Andre Agassi's legend is confirmed. Six days before the U.S. Open was to begin at the National Tennis Center, Agassi was the subject of A&E's "Biography" series. The 34-year-old hasn't said whether he is playing in his last Grand Slam event, but there has been a feeling of finality in his summer season. Recent returns, however, suggest he might have one more stirring run left in him. Agassi is not the favorite in the year's final Grand Slam -- that burden falls on No. 1-ranked Roger Federer and No. 2 Andy Roddick. But Agassi has marked himself as a man destined to be in the mix. Agassi has seen his ATP ranking fall to No. 7, but he won his first tournament of the year three weeks ago in Cincinnati with an effort that perhaps even he did not think possible. Agassi, the No. 11 seed, defeated Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the rousing final, defeating Roddick and Carlos Moya along the way. "It felt great to be out there," Agassi said after defeating Roddick in the semifinals. "It was a high-intensity match. "Every day I'm answering questions about retirement -- except for tonight. That's the life I live now. If I don't go out there and produce, it's disappointing. There's a strong feeling of setbacks week to week." At 34, Agassi does not move as well as he once did, doesn't take the ball quite as early. Clearly, he enjoys his role as husband to Steffi Graf and father of two children. He has not ruled out a return next season, nor has he confirmed retirement. Still, there is a sense that this might be his last on-court appearance at the U.S. Open. Two years ago, Pete Sampras closed out his career with a transcendent four-set win over Agassi in the U.S. Open final. Agassi would like nothing better than to repeat that compelling slice of history.
| Lleyton Hewitt |
Conventional wisdom coming into the 2004 season was that the Australian, at the age of 23, had already seen his best days. He was ranked No. 1 in 2001 and 2002, using his speed and tenacity to win the U.S. Open (2001) and Wimbledon (2002). Last year, however, his ranking plummeted to No. 17 and the big hitters just seemed to be too much for his medium-sized game. Well, reports of Hewitt's demise were premature. He is currently ranked No. 5 and shows signs of life heading into the Open. Hewitt reached the Cincinnati final against Agassi, then won the Legg Mason tournament in Washington, D.C., last week. Granted, it was a field depleted by the Olympic competition, but a win is a win is a win -- and it was Hewitt's third this season. "It was nice to get another win," Hewitt said. "I'm happy with how my game is progressing over these last few weeks on hard courts. It's going well. I'm looking forward to the Open." Marat Safin
The 24-year-old Russian finished outside of the top 50 last year for the first time in six years. But now that his tender left wrist injury seems to have healed, his game has been back in form this season. Safin reached the Australian Open final in January and sits No. 8 in the 2004 Race rankings. When he is healthy, he is always dangerous in a Grand Slam -- and his best results have come at the U.S. Open. It was Safin who blistered Pete Sampras in the 2000 final, and he made the semifinals the following year. Last year, Safin missed the last three Slams, so he will be especially motivated to perform in the season's final major. Carlos Moya
Sure, he turns a creaky 28 years old the week before the Open, but Moya is having a terrific all-court season. He's No. 4 in the rankings -- only Guillermo Coria separates him from the two-headed monster that is Roger Roddick (or is that Andy Federer?) -- and has won three times: Roma, Acapulco and Chennai. Moya, 54-14, reached the quarterfinals at the French Open, losing to Coria, and at Athens, where he fell to eventual champion Nicolas Massu. Sebastien Grosjean
The 26-year-old Frenchman has never reached a Grand Slam final, but he's come awfully close. He lost to Federer in the Wimbledon semifinals -- the fourth time he has reached that plateau in a major event. Grosjean has never progressed past the third round at the U.S. Open, but maybe this is his year. Tim Henman
Don't laugh. Henman also has a dubious history at the U.S. Open, having not advanced past the third round in the last five tries. But his 12th season on the ATP has been full of surprises. Henman, Great Britain's favorite son, reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon for the eighth time in nine years. Not only that, at the French Open, where he had never gotten past the third round, Henman reached the semis and showed he was still evolving. Will he be playing into the second week of the Open, when he celebrates his 28th birthday?