Tuesday, September 05, 2006

One Last Kiss From Agassi, and It’s Over - New York Times

“The scoreboard said I lost today,” Agassi told the crowd. “But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life.

“I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could never have reached without you. Over the last 21 years, I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.”


In his final seasons, he was also in frequent pain because of sciatica, which was caused by a degenerative back condition. Gil Reyes, Agassi’s trainer, said the injury was linked to slippage in a vertebra.

The condition curtailed Agassi’s play this season and led to his announcement that he would retire after this tournament. He considered not playing after some disappointing results in hardcourt tournaments earlier this summer, but he ultimately stuck to his plan. And with the help of a cortisone injection in July and another one Tuesday, he played unexpectedly well.

Still, after defeating Marcos Baghdatis in a thrilling second-round match that ended early Friday morning, Agassi collapsed in pain on his way out of the stadium. He lay on the sidewalk, putting a case containing a freshly minted DVD of the match under his head for a pillow.

“That was the worst I’ve ever been; I just credit the doctors that I was able to get out there today,” said Agassi, who was administered anti-inflammatory injections on Friday, Saturday and again yesterday morning.

Nonetheless, he was far from his best, and his movement, particularly his lateral movement, bore little resemblance to his crank-back-the-clock footwork against Baghdatis.

“My heart was telling me to go get him out there,” Reyes said. “He’s hurting bad, and it hurts so bad to see him do it. But his heart was telling him: No. Finish. Finish it out. Leave it all, and when you leave, open up your arms and heart and take something with you that you will never forget.”


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