentally it was tough for me to finish off the match even though I was leading 5-0. I am very impressed by Agassi's career, he still plays and moves very well, and this is a great achievement for me."
British No 2 Greg Rusedski promptly followed Agassi out,
suffering his third consecutive first-round exit.
Rusedski, who squandered two set points in the second set, lost 6-2, 7-6, 6-3 after two hours and 21 minutes to Brazil's Flavio Saretta.
The 31-year-old had won only one match on clay in four years and was always fighting an uphill battle after losing four games in a row to concede the first set.
The second set was the most evenly contested as Rusedski fought back from a break down to level at 5-5 and hold on until the tie-break.
The former US Open finalist led 3-0 and held two set points but missed the first with an errant backhand and crucially served a double fault.
Another double fault gave a set point to Saretta who converted on his second opportunity with a forehand winner. Saretta sealed victory in straight sets.
Rusedski said: "I must give credit to Saretta, he played really well.
"I am disappointed because I was training well and my serve also was good during training but I guess I could have got into the match better with a more efficient serve."
Rusedski, traditionally a big server, fired only six aces but made nine double faults.
"This is a question of confidence, the more matches you play the better your confidence gets," he added.
In the women's game, world No 2 Maria Sharapova could not hide her relief after avoiding a major upset after she came from a set down to defeat fellow Russian Evgenia Linetskaya.
The 18-year-old, who is the second seed here, needed two hours and 26 minutes to book her place in the second round by defeating her opponent 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-4.
Sharapova looked to be in serious trouble when Linetskaya led 3-1 in the final set but battled back to secure her spot in the next round.
"This was a tough clash but this is the sort of match I play for," Sharapova said. "It would have been great for me to win in one hour. At some point I thought I would lose but then I fought back and won.
"This is the type of match that I am working and playing for."
Asked whether she feels capable of winning her second grand slam title, Sharapova remained cautious, adding: "I tend not to think about what I have done before the tournament nor making any bets about my potential.
"All I am doing is taking match after match and concentrating on my next opponent."
Third seed and French favourite Amelie Mauresmo cruised into the second round by thrashing Australian Evie Dominikovic 6-2, 6-1.
Earlier, Belgium's 2003 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, who has battled back from having glandular fever, triumphed over Spain's Conchita Martinez 6-0, 4-6, 6-4.