It’s the last hurrah for my second-favorite tennis player ever (behind only the amazingly entertaining Jimmy Connors), as Andre Agassi competes in what he has deemed his final U.S. Open and last appearance on the tour.
Tonight — okay, actually last night time-wise — he pulled an upset against an eighth-seed who couldn’t even read when Andre turned pro, advancing to the third round in dramatic five-set fashion.
How about that? Andre Agassi, 36 years old and burdened by a bad back, held up better than the kid across the net in a thriller that will be talked about for years.
Buoyed by a cortisone injection, along with a raucous, sellout crowd that boosted his spirits when things suddenly looked bleak as could be, Agassi extended his career for at least one more match by beating eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5 at the U.S. Open.
They traded stinging strokes for nearly four hours as Thursday night became Friday, and it was the 21-year-old Baghdatis who broke down physically, his body contorted by cramps in both thighs during an eight-deuce, four-break-point game that Agassi eventually held to lead 5-4 in the fifth. Later, Baghdatis used the chair umpire’s stand to stretch his aching legs.
And there was Agassi, still hustling to reach seemingly unreachable shots, responding with winners, and skipping out to the baseline to start games at his record 21st consecutive Open — one for each year of Baghdatis’ life.
“Tonight has been another example of moments you’re not guaranteed,” Agassi said.
When it was over, they shook hands at the net, then embraced. And Agassi was quick to thank the 23,700 or so of his closest friends who sure are enjoying quite a ride right along with him at Flushing Meadows.
Another match, another chance on the stage ensured. The farewell bows will come, but I’d rather they wait just a bit.