Andre Agassi, 2006 US Open

By Stuart Miller, author of The 100 Greatest Days 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.

Read more:
September 3, 2006: Andre Agassi’s last match

One of Nadal’s most memorable match in Roland Garros.

After two straight sets victories over Robin Soderling and Kevin Kim, Rafa met french clay-court specialist Paul Henri Mathieu (PHM) in the third round of 2006 French Open.

Born and raised in Strasbourg, PHM trained for 3 years at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Junior French Open champion in 2000, Mathieu is the typical one-dimensional baseline player: he’s able to hit heavy groundstrokes from both wings but he lacks velocity and shot variety.

He played the match of his life against Nadal, but it simply wasn’t enough to beat the defending champion. PHM lost to Rafa in a gruelling encounter which lasted 4 hours and 53 minutes, but only 4 sets and 42 games!

Nadal had established himself as the King of Clay by winning his first French Open in 2005. Two weeks before this Rome final Federer had lost to Nadal at the Monte Carlo Masters series.
At the time, the Rafa-Fed rivalry was just peaking, and some tennis analysts like Carillo thought Nadal would just be another clay court specialist like Bruguera or Kuerten (how wrong she was…)

<After 5 hours of play and two match points saved, the Spaniard emerged as the winner. He equalled Vilas record of 53 consecutive wins on clay and also improved to 5-1 against the world No 1.

Rafael Nadal

Is it me or the Swiss Maestro always looks grumpy when he plays against Nadal?

Roger Federer

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