Yes, Agassi had won Wimbledon, but this felt different. Like many of his critics, Agassi suspected he had fallen into two wondrous weeks in England in '92, had gotten by on mindless, perfect strokes. "When I won Wimbledon, it was a relief," Agassi says. "Winning this one, I feel I've made a surge forward. There's a difference between saying, 'Wheeeww, I did it,' and saying, 'Yes. I can do it.' "
Strangely enough, despite the black socks, Minnie Mouse shoes and one lapse when he babbled with John McEnroe through the on-court camera, Agassi never allowed himself to be distracted by the sidelines of his career. During a tournament in which the doubles team of Luke and Murphy Jensen—cartoon characters who do everything to attract attention except win matches—took Agassi's rock-and-roll image to absurd extremes, Agassi was all game. "Murphy and Luke have a gig," he says. "That's never been something I've tried to create. It's always just been a part of who I am. You can bring your act, but the substance has to be what we came here for: the tennis."
This is what he carries now, at a few minutes past 4 p.m. on a September Sunday: the substance. At 24, Agassi has finally come to understand what he is supposed to do. "I can be the best player in the world," he says.
Now they are moving him along. He hustles down the stairs and into the mouth of the tunnel, Stich trailing and the bodyguards all around. He can hear the thousands outside, can see the green of the court getting bigger. His face is a blank. He isn't quivering now. "When you step onto a court," Agassi says, "it's like another person takes over. It's almost like going into a time warp, through something. The nerves are so intense and then you step out...and all of a sudden there's a sense of peace. It's incredible."
A champion arrives.