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Old 08-28-2005, 08:50 AM   #1
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Posted on Sun, Aug. 28, 2005



Andre Agassi blows kisses to the adoring crowds after his victories.


• Then & now with Andre Agassi
• About the U.S. Open



SUNDAY FOCUS


Transformed and enduring

Andre Agassi has gone from young brat to beloved legend, and he remains a U.S. Open contender at age 35.

BY MICHELLE KAUFMAN

mkaufman@herald.com


Andre Agassi crashed the tennis establishment two decades ago, a bratty 16-year-old from Las Vegas who shunned country-club whites for denim shorts, neon spandex biking shorts and a bleached-blond mullet that was better suited for a Bon Jovi concert than the hallowed courts of Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.

''Image is everything,'' he declared in Canon camera commercials. Nike anointed him the coolest thing in tennis. Never mind that he had poor work habits, a potty mouth and irritated opponents with his histrionics.

Tennis purists complained he was more style than substance, a fad that surely would pass. ''A haircut and a forehand,'' in the words of then-No. 1 Ivan Lendl.

Twenty U.S. Opens, four U.S. presidents, and a few reincarnations later, Agassi is perhaps tennis' most beloved legend, the consummate gentleman and among the most generous philanthropists in all of sport, raising more than $24 million for disadvantaged youth.

He is 35 and bald now, married to fellow legend Steffi Graf, and the doting father of two children. With the help of cortisone shots to ease his ailing back, he is still in the mix heading into the 2005 U.S. Open, which begins Monday.

His wife and his peers -- Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang -- are well into retirement. Agassi is still out there with his pigeon-toed shuffle, lethal forehand and lightning reflexes, grinding down opponents, giving no hint this could be his last Open.

''I've said for a long time that I'm going to play this sport as long and as hard as I can,'' he said at a news conference two weeks ago. ``I don't know how long that's going to be, but I'm going to give back every bit it's given to me, or at least retire knowing I couldn't do more. It would be great to win [the Open], but I have no interest in putting a nice little bow around my career and handing it over to anybody.''

He dresses conservatively these days, has transformed into a fitness freak, is fastidious about everything from his diet to his string tension and ends every match with respectful bows and heartfelt kisses for his fans. This is the same guy who once forgot to bow to the Dutchess of Kent on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

His faithful followers have been along for the ride as Agassi went from No. 1 to No. 141 to irrelevant and back to No. 1. They've been there for all the haircuts, his unlikely friendship with Barbra Streisand, his marriage to Brooke Shields and subsequent divorce, his sweet romance with Graf and the birth of their children.

''Andre did something so many professional athletes never do,'' TV commentator Mary Carillo said. ``He grew up. He became a grown-up. It's been fun to watch, because we all saw him as the young guy, dripping with talent and earrings, and then through his slump and the love affairs. This is his 20th Open, and he is still the biggest draw without question.''

`IT'S A GREAT STORY'

Patrick McEnroe, who played against Agassi and is now a CBS commentator, added: ``When you look at Andre now, the respected player and person he has become, it's hard to believe he's the same kid who used to brag about eating McDonald's, the guy who tanked matches, just relied on his talent and didn't get it. I don't know that anyone in sports has had such a turnaround as an athlete and a person. It's a great story.''

In 1997, Agassi married Shields, fell out of shape and slid to No. 141. He was written off at age 27. A year later he clawed back into the top 10, one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history. He won the French and U.S. Opens in 1999 and reached the final at Wimbledon.

''Andre had an epiphany in '97, and it changed everything for him,'' McEnroe said. 'I remember he lost to Gustavo Kuerten in Cincinnati in 42 minutes, and Brad Gilbert, who was his coach then, basically told him, `Either you recommit, or you're just cheating yourself.' ''

Andre took the advice and has never taken his talent for granted again.

Agassi's style of play has undergone a complete makeover from those denim days. Blessed with the ability to strike the ball and return serve better than just about anyone in the game, Agassi as a young man was known to bang from the baseline and hope for the best. He made errors, but that didn't seem to bother him.

Now he plays a wiser game and goes for the high-percentage shots.

''He has become the ultimate percentage player,'' McEnroe said. ``He is so consistent and plays so smart. He left so many things to chance early in his career, and now he leaves nothing to chance. Everything is calculated. Maybe his old style was a little more fun to watch, but when he's healthy he's still playing top 5 or 6 tennis.

``You take away Federer, who nobody can beat right now, and Andre is right there. You tell me he's going up against [Lleyton] Hewitt, [Andy] Roddick, [Marat] Safin or [Rafael] Nadal, and I'd say he's got almost a 50-50 shot.''

And as long as that's the case, Agassi says he'll keep playing.

He has won eight Grand Slam events, $30 million in prize money and is one of only five men to complete the career Grand Slam -- winning Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, French Open and Australian Open.

But he insists the sport never gets old, that he still finds inspiration every time he steps on the court.

''It's never old when people are taking a day of their lives to come watch you,'' he said.

He will quit only if he can't be at his best. And that has been an issue this season. Agassi suffers from a sciatic-nerve condition that forced him to limp through a first-round loss at the French Open and withdraw from Wimbledon. He came back to win in Los Angeles and reach the final in Montreal, where he gave young gun Nadal a tough match.

''As much as I want to get out there and do the best I can, you will not see me on the court anymore if I'm not 100 percent,'' Agassi said. ``If I have a little pain in my life; that's fine. I just don't want it on the tennis court, because I work too hard to get out there and feel helpless.''

Carillo said: ``Image used to be everything for Andre, now fitness is everything.''

THRIVES AT U.S. OPEN

Agassi hopes he can make it through another U.S. Open, where he tends to play some of his best tennis.

In his past six appearances he has won it once (in 1999), finished runner-up once (to Sampras in 2002), reached the semifinals once and the quarterfinals twice, most recently last year when he stretched eventual champion Roger Federer to five sets.

