On Labor Day the WITA labored, indeed, with a threat from Peter to pull Steffi off the tour because the Graf's don't like the association's proposed new ranking system, under which the top players could lose points when playing small tournaments. Peter claimed that the WITA had "lied" to him and that the new system would unfairly penalize his daughter alone. He threatened to form a separate women's circuit. Graf's agent, Phil DePicciotto, was asked whether his client was aware of all this. "Steffi is one of the most aware people I've ever met," said DePicciotto. "This is the essence of Steffi...a tremendous feeling of justice. She's an active supporter of the World Wildlife Fund."
Speaking of which, when Shriver heard about the new Graf tour, she said, "I'd like to see the pigeons they get to play on that one."
Not to be outdone in the field of chaos, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the men's players' union, announced that it, too, would establish an alternative circuit in 1990. The players are disgusted with the way the Men's Tennis Council, which is the closest thing the men's game has to a governing body, dictates to them. The players want to run the game in the same way their brethren on the PGA Tour run golf—with fewer tournaments that would have more name players in them. Such radicalism—Hamilton Jordan, Jimmy Carter's former doubles partner, is the union's executive director—seemed so dangerous that the U.S. Tennis Association, with its finely honed sense of p.r., barred an ATP press conference from the tournament grounds, forcing the association to hold its gathering in the parking lot. As a result, the press conference received more attention than it otherwise would have. Wilander, who had struggled along hand-to-mouth with only $605,000 in winnings this year, spoke in behalf of the serfs about the "hardships" of the tour.
The first concern of the inmates after they take over the asylum should be what to do about AA, which is not an old organization but the game's new phenom. Agassi, 18, the Great Denim Hope of American tennis, came to Flushing Meadow on an 18-match winning streak and with six tournament victories on the year. Quickie portraits had been rushed into print: son of an Iranian immigrant who is a showroom captain at the Bally's-Las Vegas Hotel Casino, reads the Bible, listens to James Taylor, sleeps 12 hours a day, brother-in-law of Pancho Gonzales. Old Panch, in possibly the most ridiculous quote in sports history, told
, "When I first saw Andre at two or three, I didn't think he was going to be any good."
All pretournament pronouncements aside, Agassi hadn't beaten a Top 10 player yet this year. And there were continuing clubhouse murmurs about contradictions between Agassi's "born-again" image and his crowd-pleasing antics. John McEnroe—you may recall the name—addressed the quandary: "The stuff he pulls on the court makes opponents think they're being made fun of. Players like to get stabbed in the back more than in front. I was more straightforward. His whole act will be tough to keep going. It's easier being a jerk."
Agassi replied, "John doesn't understand, it's not an effort for me to keep this stuff up. It's not a facade. I like the vibes I get from people. Until I get different vibes, I don't think I'll stop."
So Agassi kept smacking tennis balls into the upper deck and throwing his towels, shirts and trademark denim shorts to the fans. He kept smirking and posturing. He kept nailing that quickwristed dynamite forehand. And he kept catching on. Why, even such gray-beards as Sherwood Stewart and Marty Riessen played the senior doubles in denim shorts. Tom Gullikson won the senior singles title in them. Navratilova turned out in all-denim one day too.
In the fourth round Agassi defeated California's Michael Chang, 16, who had credited "our lord Jesus Christ" for enabling him to maintain his composure during a rain delay in his previous match. "In the juniors Andre had a bad attitude," Chang said after losing to Agassi. "This is a whole new guy. Studying the Bible, learning about the Lord, stuff like that, has really calmed him down." Nick Bollettieri, Agassi's coach, revealed that the two youngsters had attended Bible class together this summer in the Vermont woods. "It was wonderful." Bollettieri said.
In the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, Agassi beat the 36-year-old Connors 6-2, 7-6, 6-1 and did something previously believed to be impossible: He infuriated both McEnroe and Connors in the same evening. Early in the third set, Agassi mimicked McEnroe's rocking-anteater service motion and then grinned smack at Mac, who was sitting in a courtside box with his wife, Tatum. She doubled over laughing—it was funny—but the man of the house just glared.
Following the match, Agassi told the press how he had predicted to a friend he would beat Connors "three, three and three, but I didn't know Jimmy would have that much in him."