Agassi in 2003: Eight is Not Enough

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There’s not much to say about Andre Agassi’s 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 final round devastation of the unremarkable Rainer Schuettler at the ’03 Australian Open, save the fact that the German was as undeserving as an opponent that Agassi has ever seen in the final of a major.

However, that doesn’t take away anything from Agassi eighth Grand Slam title, because as the 32-year-old said, nothing is guaranteed in the rough-and-tumble world of the ATP Tour – especially winning important matches.

“There’s not a single day that’s promised to us and this day means so much,” Agassi said. “I am so honored. To win down here again was just more than I could dream of.”

That is a classic Agassi exaggeration, but he’s not the only Slam titlist to vanquish a psyched-out opponent at major during the last decade: think Kuerten over Corretja at Roland Garros, Sampras over Pioline at the US Open or Rafter over Philippoussis in N.Y. 

That Agassi can keep pocketing huge titles at 32-years-old while his younger opponents keep coming up with ways to turn themselves into road kill shows just how important thinking is in the sport. Andre no longer is the tour’s hardest hitter and certainly can’t serve anyone off the court, but his three to ten ball combinations are the stuff that higher algebra is made of. When he executes his plans (left-right-left-center-right-left into open space), his foes are left scratching their heads.

With the title, Agassi is now a member of the Slam top-10 list, something that appeared unthinkable back in early 1992, when in his fifth year on tour, he hadn’t found a way to win a major. But then came his first Slam crown at Wimbledon on a surface usually dominated by men who could ring up at least a dozen aces and we all knew the Las Vegan had something special. Today, some 10 and half years later, we are watching one of the most improved and court-conscious players in history.

 Here’s a list of the top-10 men in Slam singles titles:

14 – Pete Sampras 
12 – Roy Emerson 
11 – Bjorn Borg
11 – Rod Laver 
10 – Bill Tilden
8 – Jimmy Connors
8 – Ivan Lendl 
8 – Fred Perry 
8 – Ken Rosewall 
8 – Andre Agassi

We see how Agassi ties for sixth on this list, but how do his total Slam accomplishments compare with the rest? You certainly have to him ahead of Lendl, who couldn’t win Wimbledon, and above Connors (gasp!) who couldn’t and wouldn’t find a way to get comfortable in Paris. Agassi is a more versatile player than Fred Perry was, but it’s hard to give him a clear edge over Rosewall yet, because Muscles grinded his way deep well into his 40s.

Are the lofty feats of the top five assualtable for Agassi? Not if he pockest another two majors. It’s nearly impossible to compare Agassi with pre-war players such as Tilden, but he easily stacks up against Emerson, who won so many majors when his greatest rivals were off playing the pros. The careers of Sampras, Borg and Laver are nearly unassailable, but should Andre nail down another Roland Garros or Wimbledon crown, he automatically enters the discussion. None of those folks won twice on four different surfaces. (I don’t mean four different titles twice, like the Rocket did.) Due to Sampras’ dominance of Agassi at the majors, he’ll likely never touch Pistol Pete.

For a guy who nearly gave up on his career in 1997, even to be given a glance as a potential top-five player ever is heady stuff.

“I wish I could put into words how it feels to go out there and lay it on the line and find a way to overcome in some cases the odds,” Agassi said. “In some cases overcome the obstacles and the doubts, the questions, the preparation leading up to it. To do it once would fulfil your career, so it’s crazy for me just to think about it.”