Agassi admits his body is tiring. He chooses his tournaments carefully and skips others, even if it means hefty fines. He is just trying to buy time.

''It's hard, and it's getting harder,'' he said. ``I mean, the standard of tennis is picking up. The pace of the ball, the violence of the movement, the wear and tear on the body, it's all -- it all builds up on you. It's no wonder why careers don't last as long as you would see in other sports.''

And that is what makes him the most compelling story at the Open this year.

''If Andre is still around the second week, what a great thing that will be to watch,'' Carillo said.
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Old 08-28-2005, 08:53 AM   #2
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Agassi saving best (and possibly last) for U.S. Open
By Jane McManus, The Journal News
Andre Agassi cut through the Lexington Avenue sidewalk traffic with such efficiency that at least one pedestrian did a double take. With the familiar bald pate, dressed in jeans and an adidas T-shirt, he walked among the suits and designer threads like any other person in New York with someplace to be.


Agassi may be hoping for a dramatic (and victorious) swan song at the U.S. Open.
By Paul Chiasson, AP

That night it was an event for the well-heeled at the W Hotel. Starting tomorrow, it will be the U.S. Open at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, where Agassi is seeded seventh and attempting to add one more major to his legacy.

Certainly Agassi has worked hard enough to earn another chance at what would be his ninth Grand Slam title, the happily-ever-after kind that Pete Sampras rode off with in 2002.

Many had written off the 35-year-old earlier this summer during a nine-week injury hiatus, but Agassi stunned them all by winning the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles, his first tournament back. He proved he can still do it, but the pain in his back makes it harder for his results to meet his demands.

"Sometimes it's just harder to remind yourself about what you're doing and why you're doing it," Agassi said. "Other times, you have a great desire for it, but physically you're not responding the way you want. That presents other challenges. Then sometimes it all comes together."

He's hoping that will be the case over the next two weeks. His training and treatment have been focused like a laser, and here is why: This is his last best chance.

There might be others, but for now his no-longer-reliable body is in very good shape. If Agassi looks ahead, he can probably see a civilian life of charity and family exerting more of a pull. How many more years can he endure the brutal three-hour daily training sessions needed to get him ready to take on the best in the world, men often a decade younger?

"I think we've seen the final days for two years," Tennis Week publisher Gene Scott said. "He's made a valiant stab, but the ghosts of Agassi are lurking more every day."

In order to remain in peak condition, Agassi pulled out of tournaments in Washington and Cincinnati this summer after playing into the finals of the previous tour stops.

"I think he's really putting all his eggs in one basket and getting ready for the Open," former coach Brad Gilbert said.

The ATP frowns on such withdrawals, but Agassi doesn't need to worry about fines and disapproval.

"I've gotten to a point where I don't even think about them anymore, because I can't afford to weigh myself down with sort of the rat race of trying to keep up with everything," Agassi said. "I can't do it anymore."

After yielding the first major title to Sampras when they were fully follicled kids in the 1990 U.S. Open final, Agassi was the graceful runner-up in 2002. Between those two matches, he learned that talent wasn't enough, and since that realization, Agassi has maintained a blue-collar air, walking briskly from the chair on changeovers as if summoned by a foreman's sharp whistle. That ethic eventually earned Agassi one of each of the four Grand Slams, a feat only five men's players have accomplished.

Recognizing that his style of play depends on stamina and quickness, Agassi hired trainer Gil Reyes to get serious about tennis. Reyes instituted a killer fitness plan, which at times included sprinting up mountain slopes and working with marathoners. Agassi has said running up the peaks made his lungs burn, but he gave his son, Jaden, the middle name Gil.

Agassi already has made a mockery of expectations that he, like most players, would start to fade at 30. Gilbert, who helped Agassi resurrect his career from a 1997 free fall to No. 141, said Agassi looks into other sports and sees similarities in the careers of Roger Clemens and Jerry Rice. Tennis may favor youth, but with proper training and focus, Agassi has remained at a peak level longer than nearly anyone else in the Open era.

"He's pushing the envelope," Gilbert said. "All these guys when they turn 30 can say, 'I can work hard and still make it happen.' "

This summer, however, has been a test. Agassi didn't last a round at the French Open and didn't go to Wimbledon. He waited without knowing if he would play again. But upon his return, Agassi won in L.A. and was the runner-up in Montreal in August, losing to French Open winner Rafael Nadal.

"I don't know anybody who could take nine weeks off and then — boom — come back and win a tournament," Gilbert said.

Although Agassi has defied the predictions for years now, the cortisone shots he must take to ease his back pain hint at an uneasy truth. Without the pain, Agassi might go on like this, cherry-picking tournaments and taking long stretches off.

The cortisone injections — he has gotten three this season, according to Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe — are a limited solution. Too many shots in one area can destroy surrounding tissue. And pain has a purpose; masking it can lead to further injury.

"I would be concerned that down the road, for the short-term solution, that he would be affecting his long-term health," said John McEnroe, who admitted to three or four shots in his own career. "You see a lot of players in other sports, football comes to mind most obviously, where a lot of these guys can barely walk because they were given so many injections during play and even at halftime."

Gilbert said Agassi isn't one to drag out the inevitable. He said that when Agassi is ready, he would leave the tour as quickly and cleanly as his wife, Steffi Graf, did when she retired.

Agassi simply has other things he is concerned with, like his charity work and family. He hasn't waited to start his legacy. He has the charter Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, where economically disadvantaged children have access to the best educational tools. When Nike wasn't interested in his charitable foundation, he severed their 19-year relationship.

His passion and financial commitment to this haven't gone unnoticed by his peers.

"I think Andre Agassi is one of the greatest role models that we have in tennis," former champion Patrick Rafter said. "It's important with my young family to understand charity work and to get them involved as much as I can; I hope to be a role model for them."

So now it is time to see if he has timed everything just right. Perhaps he has visualized those matches on the Arthur Ashe Court a dozen times. The cameras with their flashbulbs going off, the expectant crowd wanting the happy ending for him as much as he does.

