Agassi back at Key Biscayne
Posted: Thursday March 24, 2005 7:49PM; Updated: Thursday March 24, 2005 7:49PM
Andre Agassi won his first Miami title in '90.
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) -- Andre Agassi first came to Key Biscayne in 1987, a 16-year-old heartthrob with lots of hair and flair.
He's back this week, a six-time champion and the oldest player in the tournament, bald and battling a bum toe but ready to fend off 140-mph serves and questions about retirement.
"This sport has given me so much that my hope would be to give back as much as I can for as long as I can," Agassi said Thursday, two days before his opening match at the Nasdaq-100 Open. "How long I consider it to be something of a useful effort is hard for me to say. I would hope to believe that when I'm playing my best tennis, I still believe I can win any match that I'm playing."
In a field that includes top-ranked Roger Federer, defending champion Andy Roddick and Australian Open champion Marat Safin, Agassi is well down the list of favorites. He turns 35 next month and is hampered by a sore left toe that forced him to withdraw before his quarterfinal match at the Pacific Life Open last week.
The toe remains swollen, but an MRI revealed no structural damage, Agassi said.
"It's probably only 30 percent bigger than my other toe now, which is a big step forward," he said. "Certainly this tournament gives me more motivation to come here and to push through it. I'll be in a position to hopefully play well."
Seeded players received an opening-round bye and will see their first action Friday. Among those joining them in the second round were Kim Clijsters, coming off her first tournament title in 13 months, and injury-plagued Mark Philippoussis, who hobbled to victory after hurting his left ankle in the next-to-last game.
Also winning was Mardy Fish, who served 34 aces, the most at Key Biscayne since at least 1991, while 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic hit 30 aces but came up short against 5-foot-5 Olivier Rochus.
"When he's serving, you have the feeling he's just behind the net," said Rochus, who won 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3). He'll play Federer on Saturday.
Agassi will take the court at Key Biscayne for the 70th time when he opens against Paul-Henri Mathieu. The tournament has changed names and formats several times since his first match on the island, a five-set loss to Thomas Muster.
"I was down two sets to love, then lost my serve at 4-5 in the fifth," Agassi said. "I'm convinced I can remember every match here."
His big hitting zone is well suited to the unpredictable Florida wind, and he won the tournament for the first time in 1990 by beating Stefan Edberg. He edged Pete Sampras in a winner-take-all tiebreaker for the 1995 championship, and afterward they flew together to Italy for a Davis Cup match. From 2001 to 2003 he won 18 consecutive matches at Key Biscayne -- and three titles.
He didn't always like South Florida, but he does now.
"There are a lot of times where sort of nostalgia hits you," Agassi said. "You see the same faces years later, and you realize that in between all these tennis matches life is happening, and it's a pretty amazing feeling."
Andre Agassi forever