Andre Agassi gives the Open crowd one more thrill ride, August 31st, 2006
By Stuart Miller, author of The 100 Greatest in New York Sports
For the second straight year, Roger Federer dominated the U.S. Open but for the second straight year it was Andre Agassi who captured all the headlines. The shaggy-haired stylist turned bald elder statesman announced his retirement before the tournament but worse he seemed utterly spent—after his rousing 2005 jaunt to the finals, he’d been so hampered by painful back injuries throughout 2006 that many doubted he’d even survive the first round.
But after a tough four-set victory over Andre Pavel, Agassi endured another round of cortisone injections just to be able to take the court against the eighth seed, unheralded Marcos Baghdatis. The shots worked and Agassi looked like the great shot-maker of old in grinding out a 6-4, 6-4 lead over the first two sets. But Baghadatis pulled out a 6-3 third set and never stopped playing boldly even after he fell behind 4-0 in the fourth; with the crowd urging Agassi to victory, Baghdatis used dropshots and lobs and every other shot in his arsenal to pound his way back to a 7-5 fourth set win.
Entering the fifth set, it seemed impossible that Agassi could recover, but he did more than that—he outlasted his younger foe in this 3 hour, 40 minute marathon as Baghdatis hobbled through much of the ending with excruciating leg cramps. Still, he held twice served needing just one point to force a fifth set tiebreaker before finally falling 7-5.
The match did take its toll on Agassi and he was unable to rebound in time for his next match, falling to 112th-ranked Benjamin Becker in four sets. But as the eight-minute long standing ovation that the fans showered on Agassi made abundantly clear, he went out a winner.