Tennis: Wimbledon - Agassi back chasing the dream

THOUSANDS OF young women in Britain had a bad time yesterday. How could they explain to younger sisters that the balding, portly figure on the television set is the same person whose poster used to adorn the bedroom wall? "He was gorgeous once." Pause. "Honest."

Time has not been kind to Andre Agassi - but when he gets to snuggle up with Brooke Shields every night why should he care? The long locks that once embellished teenage dreams have been replaced by a close crop, while the cropped shirts that once rose to show his stomach are now tents to hide the same. Thank goodness Wimbledon did not see him when he was really bad.

Agassi, even in his current state, is an improvement on the man who was crawling in the equivalent of tennis's gutter not so long ago. At 141 and falling he had a world rank of a pre-Tim Henman British tennis player and a future that seemed to be more grand anti-climax then Grand Slams. But as a number of the American's early-Nineties adorers were no doubt pointing out yesterday, appearances can be deceptive.

Yesterday's man took a long look in a mirror last November, began pumping iron and has had such a renaissance he has arrived at Wimbledon as the 13th seed. A lucky 13th, too, if he gets the same sort of "which way would you like me to lose this point" type of opposition that Alex Calatrava provided him with yesterday. Agassi's barber gave him a far closer shave than anything the Spaniard threw at him.

Calatrava had played in only two Grand Slam tournaments before, losing in the first round of both the Australian and French Open and, if nothing else, yesterday's 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 defeat proved that he is consistent: poor on every surface be it hard court, clay or grass. His performance made you wonder how on earth he has risen to 83rd in the world.

Certainly he had Agassi at a a loss as to how he could possibly lose. The 1992 champion also went out of the French Open at the first stage and has been nursing a shoulder injury, so he was rusty to say the least. Yet the opposition was so limp he was 4-0 up in a flurry of forehands and had the first set won in 23 minutes.

Even the umpire seemed concerned: "Can you get the men's trainer?" he shouted to a colleague in the stand.

Calatrava seemed fine, give or take his fatally wounded ground strokes that were haemorrhaging points at an alarming rate, and it was a surprise when a medical man came on to apply a small bandage to his left knee. A tennis coach was required far more urgently.

The whole thing could have been over in an hour but Agassi began to explore his repertoire. His ground strokes - a glorious burst of wrist-wrenching energy - were given an extra spin to see if he could drag the ball in from impossible heights while he varied his serve, going ever closer to the lines.

The crowning moment came when he did the unthinkable: volleying. Agassi thinks that the only time you should come to the net is when you shake the opponent's hand at the end but, what the hell, there was nothing coming at him that could hurt him, he might as well enjoy himself. And he did.

"I'm excited to be here," he said, which for a man who appeared thoroughly brassed off with tennis not so long ago is quite a transformation. "I'm here for the tournament and it feels good. Yes, I would say that we've gone full circle to six years ago."

Then he defied the fiercest serve in the world - Goran Ivanisevic's - and the theory that Wimbledon could not be won playing from the back of the court, to win his first Grand Slam. It is fondly recalled as the most recent classic men's final and Agassi was happy yesterday to indulge himself that a repeat is not entirely out of the question.

"The first week is crucial," he said. "Once you get in the second it doesn't play like grass any more. If you've got a good return grass helps, you can sneak some breaks every set. Yes I think it's possible.

"Physically I'm 100 per cent and I'm very confident out there. It's hard to tell a lot when you walk through your first round pretty handily but I know I'll get better. I'm right where I want to be."

As he left Court One yesterday, a job well done, Agassi took off his cap and bowed to the four sides of support. It was a hello rather than a gesture of farewell and one that seemed unlikely even six months ago. He might not be the stuff of teen fantasy any more, but he can still dream.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionShame it had to end like that, says Alexander Fury
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking Nu...

PMLD Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job; Experienced PMLD Teac...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education is the UK market lead...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £180 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: SEN Teacher requiredRandstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?