"It's nicer if he goes out on a high note," said Mary Davis of Madison, Conn., who visited the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven last week.

Agassi sees no reason why he can't do just that.

"So now all of a sudden I'm faced with the reality that I can actually go enjoy the Open this year, because I'm doing a few things right, which is nice to feel," Agassi said. "Yeah, I like where I am right now."
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Old 08-28-2005, 08:54 AM   #3
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Posted on Sun, Aug. 28, 2005

Then & now with Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi has been coming to the U.S. Open for 20 years. A look at how he and the world around him have changed from 1986 to 2005:

ANDRE'S LOOK

• Then: A long mane of bleached hair (right) and denim tennis shorts were the most marked breaks from tennis tradition.

• Now: Most colorful accessory is Agassi's red racket. Otherwise, his hair is tightly cropped and clothes are quite understated.

IN THE OVAL OFFICE

• Then: Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican who made history by nominating Sandra Day O'Connor to be the Supreme Court's first female justice.

• Now: George W. Bush, a conservative Republican who has nominated John Roberts to replace a retiring O'Connor.

PAYING AT THE PUMP

• Then: Ah, the good ol' days, when average price for all grades of gasoline had yet to climb over the $1 per gallon mark.

• Now: SUVs and minivans beware. A fill-up often runs in excess of $50 as regular grade prices are soaring toward $3 per gallon

TV'S BEST STUFF

• Then: What wasn't to love about the Huxtables and Keatons? NBC was riding high thanks to sitcoms The Cosby Show and Family Ties.

• Now: A sharp contrast in viewers' tastes, as the ultra-serious Without a Trace and CSI: have made CBS the king of primetime.

'HOT' AUSSIE ACTOR

• Then: Paul Hogan introduced America to the Outback in Crocodile Dundee.

• Now: The anti-Hogan, Russell Crowe is anything but affable and jovial.

TOP MONEY-MAKING MOVIE

• Then: Top Gun. It only got better for Tom Cruise after this one. Unfortunately for Kelly McGillis, this was as good as it got.

• Now: Star Wars, Episode III. Some even saw it twice -- the same day it hit theaters.

MUST-HAVE ACCESSORY

• Then: Swatch watches. The more, the better. Often all worn on one arm.

• Now: iPod (above). Much pricier than a Swatch.

OPRAH WINFREY

• Then: A year after stealing the national spotlight in The Color Purple, Oprah Winfrey's talk show entered national syndication.

• Now: A better-than-ever Oprah (right) is still on each afternoon, having also become a magazine publisher, movie producer and TV network founder.

U.S. OPEN'S

TOP SEED

• Then: Ivan Lendl (left), a robotic European-born player who very often seemed impossible to beat.

• Now: Roger Federer, a robotic European-born player who very often seems impossible to beat.

NO. 1 WOMEN'S PLAYER

• Then: Martina Navratilova (below); Agassi's future wife, Steffi Graf, was still a year from her first U.S. Open final.

• Now: Maria Sharapova, like Agassi a teen phenom who wears Nike clothes and is sponsored by Canon.

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Old 08-28-2005, 11:55 PM   #4
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Agassi, Graf to Do Another Ad Together

Sun Aug 28, 3:03 PM ET



LAS VEGAS - Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf are continuing their doubles play with a financial services company that is promising to support their charitable works.


Genworth Financial said it will debut a third print and television advertisement Monday featuring the husband-and-wife duo, and will announce an extension of the sponsorship agreement through 2007.

The new ad coincides with the start of the U.S. Open in New York. Agassi and Graf first appeared in a Genworth commercial in June 2004.

The company said it will help sponsor the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation's annual Grand Slam for Children benefit concert in Las Vegas, and will make a contribution to Graf's Children for Tomorrow Foundation, which supports children traumatized by war or violence.

Agassi, a winner of 59 singles titles on the ATP circuit, quit Nike last month and joined Graf as an Adidas endorser. Graf has 107 WTA singles titles.

The couple married in October 2001. They have two children.

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Old 08-29-2005, 10:17 AM   #5
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Posted 8/28/2005 11:00 PM Updated 8/28/2005 11:17 PM

Agassi's plan includes winning the U.S. Open
By Douglas Robson, special for USA TODAY
Andre Agassi often talks about playing with "urgency." His words have never rung so true.


Andre Agassi practices in Arthur Ashe Stadium, site of the US Open tennis tournament, in New York, August 26, 2005.

A nerve condition in his lower back, a younger generation of talented opponents and most of all, Father Time, have tinged every Agassi appearance in 2005 with the thought it might be his last.

Yet none of these forces has conspired to make the ageless tennis icon less than a legitimate threat to win the 2005 U.S. Open, which begins Monday. It marks Agassi's 20th consecutive trip to New York, the only Grand Slam tournament he hasn't missed in two decades on tour.

"I prepare to be there under any circumstances, which in many years has been less than ideal," says Agassi, who plays Razvan Sabau of Romania in one of the two featured matches Monday night.

Two months ago Agassi and his advisers plotted his late-career assault on the record books. A few days earlier, the Las Vegas native had crashed out in the first round at the French Open.

At that late-May strategy session in Marin County, Calif., with coach Darren Cahill and longtime trainer and confidante Gil Reyes, Agassi decided to skip Wimbledon to focus on rehabilitating an inflamed sciatic nerve in his back. The decision had another focus in mind: Winning what could be the eight-time Grand Slam champion's last and best chance at the U.S. Open.

"In one sense, it was an easy decision to make because you have a good racehorse who is about to pull up injured, so you have to take him off the track and fix him up," Reyes says. "But it was tough to have to make it."

Playing at an age when most players no longer compete for major titles, the 35-year-old Agassi arrives eager to add to his legacy with a third Open title to go with those he captured in 1994 and 1999.

"It's hard for me to put it in context," Agassi says of his relationship with the bustling and sometimes unforgiving New York crowds. "I can say I enjoy playing there more than anywhere else in the world. When you step on the court there, regardless of how you feel, you always push yourself to get the most."

