LONDON, June 24 (UPI) -- After having his request denied to have his first-round match delayed to Tuesday, seven-time champion Pete Sampras shook off sore ribs Monday and beat Britain's Martin Lee, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 at Wimbledon.
A Wimbledon champion 10 years ago, Andre Agassi was given the honor of gracing Centre Court first on the opening day of the grasscourt Grand Slam event and cruised to an easy victory over Israel's Harel Levy, 6-0, 6-4, 6-4.
The defending men's champion at this grasscourt Grand Slam event is traditionally bestowed the right to open the festivities at Centre Court, but for the first time since 1931 both finalists were absent. Last year's surprise champion Goran Ivanisevic is out with a shoulder injury and runnerup Pat Rafter is taking an extended break from competition.
Tournament organizers turned to Sampras, who is considered by many to be the best grasscourt player ever, but Sampras pulled out of an exhibition match last Saturday due to sore ribs and asked for his first-round match here to be pushed back to Tuesday.
However, since Sampras' half of the draw already was slated to play on Monday, that could not be arranged. After receiving more treatment for an injury described as an "acute strain in the lower right ribs," the sixth-seeded Sampras played the third match of the day on Centre Court and beat Lee in two hours and 15 minutes.
Sampras won his record seventh Wimbledon singles championship in 2000, but hasn't won a title anywhere since -- a drought of 29 tournaments. Yet he is hard to dismiss as a contender on grass. He had won 56 of his previous 57 Wimbledon matches before losing to Roger Federer in the fourth round last year.
The 30-year-old Sampras played in one Wimbledon tuneup, losing a second-round match to Nicolas Kiefer at the Gerry Weber Open. He has 63 career titles but has been in just one final this year.
The third-seeded Agassi was especially sharp on Monday, considering he hadn't played a match on grass this year and hadn't played at all since a quarterfinal loss at the French Open.
Agassi took the first set in 18 minutes, firing five aces with a 74 percent success rate on first serves. He had six more aces in the second set and raced to a 5-2 lead in the third set. After Levy broke Agassi's serve at love and won the next game, Agassi closed out the match on serve.
The women took over Centre Court for the second match of the day and second-seeded Serena Williams made it a quick one, dismissing Australia's Evie Dominikovic, 6-1, 6-1, in 42 minutes.
It was Williams' first match since she won her second Grand Slam title at the French Open earlier this month, beating her older sister Venus in the final.
Serena Williams fired two aces in the opening game and broke Dominikovic's serve two straight times with the help of three double-faults. She closed out the first set in 16 minutes, holding at love after Dominikovic, the world's 103rd ranked player, managed to win a game.
Serena Williams immediately broke serve in the opening game of the second set and won the final four games to end the match in 42 minutes.
Third seeded Jennifer Capriati had a little time in her first round match, beating Janette Husarova of Slovakia, 6-1, 6-4. After breezing through the first set, Capriati dropped the first two games of the second set.
As the defending women's champion, top seed Venus Williams will open play on Centre Court on Tuesday against 344th-ranked Jane O'Donaghue of Britain.
Williams is trying to become the ninth female to win three straight Wimbledon singles crowns and the first since Steffi Graf from 1991-93. She has won four of the last eight Grand Slam titles, including the last two U.S. Opens.
The top seed on the men's side is Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, who was bounced in the fourth round here last year before winning the U.S. Open for the first Grand Slam title of his career.
Hewitt defeated Britain's Tim Henman at the Stella Artois Championships two weeks ago for his third title of the season and fourth of his career on grass. But Hewitt withdrew from the quarterfinals of the Ordina Open last Friday due to a stomach virus.
Second-seeded Marat Safin of Russia, the U.S. Open champion, drew 1997 runnerup Cedric Pioline of France in the first round, and advanced with a 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, 6-3 victory on Monday.
Pioline held one set point in the tiebreaker, but Safin responded with a strong volley and then took the tiebreaker on his third set point
Safin's countryman Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the fifth seed, won two tiebreakers in a straight sets victory over Dominik Hrbaty, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7) on Monday.
No. 11 Andy Roddick of the United States advanced when his opponent, Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic, was forced to retire due to injury. Roddick was leading 6-1, 3-1 when Ulihrach retired.
Fellow American James Blake, the 29th seed, was leading his first-round match against Mariano Zabaleta, 6-2, 6-2, when the Argentine retired due to sickness.
Blake will meet 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, who is participating in a Grand Slam event for the first time in 22 months after undergoing surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his right elbow.
In only his second singles match of the year, Krajicek beat Franco Squillari of Argentina, 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), on Monday.
Also, No. 12 Jiri Novak defeated Fernando Meligeni, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-4; 14th-seeded Thomas Enqvist beat Arvind Parmer, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 and 15th-seeded Andrei Pavel downed Kenneth Carlsen, 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
The highest-ranked men's players to fall were No. 19 Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina and No. 21 Max Mirnyi of Belarus. Fernando Gonzalez defeated Chela, 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, and Taylor Dent beat Mirnyi, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
Nicolas Lapentti, the 22nd seed from Ecuador, had to save four match points before defeating British wild card Jamie Delgado, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 4-6, 7-5.
No. 24 Alexandra Stevenson of the U.S. was the highest women's seed to stumble, losing to Saori Obata, 6-1, 6-3.
Seventh-seeded Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia beat Elena Tatarkova of the Ukraine, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, in the final ladies' singles match of the day.
No. 8 Sandrine Testud of France rallied for a 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1 victory over Anca Barna of Germany; ninth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo beat Iveta Benesova, 6-1, 6-7 (0-7), 6-2; and No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia defeated Cristina Torrens-Valero of Spain, 6-3, 6-2.
In other matches, 13th-seeded Meghann Shaughnessy beat Lucie Ahl, 6-2, 6-2; No. 14 Iroda Tulyaganova defeated Silvija Talaja, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4; and 18th-seeded Anastasia Myskina downed Eva Dyrberg, 2-6, 6-1, 7-5.
The male admirers crammed into court No. 2 to see Anna Kournikova. But the 21-year-old Russian has slipped to No. 55 in the world rankings and was beaten by countrywoman Tatiana Panova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Panova, the 21st seed, lost to 45-year-old Martina Navratilova at Eastbourne last week.