Monday, September 04, 2006

Goodbye, Andre.

Watched Andre Agassi's final match at the U.S. Open on Sunday. He lost to a big-serving qualifier named Benjamin Becker (no relation). He was in visible pain throughout the match, but he fought to the last moment. When it was over, the crowd gave him a five minute standing ovation that would have brought even the most hardened, unfeeling cynic to the edge of tears. And if somehow it hadn't, his speech to the crowd surely would have.

"The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn't say is what it is I have found. And over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I've found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I've found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could have never reached without you.

"Over the last 21 years, I have found you and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life. Thank you."

I tried not to let Beth see it, but that moment really got me. He's the guy I emulated as a kid. I wore the same clothes and tried to look like him when I played. I thought I had seen the ultimate in adoration from a crowd when Jimmy Connors made his famous run to the semis in 1991, but Agassi's three matches in this tournament were a farewell tour of legendary proportions. Tennis, and the U.S. Open in particular, won't be the same without him.

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