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Agassi and Ecstasy
Curry Kirkpatrick
July 13, 1992
Andre Agassi embodied substance over style in winning Wimbledon for his first Grand Slam title
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July 13, 1992

Agassi And Ecstasy

Andre Agassi embodied substance over style in winning Wimbledon for his first Grand Slam title

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He took out his wrath on Agassi, pummeling him into the lawn with the loss of only 10 points in the 17-minute fourth set. Then, at 3-3 in the fifth, Agassi was down a break point. He could have folded. The younger tin man would have. But the new lion closed to the net and hit a winning volley on the run. Agassi then hit an ace of his own and eventually held serve. "I just wanted to hang in long enough to make Goran think about it, to serve to save the match," he said.

Which, after all those aces (and at least 25 other service winners), Ivanisevic couldn't do. Agassi had finally met someone in a major finals who was more fragile than he was supposed to be, and he knew it. "I kept telling myself Goran was capable of giving me a couple of free points," said Agassi. "If I could get him down to one final game, I liked my chances."

After holding serve at 15 to take a 5-4 lead, Agassi marched briskly out to deal with Ivanisevic's bullets one more time. But this time Ivanisevic shot blanks. One, two double faults, and the score was 0-30. Ivanisevic fought back to 30-30, but Agassi shakily executed a forehand pass off a weak volley to reach match point.

"Was little bit rushing," said Ivanisevic of his first serve on match point, which was a fault. "I throw ball too high. Was looking for ball. Was thinking too much. I don't know where to serve it. I lose motion. I miss."

Once that first delivery died in the net, everything else happened so quickly. "After you've been through what I have—I didn't hear the fat lady humming," Agassi said. "But now my eyes lit up."

And so came Ivanisevic's second serve, Agassi's backhand return right at him, Ivanisevic's backhand volley into the net. "The next thing I look, nothing, except see guy down on floor," said the loser of the winner. "Oh, no. Unbelievable. I lose Wimbledon. That's it."

The only poor soul Ivanisevic didn't serve off the court and into the umbrella concessions was Graf, who the better she plays at Wimbledon, the more we seem to pay attention to others. Such as Martina Navratilova, who had won six All England titles in a row when Graf came along in 1988 and knocked her off in the finals. And Steffi's own father, Peter, whose tabloid-chronicled extramarital excursions in '90 may have cost her a third straight title. And Monica Seles, who got more press for not playing the tournament in '91 than Graf did for winning it.

Last week Graf whipped up on Gabriela Sabatini and Seles—back-to-back, belly-to-belly; the victims played as if they were done dead already—in about nine minutes and 47 seconds to win once more. You may have heard about it. Then again, you may not have if you were anywhere within range of the ear-splitting performances of Seles, who once again stole the thunder, this time literally, from Graf.

While everyone else, from the All England Club to the tabloids to Navratilova, was in a uproar over Seles's grunting, Ivanisevic took exception to her silence about the war back home. Seles is an ethnic Hungarian from Serbia. "I am playing for me and Croatia," said Ivanisevic, "but she is playing for I don't know what. Nobody knows what she stands for. Maybe she does not want to know her country anymore."

Nobody recalled Sabatini ever discussing human rights violations in Argentina, and to outsiders the reticence of the 18-year-old Seles, who left Yugoslavia for Florida when she was all of 11, seemed reasonable. Nonetheless, on the morning of her semifinal match against Navratilova, Monica and her family had to be evacuated from their rented house after Scotland Yard reported that Croat supporters had mailed a bomb threat to Monica.

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