FanDuel - WFBC

September 03, 2006

"I stood on your shoulders to reach for my dreams": : A tearful Andre Agassi thanks the crowd at the US Open after his third-round loss to Benjamin Becker ended a two-decade career of professional tennis.

posted by lil_brown_bat to tennis at 04:39 PM - 33 comments

I remember watching am all American Wimbledon final on the fourth of July between two American men, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, I don't remember the exact outcome but it doesn't really matter. The two giants have left and they are already missed.

posted by wincoach at 06:43 PM on September 03

There really is now no one left. Shame.

posted by commander cody at 07:02 PM on September 03

Probably the greatest ever returner in tennis. Farewell.

posted by owlhouse at 07:12 PM on September 03

It's too bad such an awesome returner had to finish on an ace.

posted by bobfoot at 07:51 PM on September 03

I agree with the commander. Andre was the last of the legends.

posted by sickleguy at 07:53 PM on September 03

I hear that Roger Federer character ain't too shabby.

posted by SummersEve at 08:04 PM on September 03

Yes, but Roger Federer has been a dominant tennis player for what, 3 or 4 years? That's like comparing Carson Palmer to Dan Marino. Yes, Carson has been a dominant QB for a few years, but Dan Marino was a legend who dominated for about 15 years. Roger Federer has to stay on top for another 7 or 8 years before he can even be mentioned as a legend of Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi caliber.

posted by zachaweenus at 08:18 PM on September 03

There's clearly a lot more to it than the athletic prowess, too. Federer can keep ticking along like a Swiss watch for the next ten years, and he won't have the crowd the way Agassi did. Andre was fallible; more important, he was like a lot of us, stumbling around for a while before he figured out what really mattered to him. He made the kind of false starts that we've all made; he fronted in ways that sounded like our own insecurities, and when he got past all that, it meant so much to see his hard-won confidence and serenity. Under a spotlight where every misstep showed, he found an enduring meaning of success before his more obvious and transient successes had faded. When you can find the meaning that carries you beyond your present victories, then you can survive their passing with grace. I think a lot of people watching Agassi thought, "If I can move with the changes like this guy does, I'll be doing pretty damn good." I could be wrong about this, but I have a feeling that from now on, a lot of the up-and-coming players will still be trying to serve like Roddick and put together a point like Federer, but they'll be trying to win (and lose) like Agassi. At least, I hope so.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:40 PM on September 03

What's with all the tut-tutting about the last interesting person leaving tennis? I remember ten years ago, everyone was kvetching about what schlumpy wallflowers Pete Sampras & Stefan Edberg & Jim Courier & Michael Chang were, while ignoring the interesting players on the tour (like Agassi & Boris Becker) who were consistently making the second week in most Grand Slams, and occasionally winning. Same thing today. You want compelling stories and colorful characters, and think Federer is somehow too ... Swiss for you? Have you been paying attention to the all-too-human struggles of Andy Roddick & (especially) James Blake? Have you heard the crap coming out of Lleyton Hewitt's mouth when he's not paying attention to what he's saying? Have you not noticed what a gleeful freak Rafael Nadal is? Even if you don't want to pay heed to people with names like Nalbandian or Baghdatis or Ljubicic, all of whom are genuinely interesting and complex people who are legitimate threats to win Slams & have huge followings in their home countries, there's no shortage of interesting players, no matter what kind of people you identify with. Not only is there no shortage of talent on the men's tour, there's charisma in spades. Agassi is leaving the sport in a pretty strong place. He'll be missed -- he became the elder statesman of the sport, and someone will have to step up into that role and start selling tickets, even if his shoes can't completely be filled. But don't cry for men's professional tennis. It'll be fine.

posted by chicobangs at 09:13 PM on September 03

What's with all the tut-tutting about the last interesting person leaving tennis? You didn't hear that here, chico, so c'mon.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:16 PM on September 03

Okay, fine then, "last of the legends." (I was also thinking of this, this, and this thread). Also I made the mistake of watching Sportscenter and The Sports Reporters today, on which Stephen A. Smith said something similar. No attempt at a straw man was intended on my part. But that's where I was coming from.

