"They may have a better perspective on me," says Agassi of his fans in England. "I know that some people are skeptical of me and wonder if I'm sincere. But here, on one Sunday afternoon, I fulfilled a lifelong dream. These people saw it. They've seen a side of me a lot of others haven't."
Seldom has a champion been so ill-prepared to defend a Grand Slam title as Agassi was. In the past year he has suffered from both lethargy and an array of aches and pains. He bought a private jet this winter to ease his travel, stocking it with his favorite junk foods, but since the 1992 Wimbledon he has played only 13 tournaments. He skipped the Australian Open because of bronchitis and the French Open because of his wrist.
Three weeks ago, Agassi says, his wrist was so painful he could not do a push-up or get a free throw to the basket, let alone play tennis. He was treated with cortisone—his trainer, Gil Reyes, blamed his bloated appearance at Wimbledon on the drug—and a week later he began practicing, shortening his service motion to avoid aggravating the wrist. He entered a Wimbledon tune-up in Halle, Germany, and lost in the first round to 58th-ranked Carl-Uwe Steeb. That led some observers to predict that he would become the first defending Wimbledon champion to lose in the opening round since Manuel Santana in 1967. As it was, his erratic and infrequent play prompted the tournament committee to seed him eighth, the lowest a defending men's champion has been seeded at Wimbledon.
Even Agassi was surprised that he was still in the tournament on Monday. By surviving four rounds, he proved once again that, like him or not, he always seems to land on his adroit little feet. "I've never been one to go on a lot of practice," he said last week. "If anyone can go on no practice, it's me."