The 34-year-old veteran knocks off another 20-something at the U.S. Open, then emphatically denies he is retiring.
By Associated Press
Published September 3, 2004
NEW YORK - Maybe it's time for Andre Agassi to pick on someone his age. These kids just can't keep up with him.
Fit as a rookie at 34, Agassi advanced at the U.S. Open on Thursday by running ragged a player more than a dozen years younger in consecutive matches. Then he made perfectly clear this will not be the final tournament of his career.
Agassi, playing in his 19th straight Open, weathered a one-set blip, regained control and led 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 when Florian Mayer walked to the net to quit with a left hamstring injury.
"I just don't want to play old. That's what I'm concerned about out there," said Agassi, the most, ahem, experienced man in the field. "I feel like if I can still play my tennis, then I'm proud of that."
He got off the court before a rollicking evening at the National Tennis Center that included Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova being extended to three sets again, Venus Williams struggling against a qualifier who hadn't won a main-draw match until this week and Olympic double-gold medalist Nicolas Massu's wild 5-hour, 10-minute loss to Sargis Sargsian.
Williams joined sister Serena, No.20 Chanda Rubin and wild-card Angela Haynes to put four black women in the Open's third round for the first time.
Tenth-seeded Massu was docked a game for smashing his racket so hard off the court it flew over his head. He then had a 10-minute argument with an official and wound up getting beat 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 in the second-longest match, by time, in Open history.
All around Agassi, his peers and pals keep retiring: Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and, this week, Todd Martin and Wayne Ferreira.
That - plus a 16-month title drought he ended recently - led to a buzz Agassi might be contemplating walking away, perhaps after the Open. Asked Thursday if his post-Open tennis schedule were set and whether that might signal his plans, Agassi left zero wiggle room.
"Well," he said, "let this be a signal: I'm not considering retiring at the end of this tournament."
Smiling, he added: "Let that be a big flare."
Agassi got past Mayer, 20, three days after a straight-set win over Robby Ginepri, 21, in his pursuit of a ninth Grand Slam title. At a major with potentially seven best-of-five-set matches over two weeks, Agassi knows it helps to get off the court quickly. Especially when the temperature tops 75.
"You don't want to spend anything unnecessarily," he said.
Agassi has not reached a Slam final since the 2003 Australian Open; this year, he skipped Wimbledon with a hip injury and lost in the first round at the French Open.
The champions at Roland Garros bowed out in the second round at Flushing Meadows: Anastasia Myskina lost to 17-year-old qualifier Anna Chakvetadze 7-6 (6-3), 6-3, and Gaston Gaudio was beaten by 2002 Australian Open winner Thomas Johansson 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
"I didn't want to fight. I didn't want to run," Myskina said. "I didn't want to do anything."
Myskina's loss knocks her out of what was a four-way competition for the No.1 ranking. Still in it: Justine Henin-Hardenne, Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport.
While Davenport stretched her winning streak to 19 matches with relative ease, defending champion Henin-Hardenne struggled before putting away qualifier Tzipi Obziler 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. Obziler was in her first Open at age 31. She retired a few years ago, then was persuaded by Billie Jean King to return.
"Every match is a test," Henin-Hardenne said. "At this level you need to be at your top all the time."
Although seeded highly - Myskina at No.4, Gaudio at No.9 - their losses weren't all that stunning: Gaudio lost in the first round at four of his past five Opens, and Myskina got past the third round only once.
Tampa resident Mardy Fish hasn't made it that far, and he won't this year, either, despite coming in with an Olympic silver medal. Seeded 26th, he was upset 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 by Michal Tabara, a 149th-ranked qualifier making his Slam debut.