posted by chicobangs at 10:14 PM on September 03

I will miss Agassi. I saw him play several times and I was never disappointed. It was great to see him go from the rebel to the mature tennis player. He was simply amazing.

posted by lil'red at 10:23 PM on September 03

he fronted in ways that sounded like our own insecurities I don't know about your insecurities, LBB. But, hmmm, Barbra Streisand or Brooke Shields? :-)

posted by owlhouse at 12:16 AM on September 04

Chico, I see both sides of the "last legend" arguement. He IS the last legend...for now. There are a lot of up and comers though, and who knows how any of them will develop over the next decade. I personally think that Blake has a lot of potential. He has personality, his game is good and getting better, and he has an appreciation for the history of the sport (as his tribute to Agassi showed). If his game rises to the level where he's the dominant player for a substantial period, I think he could end up with people thinking of him in the same light as Andre or Sampras. There are a lot of other very talented players out there right now, too. I just don't see much charisma from any of them. Of course, that could all change by next year if a new wunderkind or two pop up.

posted by ctal1999 at 02:34 AM on September 04

Chico, I agree wholeheartedly with you. People see what they want to see, and they want to mourn Agassi's retirement as the end of charisma in the sport. I'm sure his retirement from the game will continue to overshadow the rest of the event (how many people have been calling it the Agassi Open, after all?). For sportswriters, it merely means that they won't have to cover tennis again for the foreseeable future, unless it is to talk about its untimely demise. But for fans of the sport who know the players and who enjoy a wide variety of styles and personalities, the sport will endure (ATP threats notwithstanding). There are plenty of young players on the cusp of greatness (Gasquet, Djokovic, Monfils, even the likes of Sam Querrey), and lots of interesting players with loads of personality already out there (like Irakli Labadze or Jarkko Nieminen or Jonas Bjorkman). Of course, the ultimate irony of Agassi losing his last match to a "nobody" is the fact that two years ago, Benjamin Becker was denied a wildcard because he had the audacity to win the NCAA singles title instead of an American.

posted by somethingotherthan at 02:54 AM on September 04

Career in pictures.

posted by justgary at 05:38 AM on September 04

Last of the legends? No one left? WTF? Chico produced an elegant and well mannered response that relied on facts, evidence and reasoned argument - so can I run with some abuse? I've been watching tennis for more than twenty years (since my mother sat me down and explained what it was that made Mac so special) and I can't ever remember being as excited by (the talent and charisma in) it as I am these days. Commander Cody - there really is no one left? You pull this shit in the golf threads too - "Well, Tiger sure seems like a decent player, but it's just not the same without big Jack and Arnie battling it out." [I'm paraphrasing] - come on, man! The game isn't getting old, you are (and I am, and we all are). You don't miss Jack, or Arnie, or Samprass, or Agassi - you miss being 25. And Bat - "ticking along like a Swiss watch"? Which Federer are you watching? I take your broader point about Agassi being appealing because he displayed the insecurities of normal people and then overcame them like a god, but I think you're being a bit unfair to that big floppy-haired genius from the land of the cuckoo-clock. Agassi for me was a pint of Guinness - what I grew up with and a safe bet to entertain me every time, and when he was good, he made me shout and scream with raucous pleasure. Federer is vintage champagne - I've never tasted anything like it, I don't know enough about it to ever fully appreciate just how good he is, and when he's good, he makes me purr and curl my toes up with delight.

posted by JJ at 05:54 AM on September 04

(On edit: I almost deleted this when I saw what JJ wrote, because he summed it up so well, but I'll leave it.) Echo what Somethingotherthan and Chico say. To compare Federer to Carson Palmer is silly. I get the point you're trying to make, but Federer has won 40 singles titles, and 8 grand slam singles titles. He's 25, pro since '98. Agassi won 60 singles titles, 8 grand slam singles titles in his career. Federer hasn't won the French Open yet, but that's largely due to Rafael Nadal who's ridiculous on clay. Don't get me wrong, Agassi was the first tennis player I really, really pulled for. Like many American 30-somethings, I play tennis now largely because of him. My goal most definitely is not to belittle him at all. I'm sad to see him go. I love the guy, but to say he's the end of tennis is, again, kind of silly. If you say he might be the end of American men's tennis, I'll listen. But like somethingotherthan said, there is a ton of talent out there, and like Chico said, there's a ton of personality out there. They happen to have accents and wear capris, but I bet if you watch them, you'll like them.

