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Agassi falls in straight sets to Nadal

7/1/2006 - Tennis

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

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."