Andre Agassi's top 10 moments
Andre Agassi may have hated tennis, but you'd never have known it by his results.
Agassi, one of the most colorful, compelling and controversial characters the sport has ever seen, achieved everything in the game. His breathtaking baseline style, highlighted by one of the best backhands of all time, powered him to all four majors, Olympic gold, the Davis Cup and the No. 1 ranking.
In recognition of Agassi's rightful induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend, we look back on 10 of his finest moments, be it a single match, tournament or his on-court transformation.
1. Completing the collection
There was a time when U.S. players enjoyed success at the French Open. Michael Chang triumphed in 1989, while Jim Courier won back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992.
It was Agassi, whose mastery of the baseline was well-suited for the red clay of Roland Garros, the one who was supposed to make the breakthrough instead of his two more workmanlike compatriots.
By the time 1999 rolled around, few gave a 13th-ranked Agassi much of a chance of ever conquering the Roland Garros terre battue and thus completing his career Grand Slam; he'd injured his serving shoulder the week before and had fallen in two finals already, one to Courier.
However, in a fortnight with "destiny" written all over it, Agassi escaped against defending champion Carlos Moya and Frenchman Arnaud Clement before going one better and reversing a two-set deficit versus pal Andrei Medvedev in the final. Agassi talked Medvedev out of retirement during the clay-court swing, which almost cost him.
Ubha: Andre Agassi's top 10 moments
In recognition of Agassi's rightful induction into the Hall of Fame, we look back on 10 of his finest moments, whether they were single matches, tournaments or on-court transformations.
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He, at the time, became only the fifth man to achieve the career Grand Slam.
"I'm sobbing," Agassi said in his engrossing autobiography, "Open." "I'm rubbing my head. Winning isn't supposed to feel this good."
2. An unlikely major
In the 10 editions prior to Wimbledon 1992, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and Michael Stich won titles at the All England Club. And in the nine years after, they were Pete Sampras, Richard Krajicek and Goran Ivanisevic.
All, with maybe the exception of Connors, leaned toward the power game, using the serve-and-volley as a primary weapon. In short, pure baseliners had little opportunity.
Agassi, who avoided the grass at Wimbledon from 1988-1990, altered the complexion in '92, opening his Grand Slam account following three losses in finals.
He could hardly believe it himself, thinking he had "no chance" against Ivanisevic in the finale that ultimately went to five sets.3. Back from the dead
A three-time Grand Slam winner by the age of 27, Agassi was meant to be in his prime in 1997. His career, however, went into a dark spell that featured a wrist injury, drug use and duping the ATP about how crystal meth got into his system. By the time it was said and done his ranking had plummeted to 141st.
Agassi had to rebuild, and his starting point came at minor-league events in his hometown of Las Vegas and Burbank, Calif. He was ready to eat humble pie.
The wheels were in motion, and with Brad Gilbert and surrogate father Gil Reyes in his corner, Agassi ended 1998 at No. 6. Five more majors would follow.
"I never thought I would ever get back to the top again," Agassi was quoted as saying by the ATP. "I just wanted to get back, just get back a little bit of it."
4. Aussie love affair
It's ironic that Agassi won his first Grand Slam on the grass at the All-England Tennis Club, where he had the toughest time. It's also ironic that his most successful major was the Australian Open, which he skipped from 1987 to 1994. He often said that he didn't like all that travel at the start of a season.
How much more silverware would he have collected had he played all those years at the Australian Open?
Agassi ruled in Melbourne four times, compiling a 48-5 record overall.
"I do love this place," Agassi said in his autobiography. "I must have been an aborigine in another life. I always feel at home here. I always enjoy walking into Rod Laver Arena, playing under Laver's name."
The Australian Open was the lone major in which Agassi topped main rival Pete Sampras in a Grand Slam final. In fact, he was 2-for-2 against Sampras in Melbourne. At the three other Slams, he sank to 1-6.
