September 4, 2006
by Amit Goyal
Its not often that I get up early to watch tennis matches (or anything else for that matter). It has been different this US Open. It is Agassi’ last tournament and you never know which match maybe his last one, the last one against Pavel was pretty close to that. So when Agassi was pitted against Baghdatis in the second round, with Agassi being in the form he is (8/7 record this year before the tournament) and Marcus being in his (Australian Open finals and Wimbledon semis), I knew it might be his last and had to watch it.
So here I was awake at 7 in the morning, with one eye closed, trying to follow the match. Agassi had already won the first set 6-4 and was leading in the second. He then went on to win the second set pretty easily (6-4) with Baghdatis looking out of sorts and troubled by his racquet (which his coach did nothing to change) and his wrist (hurt in a fall during the match).
Then came the third set, Baghdatis found his rythm and the slice shot, and found nothing was wrong with his racquet or him and proceeded to win the set 6-3. I must say that the match was now interestingly poised.
Fourth set is when the drama began. Agassi began in awesome stlye to break Baghdatis twice and was very quickly up 4-0 in the set. Mind you Agassi has never lost a US Open match after being up 2 sets. The crowd started packing and thinking of the match between Agassi and B Becker (not Boris but Benjamin). But Baghdatis had given up, at least not yet. He went on to Break Agassi thrice and won 7 of the next 8 games and won the set 7-5. The 23 thousand strong boisterous crowd at the Arthur Ashe court was muted. The 3 round game which seemed so near, now seemed unsure. Meanwhile, Baghdatis was booed a couple of times by the crowd, all of whom (other than Bagdatis’ coach) were rooting for their favourite. Though not in good taste it is quite understandable. They do not want Agassi to lose (neither do I). Everyone was now watching the final set (oh, how they love a 5 setter). Every Agassi point was cheered and every Baghdatis point greeted with silence. Baghdatis broke Agassi in the very first game and Agassi returned the favour in the second. Then they won their respective games and the score was now tied at 4-4. In the 9th game Baghdatis cramped big time and fell down. According to the rules he could not recieve treatment during the game and had to wait for the end of the game. Baghdatis then got up and proceeded to play some great shots and tied the game 4 or 5 times before it became too much for him and Agassi won it.
Baghdatis must have nerves of steel to get up and play again. After every serve he tried to limp to the other half of the court. You could see his muscles flexing on the camera. Hats off to him. Meanwhile, we must reserve some thought for Agassi too. Seeing your opponent in pain is not something easy to handle and it fills your mind with a lot of doubt. Also when you know it is your last tournament and any match maybe your last, your entore career flashes in fron of your eyes when you are down. The way Agassi handled the situation was the hallmark of a true champion. Agassi then went on to win the set (7-5) and the match but not before he had survived some very anxious moments. The audience must have heaved a huge collective sigh of relief when Agassi broke Baghdatis on the 12th game.
One observation here. While Federer has taken over from Pete Sampras, I think Marcus Baghdatis is the heir apparent to the mantle of Agassi. The guy is a great fighter and a brilliant player. Coming back from 4-0 down against a champion player and 23000 people is not an easy job. Also the way he played his shots even with the cramps is not easy to put in words. Brilliant job man.
Meanwhile, Agassi is not done. At least not just yet.
PS: Ojas had also written a post for the match which can be read here.
PS: The post was written before the exit of Agassi from the US Open on Sunday.