Agassi's career comes to a close with U.S. Open lossBy BEN WALKER, AP National Writer
September 3, 2006
AP - Sep 3, 2:58 pm EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- Worn down and wincing, Andre Agassi
could only stand and watch the final shot whiz by.
A career for the ages came to a close Sunday when Agassi lost to the 112th-ranked player in the world, with Benjamin Becker
serving an ace to finish off a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 third-round victory at the U.S. Open.
Playing with the spirit of a champion but a creaky body that needed four injections, the end came with Agassi looking like what he'd become -- a 36-year-old man with a bad back, ready for retirement.
Agassi teared up on the blue court as he addressed a crowd that showed up early at Arthur Ashe Stadium and tried to spur him all afternoon.
"The scoreboard shows that I lost today," he said. "But what the scoreboard doesn't show is what I feel."
Becker, who had to win three qualifying matches merely to make it into the Open, applauded as Agassi spoke. Agassi's wife, Steffi Graf, and their two young children looked on.
"He was my idol growing up," Becker said.
The 25-year-old joined the crowd for a long, loud standing ovation saluting Agassi, who stared out at the crowd from his chair, wiping tears from his eyes.
Agassi needed cortisone and anti-inflammatory shots to keep playing this week. Although he pushed himself to the limit, he was just plain shot.
Hobbling, grimacing and breathing hard, he frequently stood, watching to see whether Becker's shots landed good. Reduced to hoping rather than hitting, Agassi showed just flashes of the brilliant returns and pinpoint backhands that made him an eight-time Grand Slam winner.
The crowd clearly felt his pain, booing when his German opponent hit drop shots that made Agassi run.
Before his agonizing, five-set win over Marcos Baghdatis
that started Thursday night and finished Friday morning, Agassi envisioned the ending. Or, instead, how he did not want his career to finish.
"I just don't want to go off the court limping," he said. "It's not what I want to do."
After three matches and more than 10 draining hours on the court where he loved to play, he still was standing.
AP - Sep 3, 2:55 pm EDT
More than 20 minutes after the match, Agassi still was crying as he limped to the locker room. He finished with a competitive career match record of 870-274 and a lifetime of memories -- for him and his legion of fans.
Across the newly renamed Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, there was a collective moan and cries of "Oh, no!" at Louis Armstrong Stadium when the scoreboard posted the final result. Outside the big bowls, crowds wandering the grounds fell silent.
The daytime start took away much of the buzz that usually follows Agassi. He came out to a big cheer, but fans quickly saw he was in trouble and shouts of "Let's go, Andre!" were replaced by groans when his shots missed.
Becker, the 2004 NCAA champ from Baylor, came out with his hat backward and full of energy. No relation to Boris -- never even met him -- Benjamin certainly made a name for himself.
After beginning the match with a double-fault, Becker started rocketing aces at 140 mph, and that's when he looked like Boris. He won 13 straight points on serve and, perhaps most important, kept his composure as planned.
"Try to see it as another match," he said before taking the court.
Becker advanced to play the winner of the later Andy Roddick
Even in his final match, Agassi had his moments.
He outlasted Becker to take a 22-point game early in the second set, then pumped his fist when he won the tiebreaker. His 4-year-old son, Jaden, joined the celebration, raising both arms and shouting "Hey!" as music blared during the changeover.
But it was obvious this Agassi was not the same one that ruled the courts with such verve for so long.
Updated on Sunday, Sep 3, 2006 3:08 pm EDT
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