This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we’re counting down the 50 most memorable moments in the history of America’s Grand Slam. Today, we take a look back at No. 25.
Only an elite cast of individuals has so sweepingly influenced a major tennis tournament the way Andre Agassi did at the US Open. As an 18-year-old with long hair, distinct clothing and an unmistakable swagger, Agassi captured the imagination of the American sports public with a stirring run to the semifinals. He won the tournament twice in the 1990s – once when he was among the favorites and on another occasion when he was unseeded.
Agassi was Agassi, and there really was no one quite like him. He had been a controversial figure when he was young and sometimes rambunctious, but over the years, as he moved out of his teens, through his 20s and into his 30s, he had become increasingly and immensely revered. Now, at 36, with his body breaking down and his physical resources significantly diminished, Agassi came to New York to conclude his career at his favorite tournament. He was saying goodbye to his followers.
Somehow, despite suffering through pain that was almost tangible, Agassi gave the aficionados a taste of what they wanted, when he came through a tumultuous five-set, second-round match against the charismatic Marcos Baghdatis, winning 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5. But the monumental effort he put in to survive that skirmish left Agassi totally spent.
He faced Germany’s Benjamin Becker – a career journeyman – in the third round and bowed out in four sets. It was a hard-fought battle from the backcourt, but Agassi was clearly compromised. He lost, 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5. It was the last tennis match of a storied career. He had played every Open from 1986-2006 without interruption.
Yet the match paled in comparison to Agassi’s emotional address to the near-capacity crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium that memorable Sept. 3 afternoon. With his voice breaking and tears flowing, wearing his heart essentially on his sleeve, Agassi said, “The scoreboard said I lost today. But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and in life....
"You have given me your shoulders to stand on, to reach for my dreams, dreams I could never have reached without you. Over the last years, I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.”
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