In case this article was not already posted on the board, here it is. I realize I risk making a nuisance of myself by posting old news. Given the article I'm sure you won'd mind. Enjoy if you haven't seen it already.
Christopher Clarey International Herald Tribune
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2005
NEW YORK It was one of Andre Agassi's finest performances in a U.S. Open final, and it was the latest unmistakable sign of Roger Federer's tennis greatness that Agassi still lost in four sets.
The match was an intergenerational tussle and contrast in styles between Federer, the flowing 24-year-old from Switzerland who is dominating the sport, and Agassi, the 35-year-old father of two from Las Vegas who remains, despite his fragile back, the game's strongest personality.
As the shiny-domed, tightly wound Agassi race-walked along the baseline between points in his familiar pigeon-toed fashion, his fans shouting encouragement at him on a first-name basis, Federer's body language was much quieter across the net as he languidly shook his hair out of his eyes and picked at his strings. But once the ball was smacked into play, both men were in a spectacular hurry to break down the other's defenses.
The top-seeded Federer did not play his best in this 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 victory, but he played close enough to his best in the critical phases of the third and fourth sets to win his second consecutive U.S. Open and run his record in Grand Slam finals to 6-0.
"It is disappointing to lose, but the first thing you have to assess is why you did lose, and I just lost to a guy who's better," Agassi said. "There's only so long you can deny it. He's the best I've ever played against."
Agassi, who was the oldest men's finalist at the U.S. Open in 31 years, had experienced something similar here as a younger man: giving his all and finding himself with the runner-up's silverware against a clutch-serving opponent with a beauty of a running forehand. But Federer has moved seamlessly into the larger-than-life space left behind by Pete Sampras, Agassi's now retired rival, who beat him here in the final in 2002. And at 24, Federer is going places with his smooth-moving game that Sampras never managed to reach.
"Pete was great; I mean, no question," Agassi said. "But there was a place to get to with Pete. You knew what you had to do. If you do it, it could be on your terms. There's no such place like that with Roger."
Agassi speaks from plenty of hard-won - or hard-lost - experience. This defeat was his eighth straight by Federer, and though it was considerably closer than his three lopsided losses earlier this year, he was still fortunate to win a game in the final set. Agassi was soon back in his customary role of explaining Federer's phenomenal talent, something he does well.
"He's the only guy I've ever played against where you hold serve to go 1-0, and you're thinking, 'All right! Good!"' Agassi said later, getting a laugh from his audience. "And I'm not just making fun of it. I'm literally telling you the way it is. He can hurt you at any point."
Federer has now won his last 23 finals, something no other man has done in the 37-year Open era. He is the first in the Open era to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open back to back in consecutive years. He reached the semifinals at the other two Grand Slam events this year, the Australian Open and the French Open.
Over the years, and there have been 20 of them now at the Open, Agassi has often been tight-lipped and caustic in defeat. But there was no trace of bitterness in his voice after this Grand Slam final, his first since he won the Australian Open in 2003 and quite possibly his last.
He arrived here with a suspect back, having lost in the first round at the French Open and withdrawn from Wimbledon. But he fought his way through a draw that opened up nicely for him and reached the final by beating three unseeded yet undeniably dangerous shot makers in a row in five sets: Xavier Malisse, James Blake and Robby Ginepri. But Federer is the most dangerous shot maker in tennis.
"He was ready for the battle, but I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we totally ignored the fact that it's a 35-year-old body," Agassi's fitness coach, Gil Reye, said.
Still, 35 has its advantages. Old enough to appreciate the significance of this latest run, Agassi walked on the court before each match savoring the atmosphere, making eye contact with fans in the stands, some of whom had memories good enough to recall his long-haired, quick-tempered younger years, when he did now-unimaginable things like spitting on the Australian chair umpire Wayne McKewen.
The ambivalence has evolved into genuine warmth, and as Agassi's name was announced during the warm-up with Federer, most of the 24,797 fans in attendance rose to their feet and applauded, and there was more of the same after match point.
"Over the last 20 years I've come full circle," Agassi said. "It's been an amazing journey and discovery of each other as I've grown up out here. And to be here at an age where I can take in that sort of love and be at an age where I can embrace it is a tremendous feeling."
To Agassi's credit, this match was not defined by nostalgia. It was one of the highest-quality four-set matches of the season. It brimmed with low-trajectory, high-velocity winners, timely first serves and lunging defense. With Agassi leading 4-2 in the third set, it was beginning to seem possible, if still not quite probable, that he would win a third singles title here.
But in the next game, Federer accelerated at 30-30 and produced consecutive winners to break Agassi's serve. Federer then won his next service game at love to get back to 4-4. The bar was rising, and though Agassi managed to leap high enough to stay with it by saving four break points on his serve at 5-5, they were soon in a tiebreaker. Agassi won the opening point with a backhand drop shot, but on the next point he missed a forehand return off a high-bouncing second serve. It was a big hint of what was to come as Federer reeled off the next six points, taking a two-sets-to-one lead with a backhand return winner down the line.
It had happened so quickly that the crowd needed more time to realize that its favorite had lost control of his destiny. Federer did not belabor the point, winning the first five games of the fourth set with a flurry of well-placed serves and groundstrokes.
Agassi postponed the inevitable at 0-5 by saving two match points and holding serve. But Federer made up for lost time in the final game by holding at love, finishing off his latest victory with a kick serve that Agassi returned long with the two-handed backhand that has played such a vital role in his eight major titles.
It remains to be seen whether Agassi will play in another major. He has required three cortisone injections in the past eight months to calm the lower back pain caused by an inflamed sciatic nerve. He was the oldest man in the singles draw here and the oldest finalist in any Grand Slam event since Ken Rosewall here in 1974 at age 39.
But Agassi made it clear that he would like to continue playing next season. "As of now, my intention is to keep working and keep doing what it is I do," he said.
"You know, the only thing better than the last 20 years will be the last 21 years."