posted by SummersEve at 06:12 AM on September 04

I agree with much that has been said here as a tribute to Andre. He surely will be missed. Even when he lost in big matches (to Fed last year in the Open Final and many, many times to Pete over the years), it was always only by a razor thin margin, and was always in an entertaining way. Despite the fact that he underachieved in the first act of his career, it makes what he achieved in the second act all the more impressive. In fact, few champions can ever match the kind of stretch he had in 1999-2000; winning at Roland Garros, the US Open and the Australian, and making it to the finals at Wimbledon. I'm not a big fan of Federer, despite his gargantuan talent, he seems a bit colorless to me (I didn't like Borg much as a kid for the same reasons, YMMV). But I think Nadal, Baghdatis and others have piles of charisma and they're continuing to improve their games, and tennis is interesting again. Just 2-3 years ago, it was frankly a bit dull. Overall, I think Andre leaves the game in very good hands.

posted by psmealey at 07:42 AM on September 04

After reading what lil_brown_bat had to say, he totally brought up a great point. Andre Agassi went from rebel to legend in front of our eyes and the few that appreciated his game, know that regardless if he won or loss, we were witnessing a giant in the sport of tennis. U'll be missed Andre

posted by BornIcon at 07:42 AM on September 04

JJ: And Bat - "ticking along like a Swiss watch"? Which Federer are you watching? The one who almost never fails, like a Swiss watch. Which one are you watching? I didn't think my point was that obscure. Chacun a son gout. And you didn't hear me saying there was "no one left" or that it was the "end of tennis". Becker himself could be an interesting part of the next wave: an NCAA product (odd coincidence, I found out last night that someone I know coached him at Baylor) and a lot more than another big kid with a big serve. If he can find the lines the way he did yesterday, I think he's going to give Roddick fits. We'll find out in a couple of hours.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:47 AM on September 04

I hope we don't have to wait for the Graf/Agassi brood to mature before another American talent rises to the top of the ranks in tennis, or I predict the same fate that open wheeled racing has had, with only a core group of fans (albeit loyal and knowledgable) that really care about the sport here in the states. Agassi, Sampras, Courier, Connors, Mac, et al gave Joe Six-Pack a reason to cheer, and it seems to me that interest has been on the wane in recent years, directly as a result of Americans not being as prominent in the sport. Just an opinion.... I thoroughly enjoyed Andre's career, if, "image is everything", then he is good hands.

posted by mjkredliner at 10:50 AM on September 04

I think that was meant to read "in good hands." Three day weekends have a way of fouling my cognitive processes...

posted by mjkredliner at 11:46 AM on September 04

I hope we don't have to wait for the Graf/Agassi brood to mature before another American talent rises to the top of the ranks in tennis All it would take to dispel this worry would be one day's worth of watching this year's Open. Agassi, Sampras, Courier, Connors, Mac, et al gave Joe Six-Pack a reason to cheer, and it seems to me that interest has been on the wane in recent years, directly as a result of Americans not being as prominent in the sport. Just an opinion.... Maybe. I don't think that tennis ever really had a place in popular sports fandom in the US, though. Tennis culture found a place in popular culture for a while there, sort of like ski culture (or more apres-ski culture) was also popular for a while, but that was more a matter of accoutrements and a little casual club play than really following the sport as a serious fan. My gut feeling says that Joe Sixpack has never been and never will be a tennis fan of any degree, unless you consider letting some drool escape at the sight of a blonde woman in a tennis dress being a fan. I think that the rest of us, despite some of what's been said in this thread, really don't much care where they come from. There are so many foreign-born kids who learned their chops in the states; many have lived and trained here for years, and make their homes here. In Grand Slam tournaments, the US players don't train or compete as a team, no more than any other nation. I really don't think that nationality is that much of a draw.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:56 AM on September 04

interest has been on the wane in recent years, directly as a result of Americans not being as prominent in the sport Honestly, I go to the still sparkling new USNTC facitily every Aug/Sep and attend a handful of Grand Prix events (Indian Wells, Pilot Pen) throughout the year, and it seems that there is no shortage of interest in the sport in this country (neither is there shortage of cash available), even if Americans don't reign supreme at the moment.. I can vaguely remember around 1990 there was significant chatter about the death of tennis in the US. At that point, Agassi had won a few tour events, but was still sputtering at the Grand Slam level, Chang had won the French but that seemed to be a fluke, and no one had yet heard of Jim Courier. Along comes a 19 year old kid - still relatively unknown at the time - who blitzed Lendl, Johnny Mac and Andre on the way to capturing his first US Open. The beauty of tennis is that since players hit their physical peak so early, the next big American breakout pheenom is always just around the corner.

