A new year, a new thread to post all the Andre
Agassi interviews and articles we come across!
TENNIS: Agassi's lead draws top guns to Kooyong
By BRUCE MATTHEWS in Melbourne
ANDRE Agassi has unwittingly become tennis promoter Colin Stubs' greatest ally for his Australian Open lead-up tournament at Kooyong starting tomorrow.
It's follow-the-leader to the Commonwealth Bank International with Roger Federer and Andy Roddick signing up to make their debuts long before they won Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
Agassi has used Kooyong as the base for the past several years and his strike rate of three of the last four Australian Open singles titles – he was a late withdrawal in 2002 – has prompted several main challengers to adopt the same build-up to Melbourne Park.
Argentine David Nalbandian, already a Wimbledon runner-up and US Open semi-finalist, is another first-timer to the eight-man round-robin event along with rising American Robby Ginepri while Taylor Dent, Sebastien Grosjean and Younes El Aynoui are back a second time.
"We haven't had any trouble putting the field together this year. In fact, I had stitched up Roddick and Federer around April," Stubs said.
"There's no doubt Agassi's continued support for this event has had an impact on other players. He has had remarkable success following a four-day stint here.
"The other factor is that Brad Gilbert, who coached Agassi, is now with Roddick and he knows it worked well for Agassi and he's taking the same formula with Roddick.
"And Sampras was a good ambassador for us too. There was only one year when he didn't play here.
"It's significant that the people who play here do well at the Australian Open. They may not win it, but they're generally around the semi-finals stage. We've been able to hang our hat on that a number of times."
Stubs and his team yesterday put the finishing touches to Kooyong as Agassi, Federer, Roddick and 2000 US Open champion Marat Safin fine-tuned at Melbourne Park with the main stadium's roof rolled back to prepare for the Open starting next Monday.
"It's a little different to last year when I had to replace three or four blokes with only about 10 days to go. But this year I'm quite relieved that I didn't have to do any work in that respect. They're all here," Stubs said.
2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson is the first alternate at Kooyong and he's expected to be among the impromptu extra matches for fans this week.