Agassi's ecstasy

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The Independent Online
It is the beauty of Andre Agassi: most times he is good, sometimes he is awful. It is the unpredictability that attracts and yesterday at Stone Mountain Park he came near to the sublime.

The American did not beat Sergi Bruguera to win the gold medal; he destroyed him, showing an insensitivity and purpose quite at odds with the uninterested figure who sloped out of Wimbledon in the first round only five weeks ago. The scoreline, 6-2 6-3 6-1, endorsed his superiority. He was, to employ the local phrase, awesome.

"It's unbelievable to win gold," he said afterwards. "Just to see that number of medals go up for the United States and know you are part of it. It boils down to giving everything you have. That's what these Games represent."

Agassi could not always be accused of being 100 per cent committed, but you could not fault him yesterday. Bruguera won the French Open in 1993 and '94 and although he has slipped to 69th in the world rankings, his form in reaching the final here had suggested his decline would soon be arrested.

Not against Agassi though. The American simply bludgeoned the attacking inclinations out of his opponent, stepping forward to hit the ball so hard, so accurately, and so early that the Spaniard spent most of the match pinned to the back boards. From there it is hard to pinpoint your ground strokes.

As a consequence, Bruguera's first service game, which included three aces, proved to be a deception. From then on he was clinging on desperately to save his service every time he had the ball in his hands.

Not securely enough, however, as Agassi pushed him aside in 1hr 18min. "It's a beautiful thing," Agassi said of his gold medal. But then he had just played a beautiful game.

Such prizes do not often come the way of Leander Paes, not when you are ranked 127th in the world. So the winning of bronze as a prelude to Agassi's victory was for him like Wimbledon or the US Open. He got his medal by defeating the Brazilian Fernando Meligeni 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Paes is, according to Agassi, difficult to read, what with his sudden rushes to the net at unexpected moments and his drop shots from first serves. Certainly it was difficult to keep track of where yesterday's match was going. Meligeni dominated the first set, the Indian the second.

Even the third was a puzzle as both players lost serves in the first two games. Paes broke again in the eighth, and served out to embellish a career that reads: singles titles 0; doubles titles 0. The bronze to him was just as beautiful as Agassi's gold.