Wednesday, July 05, 2006


When I was a child, my family summered in Cork City, Ireland, the town of my parents' upbringing and education. Each July was spent traveling to visit countless relatives around Cork county and otherwise removing ourselves from the too-small-for-anything-resembling-comfort townhouse which we made home. Miraculously allayed, however, was our discomfiture during the two weeks of the All-England Tennis Championship, Wimbledon, when we were all content to huddle around our tiny living room TV with its spotty color and grainy picture and to soak in the most elegant of sporting events.

The players whose hopes of Wimbledon glory were alternately realized and crushed in front of my pre-teen eyes possessed character unlike any I've found elsewhere in sport. Perhaps the pretentious atmosphere of pristine austerity that is maintained in the courts contrasts with and so magnifies player vivaciousness; certainly the singular nature of the sport fosters individual flair.

On Saturday afternoon, American tennis legend Andre Agassi played in the final match of the final Wimbledon tournament of his career. He was beaten in straight sets by Rafael Nadal, the current world #2, who was born around the same time that Agassi turned pro. I first saw Andre play Wimbledon in 1991, and was immediately a huge fan; he was a rock star and a rebel to me, someone who found Wimbledon's elitism stifling but whose play silenced critics and snobs. For me, tennis became a hobby and Agassi, a life-size poster of whom leapt from my bedroom wall, an idol.

In 1992, Agassi won Wimbledon, coming back to beat Goran Ivanisevic in 5 sets. It was an emotional moment for many, not the least of whom me; the only time since that sport ever elicited such a reaction from me was this, and the Huskers' victory elicited real tears from my overjoyed face.

Andre never won Wimbledon again, though he went on to win other Grand Slam titles -- all of them, in fact, making him one of only five to accomplish that feat. He remains the only male tennis player in the Open era to have triumphed in all Grand Slam singles, the Masters, the Davis Cup, and the Olympics. His rivalry with Pete Sampras, who so often got the better of Agassi, defined male singles tennis in the 90s.

Foodmantooth gives nuff respect to Andre Agassi. He will always remain a hero of American sport and, to be sure, the progenitor of a great line of impossibly talented tennis players. His game was rivaled only by his style. Watch the U.S. Open, Agassi's last tournament-to-be, and know that, as Rafael Nadal astutely realized on Saturday, whatever the outcome, the day will be his.

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