new article about Andre...
June 04, 2005
Bullish Puerta in wait for winner of red-carpet battle
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent in Paris
OBSCURE finalists have become all the rage in the men’s singles at Roland Garros. In the past two decades, Michael Chang, Mikael Pernfors, Alberto Berasategui, Andrei Medvedev, Martin Verkerk and Gaston Gaudio have sneaked in beneath the radar to hold one of the prime positions in grand-slam tennis. Some grabbed fame by the horns, others could not contend with its embrace. To the cast we can add Mariano Puerta.
Whatever had happened in the first semi-final of the French Open yesterday would not have bucked the trend. Puerta versus Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian, was never going to drag people off the streets and pin them to their seats. That the match was delayed for 90 minutes by a huge storm further detracted from the sense of occasion.
But give Puerta his due. This bullish man from Buenos Aires, ranked world No 37, came back from 2-1 down in sets for the second match in succession to defeat Davydenko 6-3, 5-7, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, recovering to win the last four games in a rousing finale completed with a succulent forehand down the line. That spectators were kept hanging around for the main course for such a long time served only to enhance the desire for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to take the stage.
In 1999, Andre Agassi was the No 13 seed when he triumphed over Medvedev to complete his collection of grand-slam titles
. Last night, though, the question was how much more we will see of him. The decision of the 35-year-old American, who requires cortisone injections to stave off recurring problems with his sciatic nerve, to skip the Stella Artois Championships at Queen’s Club next week — and the depressed tone of his message — has raised doubts that he will come to London at all.
When Agassi left Europe 11 days ago, as down as he has been, it was to return to the United States to meet his medical team to decide if he would have a second injection to ease him through the summer in England and the pounding hard-court circuit in North America. The Stella Artois organisers were desperately hoping he would come back for a final time, but in a conversation on Thursday, Agassi said that he could not make the trip and was — it is believed — noncommittal about his Wimbledon prospects.
Agassi revealed in the crushing aftermath of his first-round defeat here to Jarkko Nieminen, of Finland, that the choice he faced was as hard as they come — should he sacrifice what little is left of his career or take at least one and possibly two more injections and hope they offer him the physical freedom to challenge once more for the game’s foremost titles.
Asked whether it was worth the hassle — he has won more titles than any player, he has been ranked world No 1, he has won all the grand-slam tournaments, his marriage to Steffi Graf is blissfully happy, he has two gorgeous children — he said: “But this is what I do until I don’t do it any more. It’s given me a lot. I cannot start to pollute the potential of my winning matches or tournaments with sitting on the fence and with where I am, what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Some things you question, other things you have not to question.
“I can’t be out there like that. I had my first cortisone injection in San Jose in February and had great results, but that was on a hard court, two out of three sets. I need to decide if I should do it again and hope for two or three months. If I’m getting a few months out of it, that’s fair enough for me.”
Andre Agassi forever