Agassi stresses that the end is not near
By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
Published January 15, 2006
Every time Andre Agassi withdraws from an event, talk of his impending retirement runs rampant. But Agassi, who won't play in the Australian Open because of a bum ankle, assured the media during a conference call Thursday he has no intention of hanging it up any time soon.
"The biggest question I have to answer at this stage of my career is, "Do I still believe I have the ability to compete with the best in the world on a consistent basis?' " Agassi said. "And I feel like I can still answer that, "Yes.' I'm more excited now than I've ever been."
Agassi, 36 in April, has won the Australian Open a record four times. But skipping the trip to Melbourne, though a difficult decision, was one he felt had to be made to prepare for a long season. He plans to return to the ATP Tour Jan. 30 in Delray Beach.
A finalist at last year's U.S. Open, Agassi said he seems to enjoy the big moments in his career more than at any time before. And, he added, "I believe I have a lot of them left."
THEY'RE BACK: Might men's tennis in America be on the upswing?
After all the talk in recent years about the lack of suitable successors to Agassi, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras, it sure looks that way. Andy Roddick's place among the elite has long since been secured, but now James Blake (No. 22 in the rankings) of Tampa and Robby Ginepri (No. 18) have stepped it up. And at least one person, albeit a biased one, thinks both are ready to break into the top 10.
"I really look for them to do well this year," U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said.
With Saturday's win in Sydney, Blake has four career singles titles - three in the past six months. Ginepri, a U.S. Open semifinalist in September, is seeded 13th in Melbourne. Both play their best on hardcourt surfaces, which could bode well for them in the Australian Open.
DROP SHOTS: Fifth-seeded Mary Pierce , who lives in Sarasota, turns 31 today. She won the Australian Open in 1995. ... Vera Zvonareva, a former top 10 player who struggled last year, jumped 13 spots this year to No. 29 in the rankings. ... The ATP Tour has players providing blogs from tournaments this season at www.atptennis.com
Thus far, the tour is 2-0; bloggers Ivan Ljubicic and Blake each won events the week in which they posted. ... For the first time in the Australian Open, every member of the women's top 20 will play.