Monday, August 28, 2006

Tennis: U.S. Open Begins Today [J. Mark English]

Howard Fendrich, AP, ABC News -

U.S. Open tennis begins today in New York, weather permitting. Andre Agassi, 36, has announced that this will be his final event.
Other past Open champions slated to appear on Day 1 included Andy Roddick (2003), Justine Henin-Hardenne (2003), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004) and Lindsay Davenport (1998), who was hoping to be able to play despite hurting her right shoulder Saturday.
Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras forever will be linked in tennis history. Across 34 matches, five in Grand Slam finals, their rivalry thrived thanks to their contrasting styles of play and personalities.
Appropriately, the last match of Sampras' pro career came against Agassi, in the 2002 U.S. Open championship match. No one knew for sure at the time that it would indeed wind up being Sampras' farewell match. He didn't announce anything before the tournament, before the final or immediately after hoisting the trophy. He didn't announce anything the next day, week or month, either.
Not until the 2003 U.S. Open rolled around did Sampras formally say goodbye, although it was clear by then he was done, not having played for 50 weeks. Agassi, in contrast, has found a way for closure for himself, fellow players and fans by announcing a little more than two months ago that the U.S. Open beginning Monday would be his last event.
He arrived in New York unseeded at the Open for the first time since 1997, with a bad back and little match preparation.
"To be here, the inspiration of it I'm hoping to get out there and feel awesome," said the 36-year-old Agassi, participating in his record 21st consecutive U.S. Open.
He won the event in 1994 and 1999, part of his eight major titles forming a career Grand Slam, and was the runner-up four times, including last year against Roger Federer.
The U.S. Tennis Association approached Agassi's team about the possibility of some sort of tribute during the Open, but the idea was scrapped.
"We're going to respect the wishes of Andre Agassi and respect the fact that he wants to approach this tournament as he does any other one," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.