With the help of Reyes, Agassi — the modern recordholder with 59 Slam appearances — has remained one of the strongest and fittest men on tour.

Still, the husband and father of two won't predict whether this will be his final stint in New York.

"I don't know. I don't know," he answers. "I've been asked that every week for the last four years."

Among the rest

Agassi is not the favorite heading into the year's final Slam. That belongs to world No. 1 Roger Federer

But No. 7 seed Agassi is no dark horse. Despite his layoff after Paris and questions about his back, he returned to his preferred hardcourts this summer. He won his first tournament of 2005 — and 60th all time — in Los Angeles last month and followed up two weeks later with an appearance at the Montreal Masters final.

"Double A has a great shot at winning the Open," says Cahill, Agassi's coach.

Most consider him in the second tier of contenders with former U.S. Open champions Andy Roddick of the USA and Lleyton Hewitt of Australia. Also in the mix is world No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain, who with Federer leads the ATP Tour with nine titles (eight on clay, including the French Open).

"One thing about Andre," says ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, who coached Agassi from 1994 to 2002, "never underestimate him."

King of New York

Agassi's trips to New York trace the arc of his undulating career. The young renegade with multicolored hair, earrings and denim shorts who reached his first Open final in 1990 struck a chord with fans — but it was often discordant.

Like Jimmy Connors, a five-time U.S. Open champ who rubbed fans the wrong way until he became wildly popular after his prime, Agassi has earned his place in the hearts of New Yorkers and vice versa.

"My relationship with the fans from early on went from not being well received to finding as much support there as I do anywhere in the world," Agassi acknowledges.

When he lost his first three Grand Slam finals in the early 1990s, the tagline for his marketing pitch with Canon camera, "Image is everything," took on an ironic bent. It seemed the kid with so much talent lacked substance. That was compounded by first-round exits in 1991 and 1993 at the Open, cementing his underachiever reputation.

He began garnering fan empathy when he won his first Open as an unseeded player in 1994, beating German Michael Stich in the final.

His flashy tennis, charisma and good looks didn't hurt.

In ensuing years, fans witnessed his on- and off-court triumphs and losses, as Agassi struggled through a high-profile marriage and divorce to actress Brooke Shields, watched his mother and sister battle breast cancer and plummeted to No. 141 in the rankings in 1997 — only to re-emerge in 1999 to win a second U.S. Open and claim the year-end No. 1 ranking.

"He understands that people work hard to buy tickets to see him," trainer Reyes says. "He's them with a racket, and they are him with a necktie."

Becoming more human

The fairy tale continued in 2001 when he married a tennis player with stature equal to his, Steffi Graf, and then fathered a boy, Jaden Gil, and a girl, Jaz Elle, all while continuing to compete at the highest level.



Andre Agassi serves to Gaston Gaudio during the recent Rogers Cup in Montreal.

His inability to focus on his tennis when his off-court life faltered further endeared him to the public and put his humanity into fuller view. Agassi went from showoff to statesman and easily became the most recognizable tennis player in the world.

"In the beginning, he did everything with the viewpoint of what's in it for Andre," says longtime rival and friend Jim Courier, who first ran into Agassi in the 12-and-under juniors and later trained with him as a teen at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. "But he transformed himself from just another selfish athlete into a generous, caring, enlightened person, someone who ran away from responsibility and now dresses himself up in it."

Nine years ago, Agassi formed his charitable foundation to assist at-risk youth in Las Vegas. Four years ago, he opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a charter school in struggling Las Vegas that has become a model around the nation.

"Some players win a lot of trophies, but few leave a mark on life," says Bollettieri, who has reconciled with Agassi after a falling out years ago. "Andre will leave a mark that will last longer than those who did more statistically because he had an impact on people's lives."

Agassi says part of his evolution, if one wants to call it that, was just growing up in the public eye.

"I think if any of us looked at ourselves 20 years ago we'd see a lot of differences," he says. "My career has been a long one, and it's been a full spectrum. It's been growing up in front of all the fans that I still compete in front of. For that I'm so grateful for how they've allowed me to grow not just on the court but also off the court."

A little bit of luck

For Agassi to hold the trophy on the final Sept. 11 in Arthur Ashe Stadium, he'll need some breaks and a bit of luck.

His draw is decent, with a possible quarterfinal showdown with Nadal and no chance to meet Federer until the final. But observers say he will have to come through the early rounds relatively unscathed. Too many tough matches early on could wear Agassi down.

The weather is another variable. When he lost the 2003 Open semifinal to Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero, several days of rain had forced Agassi to play three matches on consecutive days. That lack of recovery time could spell doom, especially with his back a question mark. Last year he was a whisker away from beating Federer in a quarterfinal match that was played over two days because of rain and heavy winds.

Mum on future

If this is Agassi's final stint in Queens, he is not tipping his hand.

"For me, it's been about seeing through this year and assessing things from there on," he says, echoing his commitment to play out the season. "I really don't allow myself to think too much about (retirement) because it detours me from the task at hand."

With eight major championships, 60 ATP titles and a top-10 ranking in numerous statistical categories, Agassi's place in tennis history is a lock. More than any American player of his generation — more than Pete Sampras, Courier or Michael Chang, the other members of the Fab Four — Agassi has given wattage to tennis.

"There has never been a player with such a transforming effect on the sport over such a long period of time, and there are literally hundreds of players on tour now who have jobs because of fans and sponsors that he brought into the game," says the top-ranked American and 2003 champ Roddick, who is seeded fourth.

"For me, he's been a much bigger influence off the court by the way he carries himself with professionalism and dedicates his life to his foundation and the academy."
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Old 08-29-2005, 10:25 AM   #6
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Agassi remains a top contender
7th seed seeks Open title
Published in the Asbury Park Press 08/29/05

Andre Agassi cut through the Lexington Avenue sidewalk traffic with such efficiency that at least one pedestrian did a double take. With the familiar bald pate, dressed in jeans and an adidas T-shirt, he walked among the suits and designer threads like any other person in New York with someplace to be.

