The most extraordinary loss of his career, Andre Agassi. Returning to the scene of his greatest triumph, the 34-year-old, eight-time Grand Slam champion found himself outmoved, outplayed and outclassed 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the French Open by 271st-ranked Jerome Haehnel of France. When the 23-year-old Haehnel, a qualifier playing in his first tour event, was asked afterward to describe himself, he said, "A bad player." Then he smiled.
He had good reason. To win a match at any tour event is a great accomplishment for Haehnel; he came to Roland Garros without a coach, barely meeting expenses and mulling retirement. "Now maybe I will go on," he said. Agassi's future, oddly enough, is murkier. His commitment has been in question since his curiously emotional farewell to the Melbourne crowd at the Australian Open in January, and his decision to play just one clay-court match in preparation for Paris fed rumors of his retirement. When asked Monday whether he would return to Roland Garros next year, Agassi's eyes watered, and he said, "I don't know."
If he doesn't, it would be sad to think of Monday as his final memory of the terre battue. In 1999 Agassi's French Open title changed the conversation about him; he came in a career underachiever, left as one of only five men to win all four Grand Slam events and went on to become the oldest No. I in tennis history. But it has now been 13 months since Agassi (left) won a tournament. "The guys are too good, too young and they just keep coming at you these days," said Agassi's trainer and close friend, Gil Reyes. "We're down the homestretch, it's that simple. All I ask is that we don't limp to the finish line."