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Agassi fights back to capture first title at Roland Garros
Posted: Wednesday June 09, 1999 11:55 AM
PARIS (CNN/SI) -- Andre Agassi was left in tears Sunday after rallying to defeat Andrei Medvedev in five sets to claim his first French Open title.
The victory made him only the fifth man to capture a career Grand Slam.
Trailing by two sets, Agassi pulled his game together for a dramatic 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 triumph. After the final point, he covered his face with his arms and broke into tears.
"I never dreamed I'd ever be back here after so many years, I'm so proud," said Agassi, his voice shaking. "I'll never forget this, I'll never forget this. I'm very blessed."
The others to win all four majors in a career were Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. Budge and Laver (twice) did it in the same year.
Laver was on the court to present the trophy to Agassi.
"To be assigned a place with some of the game's greatest players is an honor I'll have the rest of my life," Agassi said.
Agassi, seeded 13th, also won the 1992 Wimbledon, the 1994 U.S. Open and the 1995 Australian Open.
Medvedev, at No. 100 the lowest-ranked player ever to reach the French Open final, and Agassi hugged after the match.
"I cannot say that losing to him is an honor, but it's an honor to stand here with him because he made history," Medvedev said.
Medvedev's ranking will jump to the mid-20s. Agassi will rise 10 spots to No. 4.
"I cannot say I did anything wrong, he just played unbelievably," Medvedev said. "I left my heart and soul on the court. I had nothing left."
Medvedev was ranked as high as No. 4 in 1994. But his ranking plummeted amid injuries and a loss of interest in tennis. He has won 11 titles in his career.
Agassi, a former No. 1 who dropped out of the top 100 not long ago, won his 41st title and earned $635,000. "What I've managed to accomplish is astonishing," he said. "This was the greatest thing I could ever do."
Agassi was the first man to complete the Grand Slam on three different surfaces -- clay, grass and hard courts. At one time, three majors were played on grass and the French Open on clay.
Medvedev, playing in his first Grand slam final, ruled the first two sets. Then the 29-year-old American found his old fire in the third and turned the match around by coming more to the net.
"I lost to a great player today," Medvedev said.
A loser in the French Open final in 1990 and 1991, Agassi raised his game as the sun reappeared and the wind died down on the red clay.
He hit a backhand winner down the line and Medvedev blasted a forehand long to put Agassi a break up with a 3-2 in the fifth.
With Medvedev serving, Agassi held three match points at 5-3. Medvedev fired his 23rd ace to save the first and had another big serve to stave off the second. A double fault and a botched volley put Medvedev in trouble again, but he survived with another good serve.
A couple of strong serves gave Agassi his fourth match point. He fired a serve far to Medvedev's forehand and the Ukrainian's return went long.
Medvedev took the first set in 19 minutes. He responded with another strong set as Agassi made one error after another. But as Agassi fought back, Medvedev's confidence waned.
"I felt if I could let him feel my presence it could turn into a battle," Agassi said.
Medvedev finished the first two sets with aces and had 23 for the match. But he also faced one of the best returners in the game.
"It was not a great start but I hung in there," Agassi said. "I was trying to move, but my legs weren't going. It was scary."
Agassi broke serve for the first time for a 4-2 lead in the third. But his momentum did not last long. A drop shot winner, a forehand winner and a forehand wide by Agassi gave Medvedev three break points. Agassi than fired wide an overhead smash and the set got back on serve.
Two straight double faults gave Medvedev a break point, but Agassi saved it. The ninth game went to another deuce before Agassi held.
Agassi gained three set points at Medvedev's serve in the next game. He got the first one when the Ukrainian's lob went long.
Now the crowd was into it: Agassi was producing winning shots and Medvedev was producing unforced errors.
"I knew my game wasn't gone," Agassi said.
He had a break point to go up 4-0 in the fourth, but Medvedev replied with two straight aces. He then double faulted but a good serve and a forehand winner allowed Medvedev to hold.
Medvedev blasted four aces in the sixth game, in which he fought off three break points. But Agassi closed it out on his second set point. A wide backhand gave Agassi the fourth set.
Medvedev prolonged play in the fifth when he faced three match points in the ninth game. The game went to five deuces before Medvedev saved it.
But there was nothing he could do to stop Agassi from serving out the match.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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