That night it was an event for the well-heeled at the W Hotel. Starting tonight, it will be the U.S. Open at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, where Agassi is seeded seventh and attempting to add one more major to his legacy.

Andre Agassi is focused on the U.S. Open, which starts today.

Certainly Agassi has worked hard enough to earn another chance at what would be his ninth Grand Slam title, the happily-ever-after kind that Pete Sampras rode off with in 2002.

Many had written off the 35-year-old earlier this summer during a nine-week injury hiatus, but Agassi stunned them all by winning the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles, his first tournament back. He proved he can still do it, but the pain in his back makes it harder for his results to meet his demands.

"Sometimes it's just harder to remind yourself about what you're doing and why you're doing it," Agassi said. "Other times, you have a great desire for it, but physically you're not responding the way you want. That presents other challenges. Then sometimes it all comes together."

He's hoping that will be the case over the next two weeks. His training and treatment have been focused like a laser, and here is why: This is his last best chance.

There might be others, but for now his no-longer-reliable body is in very good shape. If Agassi looks ahead, he can probably see a civilian life of charity and family exerting more of a pull. How many more years can he endure the brutal three-hour daily training sessions needed to get him ready to take on the best in the world, men often a decade younger?

"I think we've seen the final days for two years," Tennis Week publisher Gene Scott said. "He's made a valiant stab, but the ghosts of Agassi are lurking more every day."

In order to remain in peak condition, Agassi pulled out of tournaments in Washington and Cincinnati this summer after playing into the finals of the previous tour stops.

"I think he's really putting all his eggs in one basket and getting ready for the Open," former coach Brad Gilbert said.

The ATP frowns on such withdrawals, but Agassi doesn't need to worry about fines and disapproval.

"I've gotten to a point where I don't even think about them anymore, because I can't afford to weigh myself down with sort of the rat race of trying to keep up with everything," Agassi said. "I can't do it anymore."

After yielding the first major title to Sampras when they were fully follicled kids in the 1990 U.S. Open final, Agassi was the graceful runner-up in 2002. Between those two matches, he learned that talent wasn't enough, and since that realization, Agassi has maintained a blue-collar air, walking briskly from the chair on changeovers as if summoned by a foreman's sharp whistle. That ethic eventually earned Agassi one of each of the four Grand Slams, a feat only five men's players have accomplished.

Recognizing that his style of play depends on stamina and quickness, Agassi hired trainer Gil Reyes to get serious about tennis. Reyes instituted a killer fitness plan, which at times included sprinting up mountain slopes and working with marathoners. Agassi has said running up the peaks made his lungs burn, but he gave his son, Jaden, the middle name Gil.

Agassi already has made a mockery of expectations that he, like most players, would start to fade at 30. Gilbert, who helped Agassi resurrect his career from a 1997 free fall to No. 141, said Agassi looks into other sports and sees similarities in the careers of Roger Clemens and Jerry Rice. Tennis may favor youth, but with proper training and focus, Agassi has remained at a peak level longer than nearly anyone else in the Open era.

"He's pushing the envelope," Gilbert said. "All these guys when they turn 30 can say, "I can work hard and still make it happen.' "

This summer, however, has been a test. Agassi didn't last a round at the French Open and didn't go to Wimbledon. He waited without knowing if he would play again. But upon his return, Agassi won in L.A. and was the runner-up in Montreal in August, losing to French Open winner Rafael Nadal.

"I don't know anybody who could take nine weeks off and then — boom — come back and win a tournament," Gilbert said.

Although Agassi has defied the predictions for years now, the cortisone shots he must take to ease his back pain hint at an uneasy truth. Without the pain, Agassi might go on like this, cherry-picking tournaments and taking long stretches off.

Gilbert said Agassi isn't one to drag out the inevitable. He said that when Agassi is ready, he would leave the tour as quickly and cleanly as his wife, Steffi Graf, did when she retired.

Agassi simply has other things he is concerned with, like his charity work and family. He hasn't waited to start his legacy. He has the charter Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, where economically disadvantaged children have access to the best educational tools. When Nike wasn't interested in his charitable foundation, he severed their 19-year relationship.

His passion and financial commitment to this haven't gone unnoticed by his peers.

"I think Andre Agassi is one of the greatest role models that we have in tennis," former champion Patrick Rafter said.

So now it is time to see if he has timed everything just right.

"So now all of a sudden I'm faced with the reality that I can actually go enjoy the Open this year, because I'm doing a few things right, which is nice to feel," Agassi said. "Yeah, I like where I am right now."
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Old 08-29-2005, 10:29 AM   #7
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Agassi finding it hard
to say goodbye






Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi plays tonight at the U.S. Open against Razvan Sabau of Romania — yet another major, yet another hopeful journeyman across the net. After two decades of this, you have to figure Agassi is looking for an exit strategy.

He won't admit to that, maybe not even to himself. He told a crowd in Montreal just a couple weeks ago he would see them in a couple years, still brandishing a racket in hand. He loves the game, still. He has a foundation to support, and he takes that role seriously.

But if a graceful departure were available, if the yellow brick road appeared magically before him, surely Agassi would follow the moment and leave behind a sweeping, four-corner goodbye kiss.

He is 35, his bones ache when he wakes up in the morning, he's got a famous wife (who quit tennis at 30) and two little kids. There are guys like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal breathing down his forehand, whispering in his ear.

If only he could go out like his old rival Pete Sampras in 2002, with that one last major title here after two years of winless tennis. Sampras got out before Federer decided to be king of the world, before it became all but impossible for Agassi to steal his ninth major.

So Agassi likely will settle for less, and you wonder what Agassi wants from this Open, and whether he will need to go on after what he gets.

