Sports and American Society

How sports affect American culture

Monday, September 11, 2006

Andre Agassi Retiring: A New Shift in American Male Tennis

Yesterday Roger Federer won his third straight U.S. Open title, but the match to watch had long been over. Earlier in the week Andre Agassi ended a twenty-year career at age 36, losing 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 to qualifier Benjamin Becker. It took Agassi four cortisone shots in five days in order to finish his run at the tournament he won just three years ago.

After the match, Agassi walked onto the center of Arthur Ashe Stadium where he addressed the crowd for a final time and wept as they gave him a 4-minute standing ovation. The speech was heartfelt and moving, with Agassi attributing the fans to much of his success. “You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I've found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed sometimes even in my lowest moments…I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.”

Agassi proved to be one of the most entertaining men to watch through his style of play and natural charisma. Agassi has always been a crowd favorite, with his matches frequently held at night as the headliner to close each evening. His rivalry with the all-time great Pete Sampras matches that of McEnroe and Connors before them. While Sampras perfected the serve and volley, Agassi pounded the ball in the backcourt and relied on his athletics to run to each shot across the court. As he has gotten older, Agassi has continued to get stronger and it has been inspiring to watch him keep competing even when his ranking slipped and his body gave out.

Agassi retiring marks the last of the remaining American male veterans, following Jim Courier, Michael Chang, and Sampras. Just as those names once dominated men’s tennis, the new crop of American male players including Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Robby Ginepri, have all struggled to maintain solid records. Roddick has been the most hopeful prospect, but has been inconsistent and has yet to prove himself as a serious contender against Federer. Roddick’s record against Federer is now 1-12, with yesterday’s loss the third time Federer had defeated Roddick in the finals of a major.

This is now officially the Roger Federer era of tennis, with the twenty-five year old Swiss winning his 9th major and 41st career title. Federer is quickly chasing Sampras’ all-time major record of 14, with several years left in his career and no obvious American threats to stop him.

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