Agassi falls in straight sets to Nadal

Updated: July 1, 2006, 10:31 PM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- A tearful Andre Agassi bowed out of Wimbledon for the final time Saturday, beaten in straight sets by Rafael Nadal.

Andre Agassi
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, PoolAgassi leaves Wimbledon as one of the all-time favorites.

Playing in his 14th Wimbledon before retirement later this year, the 36-year-old Agassi couldn't keep up with the relentless power hitting of the 20-year-old Spaniard and fell 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4.

Later in the day, third-seeded Andy Roddick -- runner-up the last two years to Roger Federer -- was dumped in straight sets by Britain's Andy Murray, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4.

Roddick served 21 aces but was outplayed by Murray, a 19-year-old Scotsman who has replaced Tim Henman as Britain's best hope of a first homegrown champion since Fred Perry in 1936.

Murray saved 11 of 12 break points and converted three out of 12 break points against Roddick. Murray also had 35 groundstroke winners, nearly twice as many as Roddick.

For one last time, Agassi stood in the middle of the court after the match and blew kisses and bowed to all corners of the arena. Then, in a break with Wimbledon tradition, he addressed the crowd by microphone to say goodbye.

"It's been a lot of incredible years here," Agassi said, wiping away tears. "I'll never be able to repay you for how you've embraced me over the years and I thank you for that. ... You guys are awesome tennis fans, you have shown me so much love."

Then Agassi took his bag, stopped to sign a few autographs and gave a final wave as he walked off the most famous court in tennis.

Among those in the crowd was his wife, Steffi Graf, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who sat in the Royal Box along with other tournament winners and sports champions.

"It's been a privilege to be out there again for one last time," Agassi said. "I'll look back at this as one of my most memorable experiences. For me, this means as much as winning, saying goodbye."

Agassi said he'll miss the Wimbledon crowds and atmosphere more than anything.

"This was a place that first taught me to respect the sport, to really appreciate the opportunity and privilege it is to play a game for a living, to play tennis," he said. "Whether they're queuing up on the outside or sitting with their umbrellas on Centre Court, it's quite a love for the sport. That's what separates this from every other event."

In other matches, 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, seeded No. 6, cruised into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Belgium's Olivier Rochus.

Fifth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia squandered a two-set lead and was upset by Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2. He's the second-highest seeded player ousted so far, following No. 4 David Nalbandian's exit Friday.

Nadal will next face Irakli Labadze of Georgia, who advanced when Mardy Fish retired because of illness after losing the first set 6-2.

Nadal, the two-time French Open champion, transferred his clay-court baseline game to the grass of Centre Court to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time.

It marked the changing of the guard, with the popular American leaving the All England Club stage for good and Nadal making his breakthrough on the fast surface. Nadal had just turned 6 when Agassi won the first of his eight Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 1992.

"He is one of the best players," Nadal said in remarks to the crowd. "I want to congratulate Andre. He is unbelievable. Today I played for sure my best match on grass."

Agassi wasn't just beaten by Nadal, he was dominated. Nadal had 44 winners and only 10 unforced errors, while Agassi had 23 winners and 18 errors.

"I just wanted to give myself a chance," Agassi said. "I went out there today and he just beat me. I was hoping for too much."

The Spaniard isn't renowned for his serve, and Agassi is considered one of the best returners in the history of the game. Yet, Nadal had 18 aces and won 64 of 79 points on serve. Not only did he never face a break point -- Agassi never even got to deuce on Nadal's serve.

"Maybe I served the best in my career," he said.

Fittingly, Nadal finished the match with an ace -- a wide-swinging serve that gave Agassi no chance. Nadal leaped in the air and held up his arms, but celebrated in a relatively muted fashion. The two embraced at the net, and Nadal gave Agassi a pat on the back as they headed to their chairs.

"Today I played my best match, but it's not my day," Nadal said. "It's his day."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press