Last hurrah for Agassi, the grand showman

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The Independent Online

An emotional Andre Agassi lowered the curtain on a unique career yesterday, announcing that the 120th Wimbledon, starting tomorrow, will be his last and that he will officially retire at the US Open in September.

The 36-year-old Agassi, the only current player to have won all four Grand Slam titles during a 21-year life in tennis, has been struggling with a back problem for the past four years and he looked close to tears at times as he broke the news of his decision at the All England Club yesterday.

"It has been a lot of sacrifices over the last few months, trying to get myself right to come back here and enjoy this tournament for the last time," said the American, who won Wimbledon, the first of his Grand Slam successes, in 1992.

"I have recently had the time, unfortunately, to take stock of a lot of things. But I wanted to come back, because this is where it all started for me, all my dreams. It has been 21 years of incredible memories.

"I was sitting right here 14 years ago when I said I could never have dreamed, if my career ended today, that I would ever have much more than that. Fourteen years, and it's like it was yesterday, as vivid, as alive as ever.

"I have been embraced at Wimbledon so warmly from my early years, and that has meant the world to me. This championship has allowed me to grow into the player and the person that I am, and I have so many, many people to thank for that."

In a Grand Slam career which began in 1986 with a first-round exit at the US Open, Agassi has captured eight majors - four Australian Opens, two US Opens, one Wimbledon and, finally, to complete the set, the French Open in 1999. "The day I won in Paris was the day I knew I would never have another regret the rest of my career," he said, "and to have had the opportunity to have started that journey here and carry it through the US Open and Australia and Paris was more than I ever could have hoped for.

"To come back here was an easy choice. I sacrificed the clay [season] to make sure my body was right enough to see this through, and I look forward to ending on my home turf in New York. Then I embrace the future."

Agassi, who is married to Steffi Graf, said he does not yet know what that future will be. "I wonder about it with great anticipation. My two little ones are going to take up a lot of my time, I know. And I look forward to not putting my family through the sort of ups and downs of trying to get yourself out there in the right state of mind and body, getting in some time together and going on from there."

Agassi, who plans to play perhaps four tournaments between Wimbledon and New York in order to stay match fit, said: "I have given my body a good talking to, and I think it's going to oblige. But it has been a difficult time, two good days followed by three difficult ones. That gets harder and more tiring and it gets more difficult to be at your best."

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