Posted on Tue, Feb. 01, 2005
found complete story...
Agassi not ready to quit
BUT AGING CHAMP COULD BE IN HIS LAST YEAR OF TENNIS
By Darren Sabedra
Andre Agassi hasn't won a Grand Slam trophy, or even reached a Grand Slam final, since winning the Australian Open two years ago. He has endured injuries, is no longer the favorite at major events and last week was routed in straight sets by top-ranked Roger Federer in an Australian Open quarterfinal.
But Agassi, 34, isn't ready for retirement.
After 19 years on tour, 59 titles and countless trips around the globe, tennis' elder statesman is committed to playing until the end of 2005.
Then, who knows?
``I get asked this question a lot, obviously,'' said Agassi, who returns to San Jose next week to play in the SAP Open. ``The simple answer is: I don't know. I don't know how long I will or can do it. I want to be out on the court feeling like I can win, so that is certainly the goal and the preference.''
But is that goal reachable?
In a sport that treats 30-somethings like old shoes, Agassi not only has to contend with Federer, but also players such as newly crowned Australian Open champion Marat Safin and top-ranked American Andy Roddick.
Agassi, ranked 10th, isn't reading much into his Australian Open exit. He suffered a hip injury leading up to the tournament and played well before running into Federer, whose 26-match winning streak ended a round later against Safin.
``It was a disappointing end to the tournament,'' Agassi said. ``But considering how I felt going into it, where I had a bit of a curve thrown at me with an injury, I felt like I regrouped and gave myself a chance to be at my best.''
After the Federer match, Gil Reyes, Agassi's longtime trainer, was asked about his client's future.
``We talk about retirement a lot,'' Reyes told the Los Angeles Times. ``We just have not made a plan to retire. The level of his game is still way up there. He may not be in a class by himself, but it sure doesn't take long to take roll.''
Not letting up
Agassi won't walk away without a fight. Though one of the fittest players on tour, he tweaked his diet and training in hopes that 2005 will be a good year.
``I did train hard,'' said Agassi, who finished in the top 10 for the 15th time in 2004 and has won more titles than any other active player. ``Getting the matches in is going to be key for me this year; being able to be out there more and getting in those big situations where I'm letting my game come out at the right time is going to be what I need to get some good things accomplished.''
Agassi is still capable of winning big matches, says Barry MacKay, SAP Open tournament consultant and a former player.
``But I do think that if he doesn't win a major tournament this year or a series of events, I can't see him sticking around being ranked eight or 10 in the world,'' MacKay said. ``It's just not his style.
``A lot depends on the draw. For instance, if somehow he had ended up playing Safin instead of Federer, I think he would have won that match. A lot depends on the breaks of the draw, but I think he can win another major.''
If Agassi wins a ninth Grand Slam, the person he'll probably thank first will be wife and tennis legend Steffi Graf.
Asked how he juggles playing, marriage and being the father of children 3 and 1, Agassi said: ``If you choose your wife right, you don't juggle her. She helps you juggle everything else. She's been a godsend for me. My choice to leave home and be away from the family, I think I would find myself struggling with continuing.
``But I haven't had to make that choice, because of her support. I've got a lot of great people around me, with all my responsibilities, my foundation and businesses.''
So Agassi keeps playing, extending a career that dates back so far that he remembers being an intimidated guest of Johnny Carson on ``The Tonight Show'' in the late 1980s.
In those years, Agassi was part of American tennis' new generation, a Big Four that included Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Jim Courier. How many expected Agassi to be the last standing?
``He would have been about third on the list,'' MacKay said, laughing. ``It's kind of unique that he's come out of that pack and done as well as he has.''
How has he done it?
``The best word I can think of is discipline,'' MacKay said. ``He's worked extremely hard on staying fit. He's probably the best competitor of all those guys when you analyze, playing big points.''
Next Tuesday, Agassi will begin his quest for a sixth title at the tour's Bay Area stop. It will mark his 13th appearance in the tournament.
Will there be a 14th?
``It gets tougher as you get older, especially with the negotiation of a life that involves children and responsibilities,'' Agassi said. ``But I do feel motivated by the challenge as much now as I ever have. I'm very interested to see how I respond to this stage in my career.''
Andre Agassi forever