Sports Outside the Beltway

Andre Agassi to Retire after Wimbledon and U.S. Open

Andre Agassi has announced, on the eve of Wimbledon, that he will retire after this year’s U.S. Open.

Andre Agassi will retire after this year’s U.S. Open, leaving tennis after two decades during which he collected a career Grand Slam and morphed from “Image Is Everything” brashness to elder statesman.

The 36-year-old American announced his plans Saturday during a news conference at the All England Club, where Wimbledon starts Monday and he is seeded 25th. “It’s been a lot of sacrifices the last few months, trying to get myself right to come back here and enjoy this tournament for the last time,” said Agassi, who has played only one match during the past three months because of back trouble. “It’s been a long road this year for me, and for a lot of reasons. It’s great to be here. This Wimbledon will be my last, and the U.S. Open will be my last tournament.”

He intends to play in four hard-court events in the United States between Wimbledon and the Open, in what will amount to a farewell tour for one of the most popular and successful tennis players in history. “There’s still a lot of fight left in me from here through the Open,” he said.

Agassi has won eight major singles titles — one each at Wimbledon and the French Open, two at the U.S. Open and four at the Australian Open — and is one of only five men to have collected at least one championship at each of the Grand Slam tournaments. All this from someone who was, infamously, more about style than substance at the start of his career, drawing attention for his denim shorts, Day-Glo headband, long hair and earring. And it was all encapsulated by his “Image Is Everything” ad campaign for a camera company. There also was plenty of interest in his two-year marriage to actress Brooke Shields and his friendship with Barbra Streisand.

At one point, he went through a series of injuries and a dry spell so dismal that he dropped out of the top 100 in the rankings and resorted to playing on the minor league Challenger tour. Then came his remarkable renaissance, built in part with the most rigorous of training regimens. In 1998, he made the biggest one-year jump into the top 10 in the history of the ATP Tour by moving up 122 spots to No. 6. The next year, he won the French Open to complete his career Slam.


Ranked No. 1 as recently as 2003, the oldest man to hold the top spot, he made a stirring run to the U.S. Open final last year, the seventh time he was the runner-up at a Grand Slam. “After the U.S. Open last year, I had a lot of reasons to be motivated to shoot for another successful year, but for many reasons that hasn’t been the case, and I wanted to do everything I could just to get back here,” said Agassi, who missed Wimbledon the past two years because of injuries. “And this is where it started for me, my dreams.”

His first major championship came in 1992 at the All England Club, far from his favorite tournament early in his career. After a 1987 first-round loss, he didn’t return until 1991. At the time, one of his justifications was his belief that his outlandish persona and bright outfits were a poor fit for this most traditional of tournaments. Another was that he deemed grass courts better suited to grazing than groundstrokes.

But he changed his mind, beat Goran Ivanisevic in the 1992 Wimbledon final, and credits that victory with changing the course of his career. “It’s like it was yesterday, 14 years ago. I imagine it’s that way when your child goes off to college. You say, ‘What the heck happened in all these years?’ It feels like yesterday for me, as vivid, as alive as ever.”

Which is why he chose this setting to deliver the news of his farewell. “There’s been a lot of challenges,” Agassi said, “but it’s been 20, 21 years of incredible, incredible memories.”

Indeed. He was, for far two long, essentially the Anna Kournikova of the men’s tour. He was a teen prodigy and making it big on the endorsement circuit but just didn’t seem to have the fire in his belly to do what it took to prepare to actually win significant tournaments. Somewhere along the line, his fair fell out and his resolve magically rekindled. Despite a late start, he turned in one hell of a career.

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Posted by ELIZABETH DUTTON | August 29, 2006 | 02:41 pm | Permalink

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