Don't read this wrong. Nobody is asking Agassi to retire. He is too much fun to watch, always has been. His player's box isn't as funky as it once was, no Barbra Streisand in sight, but Agassi is still a hypnotic waterbug on a hardcourt. He's 32-10 this season in singles. His instinctive half volleys and, yes, just the way he walks pigeon-toed from one point to the next is enough to keep you interested.

He's been around so long, everything has changed. The opponents. Even his tennis shoe, now Adidas. He was never an angel, though Agassi has mellowed noticeably since his second marriage, that to Steffi Graf. You can still see him smacking a ball at a lineswoman at Wimbledon, telling her to go home and have sex with her husband. You still see him throwing silly tantrums, mimicking Karol Kucera in a tough match at the 1998 U.S. Open.

There are too many drop shots and tantrums under the bridge. But Agassi also has given back a lot to his sport, and to the kids in Vegas.

So you want the draw here to open up for him, the way it does sometimes for the great ones in their late years. The way it did for Sampras, and the way it once did for Jimmy Connors in 1991. And then, maybe, Agassi can have the sort of curtain call he deserves.

On paper, it doesn't look great. Agassi potentially has Nadal in the quarters, Andy Roddick in the semis, Federer in the final. But you never know. It didn't look great for Sampras in 2002, right up until Agassi knocked off Lleyton Hewitt in a brutal semifinal, then fell, exhausted, to Sampras.

There's a chance. There's also a better chance the sciatic nerve will act up, as it did when he withdrew recently from a tournament in Cincinnati, or that his brain will turn to other matters at exactly the wrong time.

"There are some days where it's much tougher mentally," Agassi said at the tournament in Montreal two weeks ago. "Physically, you can feel great, but, you know, you might have a bad dream about your children, and you're three thousand miles away from them. Sometimes it's just harder to remind yourself about what you're doing and why you're doing it. Other times, you have a great desire for it, but physically you're not responding the way you want.

"Then sometimes it all comes together," Agassi said.

He hopes it comes together here, starting tonight. Then another season of majors ends, and another decision must be made before Australia in January.

Agassi knows the game will go on without him.

"I can't be objective as to how I fit into this picture," Agassi said, "But I can say that I'll miss it a lot. I'll miss the competition, I'll miss the sport, I'll miss the guys, all the stuff that goes with it."

Agassi versus Sabau tonight, after Maria Sharapova vs. Eleni Daniilidou. Another wave, in the long goodbye.

Originally published on August 29, 2005

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Old 08-29-2005, 06:19 PM   #8
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I wish I were on Lexington Avenue and saw Andre!
Love all the articles, very interesting to read! Thank you for posting them!
GO ANDRE GO!
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Old 09-01-2005, 01:09 AM   #9
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7-ANDRE AGASSI (USA) V. IVO KARLOVIC (CRO)

If Agassi doesn't find a way to get his racket on the 6-foot-10 Karlovic's huge first serve, he could be in for a very long day. Andre will not be seriously threatened from the back court and will attempt to move the big man around, but that's easier said than done when a man is firing 130 mph service blasts at you and you are struggling to get into points.


No. 7 Seed Andre Agassi defeated Razvan Sabau (ROM) 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in a first round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Still one of the world's most effective returners (wrong, my opinion: Andre is the best of the best returners, Gigan...), Agassi has beaten plenty of big servers before, but he has also fallen to the likes of bombers Mark Philippoussis, Pete Sampras and Greg Rusedski. But all those men are better all around players than Karlovic, who doesn't have much beyond his serve and forehand. Andre will be pushed in every set, but he'll never be broken, break the Croat twice and win one set in a breaker. Agassi in straight sets.

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Old 09-01-2005, 04:41 AM   #10
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http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/01/sp.../01agassi.html

Agassi Is Back to Being Great U.S. Hope


By LIZ ROBBINS
Published: September 1, 2005


The attention had shifted back to Andre Agassi, not Andy Roddick. Agassi was the highest-seeded American left in the men's draw of the Open at No. 7 a day after a demoralized Roddick dashed from the grounds of the National Tennis Center after his first-round loss.

Through 20 years of personal, professional and promotional changes, Agassi has been the one constant at this tournament. At 35, with a shiny pate and a lithe frame, he is in better shape than he was a decade ago, his longtime conditioning coach, Gil Reyes, said yesterday.

Despite the troublesome sciatic nerve in his lower back, which upset the first half of this season, Agassi won one title this summer and reached the final in Montreal.

He is turning back retirement thoughts with one mantra. "I just keep working, just keep working," Agassi said, on the move yesterday after his practice session to prepare for a tricky second-round match today against Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.

Agassi's priorities might have shifted, but his focus has not. While the American Express campaign seemed to have foretold the fourth-seeded Roddick's exit - "Have You Seen Andy's Mojo?" - Agassi's commercial image is far more subdued and far more reflective of his life.

If image is everything, as his camera ads in the early 1990's suggested, then consider this: Agassi and his wife, Steffi Graf, now drive a minivan in a commercial for a financial services company.

Agassi really does drive a minivan.

"Which he got a lot of flak from the office for," his brother, Phillip, said yesterday.

"When he was like 18 and 19, he had a Lamborghini, Corvettes," Phillip Agassi said with a laugh. "At one time, he owned three or four Porsches. It was really kind of ostentatious and sick. A minivan works great for him."

He and Graf have a son, Jaden, who turns 4 in October, and a daughter, Jaz, who turns 2 in October. "Andre and Stefanie are really humble," Phillip said. "You couldn't find either one of their trophies in their house, not one picture, not one poster. He's got photos with Clinton, Shaq, but the ones that are up on the wall are the ones that are family and close friends."

Two years ago, Agassi was featured in an American Express commercial in which he bought a ball-hopper so he could pick up children's toys. Yesterday, he said he was not shocked by Roddick's defeat.

"Not too much separates so many of us," Agassi said about Gilles Muller's three-set upset of Roddick. Agassi beat Muller, a left-hander from Luxembourg, to capture the Los Angeles title in July.

