Re: SAP OPEN 2005
Agassi rested, ready to go for SAP title
Free of injury, tourney regular seeks sixth title in 13 appearances
Glenn Dickey, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, January 30, 2005
That hardy perennial, Andre Agassi, will be making his 13th appearance in the Barry MacKay tournament, which is now known as the SAP Open, and he will be well-rested.
"After we got back from the Australian Open, our children (son, Jaden Gil, 3, and daughter, Jaz Elle, 1) slept for 13 hours straight," said Agassi, on a conference call from Las Vegas. "It was divine intervention. Steffi and I finally checked on them to make sure they were still alive."
Agassi, who sustained a hip injury just before the Australian Open, lost in straight sets in the quarterfinals to Roger Federer, the No. 1 player in the world, and said after that match, "I would suggest that his future opponents not look to me for advice."
He is feeling better now about his play, though, because he knows it was unrealistic to think he could get further in Australia because of the injury, from which he is now recovered.
"I felt I regrouped from that and gave myself a chance to be at my best," he said. "I felt good about the way I was hitting, the way I was playing for the most part."
Agassi will be going for his sixth title in this tournament, which was in San Francisco when he started but has since moved to San Jose. The tournament runs Feb. 7-13 at HP Pavilion. Agassi's first match will be the feature match at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8.
He will also be part of a tribute to promoter MacKay, who has been running the tournament for 36 years, after that match.
"Barry has always been a first-class person and organizer for the tournament," Agassi said. "Being a great player himself (No. 1 in the world in 1960), he knows what players need to be at their best when they're at a tournament, and he always goes the extra mile for the players."
Agassi has had a remarkable career, 15 times finishing in the top 10. His 59 singles titles are the most among active players and seventh all-time.
He has defied the odds of probability in tennis with his lengthy career, most of it at or near the top. The rule of thumb in tennis is that players can last in that rarefied atmosphere for no more than 10 years, but Agassi is still going strong 19 years after he burst onto the tennis scene as a teenage phenom.
There have been serious bumps in the road since then. He briefly thought of retiring in 1987, when he couldn't get higher than 90 in the rankings. He had a serious wrist injury which required surgery in December 1993.
But nothing has deterred him and, at 34, he is still going strong, though he is taking it one year at a time now. "I'm committed to playing a full year this year," he said. "We'll see after that."
In his early years, Agassi didn't worry much about conditioning, but in the second phase of his career, he has worked very hard on that. Now, observers have said, he is in the best shape of his career.
Still, the biggest part of the battle is mental. Most top players retire because they've had enough. Agassi's wife, Steffi Graf, was an even more accomplished player than Andre, winning 22 Grand Slam titles, but Agassi's attempt to coax her back on the court for mixed doubles at Wimbledon has proved futile.
The flame still burns bright for Agassi, though. Asked if he would retire if he won another Grand Slam, he said, "I think that would just be more motivation for me to keep going.
"It is a big challenge. I think the ability to keep going is a function of both the physical and the mental. I mean, you need your body to be healthy, but you also need that eagerness and discipline of pushing yourself through a lot of days where you, quite frankly, are tired, you're just tired of doing it, you're tired of what you know is in store for you.
"I've never been one to choose the easy road. So, I find that the difficulty in it has to become the motivating factor, the challenge in it has to be what pushes you and motivates you."
Better put the retirement party and gold watch on hold.