The U.S. Open was supposed to be little more than a stage for Andre Agassi's final bow.
Instead, at 36, the so-called "old man of tennis" is making a serious run in his final tournament before he retires, facing off today against 25-year-old German qualifier Benjamin Becker. If he wins. he could face top 10 seed and former U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick.
Some of Agassi's fellow players -- who were children when he began playing -- have paid homage to the tennis great. When American James Blake, 26, played Friday, he donned a reproduction of a classic, hot-pink outfit worn by Agassi circa 1990 outfit in his honor.
"I thought about all the old stuff he used to wear, how unique it was, how special he made every outfit," Blake told reporters on Friday after his 6-3 6-4 7-6 second-round win over Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili.
From Tennis Rebel to Respected Elder Statesman
Now a respected elder statesman of his sport and the emotional favorite of adoring crowds, it seems almost a lifetime ago that Agassi was the shaggy-haired teenaged rebel of the tennis world.
"We've seen him become really an idol from a very spotty star," sports writer Bud Collins said. "I'd say he went from punk to paragon."
Agassi's remarkable athleticism have helped him win all four Grand Slam titles: the U.S. Open, French, Australian and Wimbledon -- a feat only five others have ever matched.
"Andre knows how to play the game better than anybody who's around now and better than most players who have ever lived," Collins said. "That's kept him going."
But injuries and age caught up with him. In June at Wimbledon, he announced that the U.S. open would be his last campaign.
"He could play another three or four years picking his spots, but he's at a point where his body is breaking down," said Frank Deford, senior contributing writer to Sports Illustrated and sports commentator. "It wouldn't be worth it."
So this is the end of Agassi's glorious and glamorous career. But it's not quite over yet.