That was the first tournament he played after losing in the first round of the French Open in Paris, where he endured severe sciatic pain. It was then that Agassi rededicated himself to strength training.

"After Paris, he said: 'We're going to get this right. I'm not finished,' " Reyes recalled. "I told him, 'O.K., here's what we're going to change, here's what we can no longer do, some of the lifts, and here's what you're going to have to do.' "

For two months, Agassi and Reyes, who have worked together for more than 16 years, spent hours in the gym every day.

"We upped his training time, going over two hours nonstop in the weight room," Reyes said. "Every single training session was game day."

Darren Cahill, Agassi's coach, saw the results. "Gil and Andre have done some great work over the last 15 years, and the last training camp was one of the best," Cahill said.

Agassi has also taken cortisone shots, including one after his Mercedes Cup title in Los Angeles, to ease the pain. He said Monday that he was feeling well again.

Today's match will once again test Agassi's ability to adapt. He is playing Karlovic for the first time. Karlovic, 26, is the tallest player on the men's tour at 6 feet 10 inches.

"I don't think there's anybody on the tour that enjoys playing Karlovic," the 5-11 Agassi said after his straight-set victory over Razvan Sabau of Romania on Monday night. "A guy like that is really awkward. It's an odd trajectory that the ball's coming down from. It's not even so much the pace; it's the trajectory as well."


These days, 19-year-old Rafael Nadal, with his capri pants and muscle shirt, has become the new fashion renegade. With eight major championships - the last being the Australian Open in 2003 - Agassi is more icon than iconoclast. After minivans, what can be next?

Try Barry Manilow. Agassi and Reyes said they were inspired by Manilow's lyrics in "I Made It Through the Rain," a song about triumph and being an example.

"Paying back the sport as much as I can is a great motivation for me," Agassi said. "It starts with the people. And just respect for the game.

"It's all going to come to an end at one time or another. Until that point, I want to be committed to this and see it through."


I apologize if it's already been posted.
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Old 09-01-2005, 09:58 PM   #11
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Old man Agassi fells the giant at US Open 38 minutes ago (how old are you, f-n reporter? )



NEW YORK (AFP) - Andre Agassi's 20th straight US Open campaign remained on course as he cut down to size giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic.



US tennis veteran Andre Agassi, 35, checks the strings on his racket in between games...


The 35-year-old American went through to the third round 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) with his 73rd win at the US Open, tying Ivan Lendl for second place in the Open era.

Only Jimmy Connors with 98 has won more matches here.

Next up for the crowd favourite is a match against either the dangerous Thomas Berdych of the Czech Republic or Ricardo Mello of Brazil who were playing later Thursday.

With Andy Roddick's shock first-round defeat on Tuesday, Agassi is the highest-ranking American man left and he has built up a groundswell of support urging him on to match Pete Sampras' emotional finale in 2002.

"That was a difficult match. It's so hard to beat him. You have to concentrate well. It was good to close it out when I did. It was only getting tougher," he said.

"You know he is going to get his aces. I had to get my racket on the ball and know what to do when I did."

Like many before him Agassi, playing for the first time against the 2.08m tallest player on the circuit, found the Karlovic serve a devil to cope with.

He did have a clutch of break points in the seventh game of the opening set, but could do little about the missiles that his opponent served at him to stave off the danger.

And he was given a scare at 5-6 down when Karlovic's chip-and-charge tactics were rewarded with a set point, but Agassi kept his cool to send a precision passing-shot past his opponent forcing the tie-break.

The US Open champion in 1994 and 1999, fell behind 0-2 in that but a welcome Karlovic double fault got him back on level terms and from 4-4 he won the next three points clinching the 47-minute set when Karlovic netted a backhand.

Agassi sped to a 3-0 lead in the second set and he looked about to put some distance between himself and his opponent, but Karlovic silenced the big crowd in the Arthur Ashe Stadium by breaking back to level at 4-4.

Karlovic then saved three set points to force a second tie-break but the result unfortunately for him was the same as Agassi comfortably took it 7-5.

The American had established a stranglehold on the match but still the Croatian, who earlier this year set the world aces record of 51 in a first-round loss at Wimbledon, would not relent with his one-track game plan.

Games again went with serve with no hint of a break to force a third tie-break and again the streetwise American came out on top, taking his cue from Karlovic's double fault gift on the opening point.
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Old 09-02-2005, 12:51 AM   #12
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Agassi wins battle of nerves
American defeats Karlovic, advances at U.S. Open

Thursday, September 1, 2005; Posted: 8:20 p.m. EDT (00:20 GMT)


Andre Agassi acknowledges fans Thursday after defeatiing Ivo Karlovic in three sets.


Andre Agassi stood 11 inches shorter than 6-foot-10 Croatian Ivo Karlovic, spun serves about 50 mph slower, and logged far fewer miles on court.

The ace count went to Karlovic, 30-5, as he clocked serves consistently in the 130-142 mph range, but the second-round victory at the U.S. Open on Thursday went to Agassi, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).

At 35, nine years older than the gangling giant across the net, Agassi came up bigger on the big points to continue his run for one more Grand Slam title in his 20th visit to the Open. His wife, Steffi Graf, and 3-year-old son, Jaden, watched at courtside.

"Listen to that," Agassi said as the standing crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium cheered his victory. "How does that get old? Thanks guys."

Agassi, seeded No. 7, couldn't equal Karlovic's power and didn't care. Rather, he settled for cleverness and steadiness, taking advantage of the Croatian's weak backhand and awkward lateral movement. No one on the tour likes to play against the No. 56-ranked Karlovic, Agassi had said before playing him for the first time, because his serves come down from an unfamiliar trajectory, as if fired from the roof. Agassi felt the same way after winning.

"It's an incredible serve," Agassi said. "I'm trying to figure out where it is I would need to stand on the court to have the same trajectory. It's not a function of how fast it is because a lot of guys can serve it 135-plus. The trajectory is the main issue because you're lunging, but then it's up. You're sort of diving, but then you can't reach it, even if you dive perfectly and on cue."

