With the early exits of Evert and Navratilova, and McEnroe a game loser, Agassi distinguished himself as the only American to reach the semis. He is a package of contradictions, a 5'10", 150-pound power player, a teen idol who dislikes rock 'n' roll, a devout Christian from Las Vegas. He wears a watch on the court, as if he's in a hurry to get somewhere. He's not. He'll skip Wimbledon to return to Vegas, pump iron and try to be a typical teenager.
'Truthfully, if someone gave Andre a million dollars to go to Wimbledon, he'd still want to go home," said his coach, tennis pedagogue Nick Bollettieri, after Agassi's 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, sorry-tank's-empty loss to Wilander. "He's still a baby. Winning today would have been too soon. There's a law of nature, and to defy it may prevent winning from having a continuous effect."
Two other Bollettieri protégés, Jimmy Arias and Aaron Krickstein, were young sensations with laserlike forehands before they won discontinuously and thus gave rise to the phrase Bollettieri Burnout. Both lost in the first round at Roland Garros. "Agassi is a more complete player than Arias and Krickstein," said Wilander. "He attacks better and has a much better backhand."
Agassi plays the game loose, treating it as if the ball boys were showgirls and choreographing floorshow stuff for each stroke. Against Wilander he let out a whoop ("Yee-haw-haw!") after muffing shots. He mimed paying off a linesman after getting the upside of a dubious call. He even grabbed an umbrella from a spectator during a passing shower and looked at Wilander as if play should continue with Agassi holding it. "Number one for me is to enjoy myself," Agassi said. "That's what makes me play better." Indeed, after stealing a brief rest in a linesman's chair, he broke Wilander's serve at 3-3 and went on to win the fourth set.
But Wilander has won an astonishing 11 of 12 Grand Slam fifth sets, and he wore down Agassi, just as he had Bobo Zivojinovic in the third round after having fallen behind 5-2 in the final set. The French Open is special to Wilander; it's where he stepped out as a 17-year-old champion in 1982. He reached the finals against Yannick Noah in '83, but, as he says, "I just could never get into that match. The crowd was all for Noah. I felt that by winning I'd be spoiling the party." Wilander won again in '85.
The fans were curiously indifferent toward Leconte when he met Wilander in Sunday's final, and there was no party to poop. The bottled water the finalists slugged down during changeovers reflected their styles: Leconte is a Perrier freak, Wilander a noncarbonated Evian man. On clay, non-gazeuse will win more often than not. Wilander missed only two of 74 first serves in his 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 victory and didn't attempt a single volley, because he didn't have to. Equally remarkable, he committed only one unforced error in the last two sets. He kept the points long, testing the patience of his impetuous opponent—whom he has described as someone who "plays great tennis without being a great tennis player"—and then passing him with backhands. "It was like facing a bulldozer," said Leconte.
By Sunday afternoon Wilander allowed that he was probably the best in the world right now, a significant admission from someone who is disinclined to step to the fore. Like Mac, Wilander plays some guitar. "Rhythm." Wilander told Tennis magazine's Peter Bodo. "McEnroe plays lead."
So last week Mac's playing captured Parisian hearts. But the image of McEnroe's French, and the French's McEnroe, is incomplete unless hung next to that of Nastase, who with Ion (This Guy Just Kills Me) Tiriac played Fred Stolle and Cliff Drysdale, Team ESPN, in an exhibition doubles match on Court Central soon after Mac and Lendl had finished. Nastase came out on crutches, kicked balls at the ball boys and issued a kamikaze yelp as he served on match point. Everyone had a good laugh. Perhaps Agassi took notes.
But McEnroe was not amused and looked instead across the Channel, where the grass could very well be greener.