posted by psmealey at 12:19 PM on September 04

You don't miss Jack, or Arnie, or Samprass, or Agassi - you miss being 25. Actually I miss Ilie Nastase most in tennis, but sure I miss being 25 to some extent too. And why not? Most people end up thinking that things are not and never will be as good as they were when they were younger. That's why the phrase "Youth is wasted on the young" is so true. Besides I stick by it. Tennis does not have anywhere near as colorful of characters today as it did in the 60's and 70's and neither does golf. They just don't. Which is why it's less interesting to me. In many ways I could care less about scores and such. To me it's the human element that makes sports interesting.

posted by commander cody at 12:23 PM on September 04

I think that the rest of us, despite some of what's been said in this thread, really don't much care where they come from. Yep. It's always been that way. The chattering classes in the USA/NBC broadcast booth (both McEnroes, Bud Collins, etc) have definitely obsessed on this point over the years, but it's been my experience that most serious tennis fans do not give a hoot about the nationality of the player. I was as likely to cheer for Lendl over McEnroe back in the day as I was for Courier over Becker, and most of my fellow fans are the same. The only homers in the sport are really the ones in the broadcast booth (and on the Davis Cup team). As much as I pull for Andy Roddick to come around, it's because I think he's got great potential and a good personality. But honestly, am I really going to follow mediocre pros like Mardy Fish, Vince Spadea or Taylor Dent simply because of where they happened to be born? Doubtful.

posted by psmealey at 12:27 PM on September 04

It should be said that while Mardy Fish, Vince Spadea and Taylor Dent are mediocre by world class standards, they are all very talented and committed athletes. Just making a point.

posted by psmealey at 12:29 PM on September 04

Federer can keep ticking along like a Swiss watch for the next ten years, and he won't have the crowd the way Agassi did. Well put l_b_b. Watching him is like watching a clock tick. Interesting in that it never misses a beat, but dull in the long run. I think it's cool the way factories put together an assembly line that seems to magically produce the same thing over and over, but that doesn't mean I want to watch an assembly line on a Sunday afternoon.

posted by commander cody at 12:31 PM on September 04

I love watching Federer dominate an opponent. I like to cheer, "Wipe the floor with him! Smash him! Destroy him!" And, then he does it.

posted by bperk at 02:16 PM on September 04

Becker - Roddick, 3-3 in the first set, and this match has not gone on long enough for the idjits in the CBS booth to stop saying stupid stuff about Benjamin/Boris Becker and about how Becker will really get run out of town if he somehow manages to win this match. Sheesh.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:45 PM on September 04

I don't think that tennis ever really had a place in popular sports fandom in the US, though. A very true comment. Tennis is a niche sport here, with the stigma of being a pastime of rich white people retiring at the country club. Meanwhile, its the second most popular sport in a lot of other countries on the globe, following footy/soccer. That's why I've always been amused at the sportswriters who turn to tennis merely to write an article about how the decline of the American generation of tennis dominence means the end of the sport. It's lazy writing and it's lazy logic. Interesting in that it never misses a beat, but dull in the long run. While I believe dominance can be incredibly boring, Federer himself and his play on any given day is never dull. People won't realize what they've missed until he's gone.

posted by somethingotherthan at 05:36 PM on September 04

While I believe dominance can be incredibly boring, Federer himself and his play on any given day is never dull. People won't realize what they've missed until he's gone. For whatever reason, I'm starting to appreciate his game more as a result of coming to appreciate Amelie Mauresmo's. Anyone just see that match vs. Serena Williams? The second set was better forgotten, but that first set...damn, was that a gem or what?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:11 PM on September 04

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