5. Winning in defeat
Agassi always had a sense of occasion, and what a way to mark his 20th anniversary at the U.S. Open.
He was in his mid-30s and suffering from a bad back that required cortisone injections. Months earlier in his French Open farewell, he could barely move at the end of a first-round loss. Subsequently, Agassi withdrew from Wimbledon.
But in New York he was determined to be more than simply a past champion who won a round or two.
In a remarkable physical achievement, Agassi won three straight five-set matches and became the oldest men's finalist at the tournament in more than 30 years.
"Over the last 20 years I've come full circle," Agassi said at the time. "It's been an amazing journey and discovery of each other as I've grown up out here."
6. Golden title
Before Rafael Nadal came along, Agassi held the distinction of being the only man to achieve the career "Golden Slam."
His Olympic dream unfolded in Atlanta in 1996, and like the 1999 French Open, Agassi had to grind his way through the event.
Tenacious Italian Andrea Gaudenzi led Agassi by a set and break in the third round, and tricky South African Wayne Ferreira, who caused Sampras problems in his career, failed to serve out their quarterfinal. Agassi looked far from comfortable, too, against Indian Leander Paes in the semis.
It was far easier in the gold-medal showdown. Meeting clay-court specialist Sergi Bruguera on a hard court, Agassi dropped a mere six games.
"To win a Grand Slam in the sport of tennis is the biggest thing you can accomplish inside your sport, but the Olympics is the biggest thing you can do in all sports," Agassi said in Atlanta.
7. Davis Cup joy
Agassi didn't only prosper representing the U.S. at the Olympics. In the Davis Cup, he produced a glittering 30-6 record.
Agassi made his debut against Peru as a 17-year-old, with his swansong coming against Croatia as a 34-year-old. In between, he competed in two finals, not losing a match.
Agassi was part of the dream team that featured Sampras, Courier and McEnroe in the 1992 decider against the Swiss in Texas.
"It just felt like we knew we could win the whole thing, and we took care of business from start to finish," Agassi was quoted as saying by the ATP.
Agassi was a perfect 7-0 in 1992, conceding two sets.
8. Beware the floater
In the Open era, Agassi remains the only man to have won the U.S. Open unseeded. That was in 1994 (when 16 players were awarded seeds, not the current 32).
The turning point transpired earlier in the summer at the Canadian Open, as Agassi saved two match points in a third-set tiebreaker to down nemesis David Wheaton. The belief returned.
In New York, getting past Chang in a five-set slugfest proved pivotal. Watched by then new coach Gilbert and his girlfriend at the time, Brooke Shields, Agassi cruised against Stich in the final.
It was major No. 2.
9. Delaying the goodbye
Night matches at the U.S. Open intermittently turn into the stuff of legend. So it turned out in the case of Agassi's encounter with a blossoming Marcos Baghdatis in 2006.
Agassi, now 36 and still with a bad back, swept past a 21-year-old Baghdatis and into a two-set advantage. The crowd, in scenes reminiscent of Connors' heroics as a 39-year-old 15 years earlier in New York, lapped it up. Yet Baghdatis rallied to take matters into a fifth set, where Agassi's back deteriorated and the Cypriot began to cramp.
Agassi was the last man standing, clinching victory 7-5 on an errant Baghdatis forehand.
"I know that I wouldn't have had energy for one more swing," Agassi said in his autobiography.
To no one's surprise, Agassi was ousted in his ensuing -- and final -- match to Benjamin Becker.
The journey was over.
10. Oldest atop the perch
As the above indicates, Agassi never ceased to amaze in his career. Reaching No. 1 as a 33-year-old shouldn't be diminished as another of his accomplishments.
Yes, he's the oldest man to do that, too, getting there in June, then August, of 2003.
His last stint wasn't short, either, at 12 weeks.
"It means a lot to me because it's a testament to the hard work I've put in," Agassi was quoted as saying by the ATP. "To do it at 33 is not easy, so it felt pretty good."
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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