Sunday, September 03, 2006

Farewell To A Champion

Andre Agassi said goodbye to tennis today. Even more important, the fans at the US Open got to say goodbye to him with an ovation so loud and long that he was reduced to tears. Andre Agassi was not the best player of his generation, most likely he was #2 behind Pete Sampras. Yet he was far more loved by the audience than Sampras ever was. Why was that? Was it just that he hung around longer, struggled harder, fought back more often? Sampras had great talent and great class, yet the public never quite warmed up to him.
We remember Agassi as that brash kid with the long hair. He cultivated that image as a rebel – even doing commercials for a camera named “Rebel”. He wore colorful tennis outfits,he had multi-colored hair, then he shaved off his hair, and was constantly a feisty force on and off court. Sampras was always Sampras – cool, calm, with the heart of champion and incredible will. There was no outward difference between the 22 year-old Sampras and the 32 year-old Sampras. As he aged, his back hurt more often, but he always fought through it. He retired suddenly – having won the US Open one last time, he chose to walk away on top...where he belonged. Agassi went down fighting, as he did everything. Andre had matured from the rebellious youth to husband and father; from the in-your-face punk to the elder statesman. But underneath the outward changes, he always had a deep respect for the game. He always played Davis Cup. He always seemed to know that the fans mattered to tennis and that he wasn’t the sport, just a part of it that someday would go. In the end the fans gave him the love that very few athletes get back. Could the young Agassi have imagined the moment where having lost his last match, with the cheers raining down on him, he would break down emotionally? Could any of us? For in Agassi we see ourselves, see our own changing lives, our own struggles, and our own growth. That made him special and he was rewarded by the fans in a special way.
No one would rank him ahead of Sampras, yet, unlike Sampras, he did win all four Grand Slam tournaments -- a feat which, given the rise of clay court specialists, may never be accomplished again. He was a fighter in the best sense of the word and now it’s time for him to relax. Well done, Andre.


Blogger Megabonix said...

Andre will be missed by many. Thanks for the kind story.

7:41 PM  

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