Agassi swung and swished at some serves and stared helplessly as many others sped by. Each time he walked calmly to the other side, waiting for the ones he could get a racket on, trying to get Karlovic to play on different terms in rallies. There Agassi had the advantage.

"If I was coaching him, I'd fine him $100 every time he hit a groundstroke," Agassi said. "In his most difficult moments, he was more awkward than I anticipated."

The first-set tiebreak turned in just such a moment, when Agassi drilled a forehand that Karlovic volleyed wide to give Agassi a minibreak at 5-4. Agassi kept taking aim at Karlovic's backhand and watched him hit two straight unforced errors off that side to lose the set.

Agassi had to go to five set-points in the second set before he won it with a deep forehand that Karlovic swatted long. In the third set, serving with a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak, Agassi hit six straight shots at Karlovic's backhand, then ripped a winner to his open forehand side to set up match point. Again, Agassi picked on Karlovic's backhand, hitting three shots to that side and watching Karlovic dump the last one into the net.

Agassi played with extra caution in this match, not going for too much in the wind against Karlovic.

"Today required a lot of concentration because it only took a mental lapse for one or two shots and the set's over with," Agassi said. "On a calm day if I'm taking risks against a guy like that, all he needs is one game and then he's going to win the set. I couldn't afford to get too risky. Points happen too quickly out there."

Agassi's wariness was particularly raised after watching No. 4 Andy Roddick fall in three tiebreakers in the first round against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller. Muller's luck and poise didn't hold in the second round as he was beaten 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 by American doubles partner Robby Ginepri.

"It's good to beat Roddick," Muller said. "But then if you play in the next round ... like I did today, it doesn't change anything."

Sebastien Grosjean beat No. 14 Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, and No. 19 Tommy Robredo knocked out former French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2.

In women's matches, No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, No. 7 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 12 Mary Pierce, No. 13 Anastasia Myskina, No. 15 Nathalie Dechy, No. 17 Jelena Jankovic, No. 19 Elena Likhovtseva, and No. 23 Tatiana Golovin all won in straight sets.

Agassi's balky back hasn't acted up yet, but he's wary that it could go at any moment. A herniated disc shot pain down his right leg at the French Open, leading to his first-round loss there and his absence from Wimbledon. He could be playing his last U.S. Open but he hopes he will be able to keep going another year or two. Nothing, he said, would be decided until the end of this year.

"It was a good sign to play a guy where I had to lunge a lot and jump around," Agassi said. "It was 21/2 hours. I felt pretty good."

The fans, meanwhile, are relishing every moment with him, as he is with them.

Agassi has played the U.S. Open more than any man in the Open era except Jimmy Connors, who competed here 22 times. Agassi's win against Karlovic was his 73rd at the Open, tying him with Ivan Lendl for second in the Open era behind Connors' 98.

"I always enjoyed watching him as a kid," Karlovic said of Agassi. "He is a legend."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Old 09-02-2005, 04:32 AM   #13
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Nice articles. Nice job!
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Cheer for: Ljubicic Gonzalez Murray Mahut Soderling Tipsarevic Mathieu Simon Muller Tsonga Berdych Kohlschreiber Wawrinka Acasuso Almagro O.Rochus Kiefer...
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Old 09-02-2005, 11:51 AM   #14
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US Open
Flusing Meadows, New York, U.S.A.
September 1 , 2005
Agassi Ties Lendl With Second Most US Open Wins


Andre Agassi won his 73rd match at the US Open on Thursday to tie Ivan Lendl for the second-most wins in tournament history. Agassi and Lendl trail US Open all-time winner Jimmy Connors by 25 wins. On Monday, Agassi picked up his 72nd win to surpass Pete Sampras’ mark of 71-9.

Agassi, the No. 7 seed, survived a 30-ace barrage by 6’10” Croat Ivo Karlovic to win 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 7-6(4). It was only the second time in Agassi’s 90 career matches at the US Open he has played in three tie-breaks. In the 2001 quarterfinals, the two-time champion (1994 & 1999) lost to Sampras in four tie-breaks.

The Las Vegas native will next play No. 32 seed Tomas Berdych and is on par for a quarterfinal collision with No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal in a rematch of their Rogers Masters final last month.

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Old 09-02-2005, 09:31 PM   #15
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Reyes reveals Agassi near the end

"He knows this is the last time, though whether that's a matter of months or weeks we don't know," Gil Reyes, Andre Agassi's long-time personal trainer, revealed to Eurosport at Flushing Meadows. The two-time U.S. Open champion realises: "Now is the time. There is no tomorrow," Reyes explained.

"We just don't know - hopefully years. But we know we're at the end of a wonderful career, one that he's very grateful for. He understands that he must bring everything he has," Reyes added.

It was when Agassi returned to Las Vegas in May, after a second consecutive first round defeat at Roland Garros, that the 35-year-old remedied to start all over again.

"At Roland Garros it was an eye-opener," said Reyes. Agassi lost to Finnish qualifier Jarkko Nieminen.

Sciatic nerve problems in Agassi's back were to blame and regular cortisone injections every few months this season have dictated the veteran's schedule.

"When we returned from Paris, he said we're going to do this right," explained Reyes. "He insisted: 'I'm not finished.'"

Reyes told Eurosport of how Agassi's training regime had been slightly modified as a result of the back injury.

It came as little surprise to tennis journalists that Agassi withdrew from Wimbledon.

Playing at the grass-court major championship would have jeopardised his hard-court campaign and a chance to play at a 20th U.S. Open.

Back at his Las Vegas base, Agassi remained true to his mantra: 'Just keep working'. He trained harder than ever.

"It was a new Andre," Reyes insists.

"We trained harder than ever, longer than ever, more than ever and right now he's more fit at 35 than he was at 25."



Eurosport - James Buddell - 02/09/2005
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Andre Agassi forever
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