Andre Agassi's swan song has been difficult to watch
Posted: Thursday August 3, 2006 2:25PM; Updated: Thursday August 3, 2006 5:07PM
Andre Agassi is throwing a lot of kisses during his final year on Tour, but success has eluded him.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
As I sat in the sweltering 98-degree heat Tuesday night watching one of my all-time favorites, Andre Agassi, play Andrea Stoppini in the second round of the Legg Mason Tournament in Washington, D.C., I got choked up. The temperature alone was enough to cause weeping and gnashing of teeth. However, on this night it was the onetime rebel from Vegas who had me on the brink of tears.
The match was supposed to be a gimme for Agassi, a crowd-pleasing tune-up to help us forget about the heat and propel Agassi to the finals of a tournament he has won a record five times. It was our cherished American Goliath against an unknown David, and trust me, no one was rooting for the underdog. It was all about Andre. Yet after 60 painful minutes of watching Agassi struggle with his serve, smash his racket and spray his normally reliable ground strokes well beyond the baseline, the crowd was silent, unable to comprehend what it had just witnessed. "I'm open for suggestions at this point," Agassi said after the match.
In a few weeks, after the U.S. Open, Agassi will retire from tennis, ending an illustrious 20-year career. Agassi is trying to do what few champions before him have: leave the court at the top of his game. Yet on this hot night in the nation's capital, it would not be. The former No. 1 player in the world, known for his quickness and dominant baseline play, looked like any other 36-year-old geezer trying to keep up with a young gun on the Tour. He was outhustled, outsmarted and outplayed. He lost in straight sets to an Italian qualifier who's ranked 246th and who had won his first Tour match the day before.
"The first thing you want to do is just run off the court and hide," Agassi said. "But then you can't get around the fact that I've lived my life here. I've spent so much of my time here; there have been so many good moments, and you can't get hung up on a difficult one. But I wanted more for them, my crowd, and for myself."
Of course we all wanted more, because we were used to having it all with Andre. We didn't want to see him toil too long past his prime, as Ali, Marino and Jordan did before him.