I'm not going to lie, there were times last week that I found myself tearing up and getting emotional over the Andre Agassi farewell tour at the U.S. Open. The first two rounds were amazing, quite possibly the best first and second round matches I've ever seen in any of the Grand Slam events. I was a little wrung out by the time he played Benjamin Becker on Sunday, my mood echoing Andre's play as the back flared up a little too much on him.
Agassi is my favorite player ever, narrowly edging out Boris Becker and John McEnroe. I think the emotional involvement probably says something about feeling like I'm getting older. Seventeen years ago, when I was starting to play tennis at New Albany High School, Agassi was the favorite of most of us (Lonnie being one of the holdouts that was more of a Sampras guy). My favorite baseball player at that point was Roger Clemens--and had been for three years. I watch those guys still performing at a high level all these years later, and somehow it throws me back to my youth, simpler times, all that jazz.
Another part of the appeal I had for the Bald One was the evolution in both his game and personality over the span of his career. Flashy outfits, bad hair, junk food addict that pounded the heck out of winners all over the place. Twenty years later, he's much better known as a fitness buff, his phenomenal return of service, his patience in outlasting and wearing down the competition, as well as all his charitable service away from the court. Once upon a time, maybe Larry Bird's transformation from backwards hick from the hills of southern Indiana to a media saavy jokester was the ultimate shift, but Agassi's is even more dramatic and interesting.
Many years back I couldn't imagine being as interested once McEnroe, Connors and Lendl stepped away. Same feeling as Becker and Wilander were making their run. Heaven knows a lot of people are of that mindset with Agassi and Sampras out of the picture. I'm sure that sometime down the road when Federer, Roddick and Nadal are in the twilight of their careers, others will feel the same way. But having grown up in roughly the same age bracket as the recently retired stars, having followed their every move, somehow it's different for me. Farewell, Andre, and thanks...