SPORTING IMAGES / Those memorable moments that lit up the world of sport in 1992: Tennis: Agassi holds ace answer

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The Independent Online
TENNIS matches can take hours to build to a climax so sudden and dramatic that even the victor appears to be taken by surprise. The men's singles final at Wimbledon was a classic example, Andre Agassi sinking to his knees and then falling flat on his face, apparently unable to believe his five-set triumph until an embrace from his opponent, Goran Ivanisevic, assured him that it was true, writes John Roberts.

The All England Club could not have wished for a finer showpiece, particularly in view of the controversy concerning the 'power game'. For more than a year, fears had been expressed that the celebrated lawns were too fast for the modern game; that advances in racket technology, allied to physical strength, had killed rallies by reducing exponents of groundstrokes to cannon-fodder for the big servers.

Ivanisevic, a 6ft 4in Croatian left-hander, is not short of other skills, but his serve is so fast and accurate that he seems capable of winning 'free' points almost at will. Agassi, a 5ft 11in American who has increased his body strength in order to compete with taller rivals, has the timing to produce groundstrokes as potent as any in the sport.

Here we had the contrast of a serve-volleyer playing a baseliner on a surface which favoured the attacking player. Jimmy Connors, with his victory against John McEnroe in 1982, had been the last counter-puncher to win the championship, a year after McEnroe had ended the phenomenal Bjorn Borg era of five consecutive titles assembled from the baseline.

At the outset, Jim Courier seemed to be the one baseliner capable of winning the championship, a judgement based chiefly on the fact that the world No 1 appeared to be the only confident player among the top seeds. It transpired that we had seen the best of Courier in Australia and France.

Neither Agassi nor Ivanisevic had a Grand Slam title to their name; indeed, Agassi's performances rarely justified the hype of his image. Though popular with the young, the Las Vegan had not endeared himself to the establishment and only lately had granted Wimbledon a regular spot in his schedule.

Ivanisevic had hit 206 aces in the tournament, 37 of them against Agassi, when the final moved to a conclusion. The American, after a characteristic lapse in the fourth set, led 5-4 in the fifth and was receiving serve.

An erratic Ivanisevic followed two double-faults with two service winners: 30-30. The Croatian missed again with his first serve, and Agassi returned the second serve with an emphatic forehand across the court for match point.

Another first serve went adrift. Ivanisevic steadied himself, Agassi prepared to pounce. The second serve was good, and Agassi's backhand return invited a volley. The advancing Ivanisevic met the ball on the backhand, close in, and, with a look of horror, watched it land in the net. The showman had won, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

(Photograph omitted)