World Sports - AFP
In 19th Key Biscayne appearance, Agassi looking ahead, not back
Sun Mar 27, 2:57 PM ET World Sports - AFP
MIAMI (AFP) - In his 19th straight appearance at the Key Biscayne ATP Masters Series tournament, Andre Agassi commands the affection of a legion of Florida fans, but for the eight-time Grand Slam champion, mere longevity is not enough.
"That would be one of many statistics that would make me go, 'Wow, I've been doing this a long time'," Agassi said. "Probably more old than proud."
But Agassi, 34, has done much more than show up over the years here. He owns six titles - the first coming 15 years ago in 1990 and the last three coming in a bunch, from 2001-2003.
He opened his 2005 bid with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu on Saturday night and said he was glad to get past the hard-hitting Frenchman and into the third round.
"He can come up with some great shots and certainly makes you feel the pressure to hit every ball exactly the way you want, or else he'll take advantage of anything you leave short," Agassi said of Mathieu. "It was a good one to get through."
Agassi says he believes he can remember every match he has played at Key Biscayne, starting with a five-set loss to Austrian Thomas Muster in 1987.
He recalls with satisfaction his victory over Stefan Edberg in the final in 1990 - when avenged his loss to Edberg in California the week before.
But as he looked forward to a third-round clash with another Frenchman, Arnaud Clement, Agassi said he couldn't allow himself the luxury of nostalgia.
"I try not to lose sight of keeping myself in position to be at my best, and a lot of that's mental," he said. "I don't allow myself too much luxury at this stage, because I'm trying to focus on being better than the guy I'm playing against.
"That being said," Agassi added, "there are a lot of times were nostalgia hits you. You see the same faces years later, and you realize that in between all these tennis matches life is happening."
The question of just how long Agassi will continue to squeeze his life in between tennis matches follows the American everywhere these days, but Agassi said the approach of his 35th birthday in April hasn't changed his attitude toward retirement.
"I understand why somebody's not playing at 35, it's not easy," he said. "But I still do it. I'm still out here trying to figure out how to get through these matches. I'm still thinking about the tennis when I'm out there, and that's a good thing."
Andre Agassi forever