Is Andre Agassi 'Great'?
When the U.S. Open began about two weeks ago, I noticed an article about the U.S. Open with the lead, "Agassi's Last Hurrah?" Tennis is a funny game. At age 34, in most other sports Andre Agassi would still have a chance at being in his prime. In golf, hell, he'd still almost be a babe. But in tennis, 34 is pretty much geezerville.
Now that the U.S. Open is over, and since it probably won't be long before Agassi hangs up the racquet, it is worth contemplating whether or not Agassi is one of tennis's all-time greats.
Some of you might be now be screaming, John McEnroe-like, "YOU CAN"T BE SERIOUS! Of course he's one of the all-time greats." But bear with me for a few paragraphs.
Let's start with the five men tennis players who played only in the Open Era (since 1968) that no serious tennis fan would dispute are truly great: Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Pete Sampras. Now, let's see how Agassi fares against those five.
The first place to start is tournament wins. Borg had 62, Connors 109, Lendl 94, McEnroe 77, and Sampras 64. At 59 (it might actually be 60 now--I think that page is a bit out of date) Agassi is certainly very close to, if not within, the range of greatness. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and say his numbers on this statistic would qualify for greatness.
The next aspect to look at is number of wins at the Grand Slam tournaments (for non-tennis fans, those are the Australian Open, French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon.) Agassi's 8 Grand-Slam titles surpass McEnroe's 7, equal Connors' and Lendl's 8 each, and are only exceeded by Borg's 11 and Sampras's 14. He also seems to be in the "greatness range" on this measure too.
But here is where the comparison begins to falter. Half of Agassi's Grand Slams are Australian Open titles. Of the five greats, the players with the next most Australian titles are Lendl and Sampras, with two each. Connors has one, and McEnroe and Borg have none. This matters because the Australian Open has been the "Garbage Can" Slam since Australia's tennis heyday waned in the early 1970s. Without lots of top Australian players, the Australian Open lost some prestige as top players from other countries decided not to play in it. As best as I can determine, both Connors and Borg stopped playing in it during the mid 1970s, and McEnroe didn't show up until about 1983. That means that for about seven to eight years the top two-to-three tennis players in the world didn't play in it. The Australian Open has made something of a comeback in recent years, yet it is not uncommon for a lot of top players to skip it each year. Winning isn't quite the challenge as winning the other three where most of the top players show up. Thus, Agassi's Slam record just isn't as prestigious as the other five great players.
Another reason Agassi can't be considered great is what one might call a "prolonged period at the top." Each of the great five had at least a few years where they were at the number one ranking much of the time and won most of their matches. The few times they weren't in the top spot one of the other great players had overtaken them (think of the competition between McEnroe, Connors, and Borg). In short, these players had a sustained commitment to playing their best and making the most of their talent for at least a few years.
Did Agassi ever have such a period? Not really. He was making moves in that direction in early 1995, after winning the Australian Open on the heels of a victory in the U.S. Open the previous year. But after failing to defend his U.S. Open title (he lost to Sampras) he seemed to lose some interest in tennis, failed to stay in shape, and had a string of injuries that led to him being ranked lower than 100. He made an admirable comeback, and again seemed to be on the verge of a prolonged period at the top in early 2000. But by then he was almost 30, when age usually begins to catch up with a tennis player. In Agassi's case it did.
Much of this is reflected in the number of weeks that each of the great five spent at number one ranking. Of the great five, Borg pulls up the rear at 109 weeks (scroll to the bottom). Agassi is next, at 88 weeks. On that measure, Agassi seems on the cusp of greatness.
That, I think, is the best way to describe Agassi's career. Almost great, but not quite. It's unfortunate, because Agassi had almost as much talent as Sampras. Think what might have been had Agassi shown the same dedication to tennis early in his career that he finally showed late in it. He and Sampras would have been playing each other in Grand Slam finals often. As it was, they met only five times, with Sampras winning four of them. They would have been battling each other for the top ranking for much of the 1990s. The saddest words of tongue and pen...
It is not easy to write this. I've long taken an interest in Agassi's career. I first noticed him not only back when he had hair, but when he had pink streaks in it! He is, literally, only about two weeks older than me. I rooted for him often during Grand Slams, only to be continually disappointed. He was one of the main hallmarks of the 1990s, where image was everything, and substance was a distant second. The unfortunate consequence of that is a massively talented athlete who will never quite rank as great.
Source - http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/09/14/135325.php
I think this is utter garbage because:
1 - The writer completely forgets to mention that Agassi is the one of only 5 people in the all-time history of tennis to have won all 4 grand slams at some point. The five people who he states as great haven't done this. The grand slams are most important events in tennis, and Andre has won them all.
2 - The Australian Open was not a 'Garbage Slam' on the occasions that Agassi won it. Since moving to Melbourne Park in 1988, the Australian Open has had an equal footing with the other three grand slams. All the top players turned up. For goodness sake he beat Pete Sampras twice down there.
3 - John McEnroe is stated as a great. I agree that he is. However Agassi has won one more grand slam title than him.
4 - It is a myth that Agassi was never dominant. From the French Open in 1999 to the Australian Open in 2000, he reached 4 consecutive grand slam finals, winning 3 of them. That is what I would call dominance at the highest level of the sport.